How do I introduce a bottle to my exclusively breastfed baby?!”
This is a question that crops up time and again and adds a layer of worry to already-anxious or exhausted mommy minds.
So breathe easy, mama, and have a glance at the suggestions below for making the process as seamless as possible.
- Ideally, the introduction of a bottle won’t happen until after breastfeeding is well-established. This is typically after 6 weeks of exclusive nursing, but if you’re experiencing feeding difficulties at any point, it’s best to reach out to a trusted Lactation Consultant before introducing a bottle.
- For breastfed babies receiving breast milk in a bottle, it’s important for mom to express or pump at around the same time that baby feeds. This ensures that feeding cues are maintained and milk production isn’t affected by a difference in delivery method.
- A bottle should be offered in line with baby’s hunger cues, as opposed to on a schedule.
- Pacing feeds will help prevent over or under-eating, minimise colic, and protect the breastfeeding relationship overall.
So how do we pace bottle feeds?
- Hold baby in an upright position, supporting his head with your hand.
- Brush the bottle’s teat down the midline of baby’s bottom lip, which helps baby to open his mouth wide.
- Allow baby to take the teat himself, as opposed to pushing it into his mouth.
- Tip the bottle only so high that the milk fills the teat. As the feed continues, continue to raise the bottle so that the teat is filled with milk - the bottle will likely be vertical by the end of the feed.
- Gradually lean baby further backwards as the bottle tips, keeping his head and neck lined up.
- Try to make the feed last for 10-20 minutes, offering frequent pauses to mimic mom’s let-down patterns.
- Switch from one side to the other midway through a feed, to avoid ’side preference’.
- Every few minutes, give baby a rest.
- Allow baby to decide when he’s finished the feed, even if that means wasting a drop of milk.
The idea around paced feeds is to try to mirror the practicalities and rhythms of direct nursing as much as possible.
When offered in this responsive and familiar way, breastfed babies are less likely to develop nipple preference or colic symptoms, and are far more likely to easily transition smoothly between the bottle and the breast.
And remember, if you need support, check out my virtual consults, because the support of a Lactation Consultant can make a world of difference to your feeding journey.