Tips for Feeding Your Breastfed Baby with a Bottle

Looking for Ways to Feed your Breastfed Baby with a Bottle?

breastfeeding promotion by expert speakerSome breastfed newborns and infants will have a medical need for supplemental milk (expressed breast milk, donor milk or infant formula) before breastfeeding is well established. In most instances, this extra milk is fed to the baby in a bottle. When a baby breastfeeds, she coordinates her breathing with sucking and swallowing. During bottle-feeding, however, she may need to hold her breath against the rapid flow of milk. While breastfed babies are better able to control milk flow as they nurse, the flow of milk from a bottle largely depends on gravity and the size of the nipple opening. Some breastfed babies have trouble adjusting to the rapid flow of milk when they drink from a bottle.

Authored by Marianne Neifert, MD, MTS – Dr. Mom®
Professional Speaker on Topics such as Positive Parenting, Work Life Balance, Breastfeeding Promotion and Support, Personal Growth, and Family Spirituality

If your breastfed baby temporarily needs to take some milk by bottle, the following breastfeeding-friendly tips can make it easier for her to switch between breastfeeding and bottle-feeding and control the flow of milk from the bottle.

  • Instead of holding your baby in a semi-reclining position, position her nearly upright on your lap, supporting her back and shoulders with your hand. Your baby should be able to see your face. You can also hold your baby in the crook of your elbow, but keep her head supported and upright.
  • Use a slower flowing nipple. A healthy, vigorous baby can take her feeding all too rapidly from a bottle, which can cause her to over-eat or swallow excessive air. While some breastfed babies are overwhelmed by the rapid flow of milk from a bottle, others develop a preference for the ease of bottle-feeding over breastfeeding. A slower-flow nipple will give your baby more sucking time and allow her to pace the feeding at a more appropriate rate.
  • Lightly stroke your baby’s upper lip with the nipple and wait until she opens her mouth wide, similar to breastfeeding. When she opens her mouth, gently introduce the nipple and touch it against the midpoint of the roof of her mouth to stimulate sucking. (If your baby resists taking the bottle, see the tips below).

  • Hold the bottle as horizontally as possible—rather than vertically—to avoid excessive milk flow. As the feeding progresses, watch your baby’s cues and pace the feeding accordingly. If your baby begins to gulp milk, allow her to pause, rest, and catch her breath, just as she does with breastfeeding. You also can twist and remove the nipple from your baby’s mouth from time to time or tilt the bottle more horizontally so that less milk fills the nipple.

  • Pause to burp your baby part-way through the feeding to release swallowed air. Stay attuned to your baby throughout the feeding, and let her set the pace for how rapidly she takes her milk and how much she drinks. Your baby should be able to take her feeding by bottle within 15 – 20 minutes. If she takes longer than 20 minutes, the nipple flow may be too slow. This will only frustrate her and cause her to work extra hard for her feeding.

  • Don’t over-feed your baby. The amount of milk you offer in the bottle will vary depending on your baby’s age and how frequently she nurses. In the first 48 hours of life, your baby may drink only ½ oz. of milk at a breastfeeding. This volume rapidly increases to about 2 oz. per feeding by the end of the first week, and 3 to 4 ounces within a month or so. Just as you interpret your baby’s hunger cues, it is important to respect the signs that she is full. Don’t encourage her to finish a bottle if she appears satisfied. If your baby regularly gets larger feedings when drinking from a bottle than she takes when breastfeeding, she may develop a preference for bottle-feeding.

Copyright © 2012 Marianne Neifert, MD, MTS