Tips for Introducing a Bottle to Your Breastfed Baby

How to Introduce a Bottle to Your Breastfed Baby

By choice or necessity, most breastfeeding moms these days will express their milk, either occasionally or regularly. If your baby ever needs to drink your expressed breast milk, she most likely will take it from a bottle. Young babies (under about seven months of age) require liberal sucking, both for emotional gratification and for proper development of their palate, jaw, and the muscles of their face, lips, and tongue.

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

breastfeeding promotion and supportIf you expect to be separated from your baby (for example, due to work or school) and plan to feed your expressed breast milk by bottle, you should begin to introduce your baby to bottle-feeding once breastfeeding is going well. Some breastfed babies accept a bottle easily, while others are very resistant to a new method of feeding. The following suggestions may be helpful in encouraging your baby to accept a bottle:

  • Plan a time when you can devote ten to fifteen uninterrupted minutes to bottle-feeding. Your baby will feel pressured if you are rushed.
  • Choose a time when your baby is alert and slightly hungry so she will be motivated to learn a new way to receive milk. On the other hand, avoid offering a bottle when your baby is ravenous. An upset, frantically hungry baby will be in no mood to try something new.
  • Offer your freshly expressed milk, so the taste will be familiar to your baby. Sometimes expressed milk acquires an unpleasant taste during freezing. If your milk has been refrigerated, warm the bottle first, taking care not to overheat the milk.

  • There is no particular bottle-nipple combo that works best for every baby. Generally, a slow-flow nipple is preferred so that your baby does not guzzle her milk. If she uses a pacifier, she might prefer a nipple with a similar shape. Stick with one type of nipple for several days. Trying numerous different nipples may just confuse your baby.
  • Your baby may accept a bottle more readily if an alternate caregiver (such as your husband or partner) offers it to her. If you try to feed her with a bottle, your baby may protest and turn toward your breast to nurse. On the other hand, she may actually accept the bottle more willingly when she is in your arms and is reassured by your voice. There is no single position that works for every baby. Some babies prefer to be facing you, while others prefer to face away from you, and some like to sit in the crook of your arm. It may even depend on who is giving the bottle.
  • Stay calm when offering a bottle to your baby. At first she may resist your efforts by turning away, grimacing or making a face, or pushing the nipple away with her tongue. Don’t force the bottle at any time, and discontinue your efforts if your baby starts to get upset.
  • Go slowly and gently, first touching your baby’s top lip with the nipple and watching her reaction. Do not force the nipple past her lips. Instead, let her draw the nipple into her mouth at her own pace.
  • Drip a little milk from the nipple onto your baby’s lips or tongue. Remove the nipple before she protests. Keep a smile on your face and keep talking in a reassuring tone the whole time. Babies are keen observers of their mothers’ and caretakers’ facial expressions and take their cues from them.
  • Patiently wait for your baby to explore or draw the nipple into her mouth. Slowly guide the nipple toward the roof of her mouth, being careful not to go straight back, as this may cause her to gag. Keep smiling and offer reassuring words in a calming voice.
  • If your baby starts to get upset, try to calm her by talking in a soothing voice. Wait until she starts to settle before you remove the nipple from her lips. Avoid letting her get very upset and then immediately taking the nipple away. This will teach her that if she protests enough, you will remove the nipple. It is better to withdraw the nipple before she becomes upset or to try to calm her with your voice before you remove the nipple.
  • Don’t spend more than ten to fifteen minutes on this process and stop sooner if you or your baby becomes frustrated. It is better to end the session on a positive note and try again tomorrow.
  • Most importantly, don’t be discouraged. You can take comfort in knowing that countless women have managed to entice their breastfed babies to accept a bottle. While the same techniques are not necessarily effective for every mother and baby, something always works. You will find a solution too!

Copyright © 2012 Marianne Neifert, MD, MTS