Giving your baby a bottle
Updated: Feb 23
Giving a breastfed baby a bottle can vary from very simple to extremely difficult. It all depends on your baby, but there are some tips to make it go a little easier
It is usually recommended to wait for 3-4 weeks after birth to try a bottle, so that baby is proficient with breastfeeding first. Some parents have found that giving one bottle a day after this time period can help two ways; it gives Mom a break and gives your partner time with the baby to enjoy feeding. However, as babies go through normal development, they also become more particular about things like how they are fed. The typical age when this becomes the most difficult is around three months of age. Some babies at this age will abruptly stop taking a bottle, even though they haven't had a problem up until that time. There are some babies that will also abruptly go on a nursing strike and only want the bottle. Because we want to support our children's individuality, we may need to gently try other things to make a bottle happen.
Because breastfed babies are used to body temp milk, you may need to warm the bottle slightly more than usual. You will need to be careful that it is not too warm. Warming a bottle of breastmilk should never be done in the microwave as it creates hot spots from the fat globules. Placing the bottle in a cup of very hot water usually is the easiest way. If your water temp is not warm enough, you can try warming the water in the microwave in 30 second intervals, again, making sure it is not too hot.
The time honored way to tell the safe temp of a bottle is to drip a little of the milk on your inner forearm. If you don't feel it, this is usually the right temp. With a breastfed baby that likes things a certain way, you can try to warm the milk until it feels a little warm when you drip on your forearm, but not hot.
The shape and feel of the bottle nipple will obviously be different for your baby than your breast and nipple. Because of this, you may need to try a few different nipples until you find the one that he or she prefers. Some babies like the wider nipple that is shaped more like a breast, such as the Tommee Tippee , while others prefer the more narrow nipple like the Dr Brown. All nipples are now made of silicone and are BPA free. The bottle itself can be plastic or glass, depending on your preference. There are many conflicting studies about the best bottle type for breastmilk, but it really comes down to what is best and most convenient for you and your family.
Now that you have found the nipple, bottle and temperature that your baby prefers it is time to actually give the bottle
Some babies will do better if someone other than the lactating parent is giving the bottle. You can try taking an item of their clothing and placing it on your chest so the smell is the same for baby.
Another trick is to feed him before he is extremely hungry, so he is likely going to be more patient. Sometimes if he is sleepy, this will work as well.
Turning baby towards the chest, like a breastfeeding position may work for some babies
If this doesn't work, turning baby away from the chest may work.
Feeding the baby from the breast for about 5 minutes first may help diminish his hunger and you can then try the bottle
How to bottle feed
Paced Bottle Feeding
This is a method of feeding your baby that helps prevent the preference for a fast flow and difficulty going back and forth from the bottle to the breast.
-Have the baby sitting upright, so that he isn't lying down
-Use the slowest flow nipple you can find. Most babies do fine with a size 1, which is a newborn nipple.
There is also the ability to get a size 0 with some bottle brands, which is considered a preemie nipple.
-Hold the bottle parallel to the floor, tilted just enough to fill the nipple with milk.
-As the baby drinks, if he is going too fast, tip the bottle down to take it out to help him go more slowly.
-A typical bottle feeding should last about as long as a breastfeed, about 15-20 minutes (although many
babies nurse for longer than that at most feedings).
Here is a video that can help:
If you are desperate (for example, you have been trying the bottle and now you're returning to work so they are going to daycare), some babies will take milk from a sippy cup. An open cup gently placed on his lower lip and letting him lap up the milk may also work.
Occasionally, there are babies who will prefer to turn their night and day around so that they nurse more at night and eat less when at daycare. This is not ideal of course and may necessitate some co-sleeping if this works for you, so that you get enough sleep.
Most babies will eventually take the bottle using one or more of the previous methods. It may also just take time and patience. If you have a compassionate and willing daycare provider, they can help quite a bit with this process as they have done this many times in their careers.