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How to Get Your Breastfed Baby to Take a Bottle

We often get calls from families that are wanting to start their baby on a bottle but their baby is either not latching on the bottle or crying off and on, fighting it. We understand the need to have your baby take a bottle if you are heading back to work and need dad or their sitter to feed him, want to go out for a date night regularly or if you just simply want to have somebody else give your baby a bottle during feedings when you would like.

It is possible that transitioning from your breast to a bottle can be unfamiliar for your baby and when they are hungry they want what has worked for them and what they are used to. Working with families as Infant Feeding Specialists this is a request we get, help with this transition. So, outside of our in-person support we want to share some tips on how you can use successful tips on how to get your breastfed baby to take a bottle.

When to Start Offering a Bottle

Now there are plenty of situations where babies are given bottles in the first few days of life whether that be formula or pumped breast milk and what is important here is that we match the flow of milk coming from the bottle to the flow of the milk coming from the breast. Matching the flow will avoid baby developing what is called a 'flow preference'. This is often confused with 'nipple confusion'.

For the babies who are put to breast only, a prime time to introduce the bottle to your baby is around 4-6 weeks. Waiting to introduce even at this age we want to consider the flow preference and stick with paced bottle feeding.

Picking a Bottle

This is a big one! Almost every time we get a call from parents they have told us that they have already tried every bottle under the sun and their baby still won't take it. We encourage you to pick one (maybe one that has worked even a little bit as far as getting a couple sucks on the nipple from your baby) and stick with that one.

Choose the slowest flow nipple because we are always keeping the flow in mind and this can also help prevent or reduce guzzling and gas in your baby's stomach.

Try When Baby is Happy

Trying to do anything with our babies or children is that much more difficult when they are already upset. Giving them a bath, putting them to bed, changing them, feeding them, you name it. So it's best to choose a time that your baby is content and hungry, but not hangry. If you are following the wake, eat, play, sleep routine you can offer the bottle at the beginning of the feed when they are rested and gearing up to eat.

Stop if Your Baby Gets Upset

Just as we mentioned trying when baby is happy, if she gets upset, it's time to take a break. Remove the bottle from her mouth and soothe her. Gauge whether you both are ready for more attempts and take it at your own pace. She does not have to take the whole bottle, she may not even suck on the nipple for the first few attempts, even playing around with the nipple in her mouth is progress.

Have Someone Else Feed Your Baby

If possible, let someone else try to feed your baby the bottle. With your baby used to your smell and the routine of breastfeeding he may want to do just that, nurse till his little hearts content. They can also feel our energy just like we can feel the energy of others we are around, so if we are anxious about it it's best to let your husband, partner, mother or Infant Feeding Specialist spend some time walking around, soothing and practicing on this transition the first few times.

Offer the Bottle Often

For babies who are taking a little longer to transition to a bottle you may want to try offering it for a few minutes at multiple feedings each day. This can look like 5-10 minutes of getting her familiar with it and there may be sessions that she doesn't suck at all or only a few times. The goal is to get her familiar and help her transition and many times, it's a step at a time.

Focus on Progress Not Perfection

It's easy to get discouraged when we have the expectations and need for our baby to take a bottle, but understanding that it is a transition for them and having the tools to help set you up for success is so important! Remember, chewing on the bottle nipple is progress, sucking once or twice is getting closer, eating only an ounce is wonderful! All of these are positive steps in the direction you are wanting her to go and they are considered wins.

So, whether you’re going back to work full-time, part-time, exclusively pumping, or formula feeding, this technique for bottle-feeding is a proven game plan and a great way to support you, your family and especially your little one in just another one of the many skills he will learn in his lifetime.

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