When to introduce a bottle to a breastfed baby depends on your baby’s personal needs and the dynamics of your lifestyle, why you are introducing it and when you need your baby to take a bottle.
If you have a busy lifestyle and need or want to spend time away from your baby, then you may want to introduce a bottle early even if you are a stay-at-home mom and plan to only use bottles occasionally, It’s generally advised that you wait at least four to six weeks because that’s enough time for most babies to master the art of breastfeeding. That doesn’t mean that some babies won’t need more time to get accustomed to the breast, so you have to use your own judgement as a parent when making the final decision.
Are You Going Back to Work?
This is one of the most common reasons that breastfeeding mothers need to supplement with bottles or transition their babies entirely. You want to return to work with the peace of mind that comes with knowing your baby is well-nourished and properly comforted while you’re away. This means that you need to start introducing your baby to a bottle at least two to three weeks before your first day back on the job.
If you don’t know exactly when you will return to work, it’s best to wait until your baby has at least a month of breastfeeding experience. You may then introduce the bottle so that you’re ready whenever the big day comes along.
You may also want to start spending short periods of time away from your baby so that he or she can adjust to being with a trusted caregiver while you’re away. This is a difficult process, but you and your baby will both benefit emotionally if you gradually introduce bottle feedings and periods of your absence.
Why Not Wait Longer When Introducing the Bottle to a Breastfed Baby?
In our experience, breastfeeding babies prefer mom. Think about it…would you rather be snuggled close, skin to skin if you were your baby or have someone prop a bottle up and feed you? Almost every baby prefers mommy to breastfeed and snuggle them.
So it is important to introduce the bottle early enough that they can see that a bottle is ok too and that mommy (or maybe daddy!) will still snuggle them, too.
How to Introduce the Bottle to a Breastfed Baby
You should take the same approach to bottle feeding as you do most new experiences in your adult life: slow and gradual. Start by switching to the breast at the end of a breastfeeding session, delivering one ounce of breast milk or less from the bottle. This will tell you how easily your baby will take to the nipple, but don’t panic if they don’t latch on and happily start suckling right away. It may take some time for some babies to get used to it.
To reduce the chances of your baby refusing the bottle, make sure that you’re using a bottle nipple that is a close mimic of a woman’s natural nipple. This typically means a wider base and fuller shape to be more comfortable to them.
Related : Best Baby Bottle Nipples for Baby By Age
Always start out with a slow-flow nipple because you don’t want your baby’s first experience with a bottle to be uncomfortable choking. You may see these nipples labeled slow flow, level one, stage one, or newborn flow. You may want to keep a medium-flow nipple on hand as well just in case your baby finds the slow flow frustrating.
Give the Baby Some Space
The most confusing part about this transition for a baby is trying to understand why mommy is offering a plastic nipple rather than the soft, warm breast that he or she loves so much. You can avoid this by allowing another caregiver to deliver the bottles in the beginning. You may want to leave the room entirely so that your breast isn’t an option
This type of separation may be hard emotionally at first, but keep in mind that you’re eliminating distraction and confusion for your baby. If you find this too difficult to do, try feeding the first bottle to your baby personally or while you’re in the room.
If that doesn’t work, try skin-to-skin feeding with the bottle. Sometimes that gives them the feeling that this is less scary and strange because mom is still here. Every baby is different, so find what works for yours.
If your baby experiences nipple confusion or simply refuses to accept the bottle, don’t give up in frustration. Try changing the nipple’s size, shape, and flow. If your baby has a favorite pacifier, look at the shape and size of the nipple on that pacifier. Can you find a nipple that will closely mimic that shape and size? If so, then you may have the solution that gets your baby to finally enjoy bottle feeding.
Keep Exposing the Baby to the Bottle
Once your baby is accustomed to accepting the bottle, you can start increasing the amount of milk delivered until your baby can complete a full feeding with the bottle. This will happen right away for some babies, but it may take some time with others.
Keep exposing them to a bottle once in a while so when you really need them to take that bottle, they have not forgotten that it is ok.
Regardless of how you determine when to introduce a bottle to a breastfed baby and how you approach the transition to include some bottle feeding, keep in mind that your baby is unique. You know your baby better than anyone else, and you may come up with a creative method that makes this transition more enjoyable and easier for your baby to understand. Listen to your mommy instincts to find what works best for the two of you.
Other Articles You Might Like:
- Tips for Saving and Storing Breast Milk
- Best Bottles for a Breastfeeding Baby
- Best Baby Bottle Nipples for Baby By Age
- Why Paced Feeding is Best for Breastfeeding Babies Who are Bottle Fed
- Find a Great Breastfeeding Bra – How to Choose the Right One for You