How To Introduce A Bottle To Your Breastfed Baby
In my practice, I meet so many families who are nervous about introducing a bottle. It should be easy right? I’ve found that parents are usually lost when it comes to bottles, there are so many to try, so many opinions on when to start, and all of this usually accompanies breastfeeding challenges, the stress of returning to work or sharing feeding duties with other caregivers. While there are many factors that play into whether a baby takes a bottle or not, here are a few basic tips to help you get started. As always, working with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant is a great way to get more support that is tailored to your needs.
These tips do not mean you HAVE to bottle feed this way. But these tips help to eliminate variables to make bottle feeding similar to breastfeeding so they are more likely to take the bottle.
Hold the baby in the same position that they breastfeed best. Cross cradle is usually the ideal position to allow for safe swallowing and easier digestion. We found a lot of success with these bottles from Como Tomo.
There are so many well-documented benefits of doing skin-to-skin after birth, but these benefits continue throughout the baby’s development. Position the baby’s cheek against the feeder’s arm or chest to continue the benefits, this will also help the baby bond and feel connected to the feeder.
When feeding on one side, the baby experiences warmth, comfort, and snuggles on one side of their head and body, and they have more exposure to their surroundings on the other side. The brain picks up a ton of information from its surroundings, so switching sides helps to stimulate both sides of the brain helping to integrate their environment. Don’t worry, you don’t need to go crazy keeping track, but many caregivers have a more comfortable side to hold a baby so just try to keep a mental note and switch off. You can switch halfway through a feed, or just switch sides at each feeding.
Take your time with feedings. Paced bottle feeding is a great way to mimic the flow of breastfeeding and deliver a slow and controlled feed. It helps if you can only fill a bottle with a feeding size quantity so it reduces the speed of the flow and you’re less likely to waste any unused milk. Paced bottle feeding also allows the baby to control the feeding so assess for their cues for satiety.
Interaction is so beautiful during this time. Creating eye contact, singing, or telling stories is a great way to bond with the baby. It also allows the caregiver to be aware of the baby’s signs that they are full, still hungry, tired, etc.
Kelly Mom has a great article for more on the benefits of these bottle-feeding techniques.
I also loved using the Medela Harmony manual hand pump once my milk supply was well established. These are NOT good if you are having issues with your supply but they are great if you need a quick pump on the go and all the parts were interchangeable with my Medela Pump in Style. Also, the Haakaa Breast Pump was great to use during breastfeeding sessions on the side baby was not nursing. Although I wouldn’t really call it a pump, it’s more of a suction-cup-let-down-catcher-thingy, since you don’t actually pump it.
For more info on how to properly store your breastmilk check out our safe storage guidelines!