Some babies will happily guzzle from whatever food source they are offered. Whether it’s a breast, bottle, spoon or sippy cup, they will simply enjoy their milk and the fact that their little tummies are getting full.
Other babies can be a little…ahem… selective in their eating preferences, and feeding them expressed breastmilk or formula can become quite a challenge.
If you know you’re going to express or mixed feed, then introducing a bottle earlier rather than later will allow your baby to become familiar with both your nipple and the teat on the bottle. Even if you’re not sure that you will be expressing, you may consider introducing a bottle occasionally so that you have the option.
So when do I bring in the bottle?
If you are breastfeeding lactation consultants recommend waiting until breastfeeding is established or when your bub is eight weeks old. If you are dealing with latching difficulties it is be best to wait until these issues are addressed before adding a bottle into the mix. This is because the sucking mechanism required for a bottle teat is slightly different than the nipple and may be confusing for your baby if they’re already struggling to breastfeed. If breastfeeding hasn’t been established before the introduction of a bottle your baby may decide they prefer the bottle which can compound the situation.
It is important to decide on the best time to introduce the bottle to your little one. I waited to introduce a bottle to my daughter until she was four months old and I’ve never been able to get her to take it. She realises it’s not boob and howls…and then howls some more!
However, she needed reflux medication on a spoon from three weeks old. I really struggled to feed her as she rejected my breast for a while; but I was able to feed her breastmilk on a spoon. This took forever and I don’t recommend it if you can avoid it. Despite all the best of intentions, some babies do reject the bottle and depending on the age of your baby you may consider going straight to a sippy cup if you need an additional option.
Once you have encouraged bub to accept the bottle, you can keep them familiar with it by making about one feed a week expressed breastmilk (some babies may require more frequent feeds in order to master drinking from a bottle). That way you have the option if you are returning to work, need to be away from your baby or just desperately need a sleep.
How can I gently introduce the bottle?
If breastfeeding is going well and you want to try a bottle then here are some steps to help you ease the process.
- Give the bottle at the end of a feed to start with, as a satisfied baby will be more likely to try the new teat sensation.
- Brush their lips gently with the teat in order to stimulate the rooting reflex and allow them to explore the teat. It feels and smells very different to you and may take some time to get used to.
- Bottles often have a faster flow than the breast so make sure you give your baby plenty of rests if they need it and use a slow flow teat.
- There are many different styles of bottles and teats and you may need to try several before finding one that you and your baby like. Pigeon Peristaltic Teats are designed to mimic and promote the natural wave like lapping movement of a baby’s tongue as it naturally draws milk from a mothers’ nipple. Pigeon Peristaltic Teats are available in both slim and wide neck styles.
- Don’t be discouraged if it takes a while or if your baby rejects the bottle initially.
- Sometimes it helps if someone other than mum gives the first few bottles as it can be confusing for bub if breasts are so tantalisingly close, but not being offered.
Hopefully these suggestions will help you on your expressing and bottle-feeding journey, remember though that you’re the best judge of what works for your baby!
Add your own suggestions and hints in the comments section below.