Introducing a Bottle to Your Breastfeeding Baby

Maybe you are going out to dinner with your partner, or you’re returning to work soon. Maybe your baby has problems latching, or you need to supplement for health reasons. Whatever the reason, you find yourself unsure how to go about introducing a bottle to your breastfeeding baby.

What kind of bottle?

Anyone who has shopped for baby gear knows the crazy number of choices available for bottle feeding. Which bottle and nipple you use are up to you – and your baby. It sometimes takes trial and error before you find one your breastfed baby likes. On the other hand, some babies aren’t particular.

Try a slow-flow nipple – this will make your baby work a little harder to get the milk, making it more like breastfeeding. And try to match the nipple size and shape to your own anatomy, if possible.

How much milk?

Research shows that from one month to six months, breastfeeding babies’ intake is fairly stable at about 25 to 35 ounces (750-1050 ml) per day. In order to determine how much you need per bottle, take this average and divide it by the number of times your baby eats in 24 hours. If, for example, your baby nurses 10 times each day, that would be about 2.5 to 3.5 ounces (74-104 ml) per feeding. Your baby nurses 8 times per day? You’ll need more per bottle. Your baby nurses 12 times per day? He may take less but expect a bottle more often.

How do I do it?

Make bottle feeding as much like breastfeeding as you can. Follow your baby’s hunger cues rather than offering the bottle at a scheduled time. Cuddle baby, tickle his lips with the teat, and let him draw the nipple into his mouth. Hold the bottle more horizontal so that baby can control the flow a little better, and give him pauses just like he normally does at the breast. You might even consider switching sides halfway through the bottle feeding.

Your baby may be more likely to accept the bottle if someone other than mom provides it. Mom may need to leave the room or even the house!

What if my baby resists?

If your baby resists the bottle:

  • Warm or cool the nipple under running water before offering it to baby.
  • Try warmed, room temperature or even cold milk. Some babies enjoy milk slushies.
  • Try a different nipple.
  • Express some of the milk onto the bottle nipple.
  • Feed on the go – stand, walk, or move.
  • Stay away from his preferred nursing chair.
  • Try holding baby facing away from you, or other positions to make bottle feeding less like breastfeeding.
  • Hold a blanket or t-shirt that smells like mom when feeding baby.
  • Consider using a cup or medicine spoon rather than a bottle – just keep in mind it will be messier and more time consuming.

Be patient. Continue to offer the bottle occasionally and your baby may gradually become accustomed to it. Even if you’re in more of a hurry (with that back-to-work deadline looming perhaps), try not to make it a battle. Eventually your baby will figure it out.

Are you giving your baby both breast and bottle? What tips do you have for other moms?

Written by Michelle, Lamaze instructor, lactation consultant, and mother to 4 busy kids

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice.  All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2016. All rights reserved.