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Introducing a Bottle to a Breastfed Baby

For many breastfeeding moms, returning to work or school sometime during their breastfeeding journey is a reality. This usually means the baby will be fed by an alternative method while mom is away. The most common alternate feeding method to the breast is a bottle. While there are vast differences between the skills used in breastfeeding and bottle feeding, with careful planning and attention, there are plenty of ways parents and caregivers can support the potential need to bottle feed a breastfed baby without compromising the breastfeeding relationship.

Strategies for parents and caregivers:

  • As much as possible, protect the first few weeks of breastfeeding as you establish a good breastfeeding routine, learn your baby’s cues and build your milk supply.

  • Introducing a bottle when your baby is 4-6 weeks old is a common time for many families who plan to include bottle feeding into their lifestyle. Whether you plan to return to work following a brief maternity leave or not until your baby is several months old, introducing a bottle to a younger baby can be easier than waiting until you have an older baby who is set in their ways and may refuse any alternative to the breast.

  • If possible, find someone other than the breastfeeding mother to introduce the bottle to the baby, such as the other parent or a trusted caregiver.

  • Some babies will refuse to take a bottle if the breastfeeding mother is nearby so it can be a good idea for the mother to be out of the house for a little bit when the introduction is taking place.

  • Having something familiar that smells like the mother nearby can make the baby feel more at ease for the first few bottle feeds.

  • Some moms find their babies are more likely to take the bottle in the beginning if the milk is freshly expressed and at room temp.

  • Offering a breastfed baby a bottle when they are really hungry might make the experience less than successful so try offering before the baby gets too hungry.

  • Try the paced-bottle feeding method as opposed to the traditional way bottle feeding is typically done.

  • Tell your baby what to expect, no matter how young they are or how uncomfortable you might feel doing it.

  • If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. Don’t get discouraged if your baby doesn’t take to a bottle as readily as you hoped. You might need to take a step back, wait a couple days or a week and then try again. It might help to try at a different time or day or with a different caregiver.

  • Breastfeeding as soon as you and your baby are reunited is key to making a smooth transition back to the breast.

  • Once your baby accepts the bottle, offering it every few days or once a week helps ensure your baby doesn’t come to refuse it when you really need it.


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