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Introducing a Bottle to your Breastfed Baby

When is the best time to introduce your breastfed baby to the bottle? Many lactation experts agree, 2-4 weeks of age is a great time to introduce a bottle. When breastfeeding, the first few weeks are all about creating and solidifying your nursing relationship. After your milk supply is established and breastfeeding is going well, introducing the bottle sooner, rather than later, will help make the transition between bottle and breast much easier!

To support continued breastfeeding, here are a few tips when introducing the bottle:

-Choose a slow flow nipple that will require baby to use some effort to get milk from the bottle, replicating the effort involved in nursing. There is no “best” bottle for a breastfed baby. Every baby is different, trying a couple bottle options may help you find the best fit for your little one. The best bottle is a bottle that baby can get a proper latch on, that does not leak around baby’s lips, and baby can eat comfortably from.

-Have someone else offer baby their first few bottles. A baby can smell his or her mother’s scent from a great distance, so if baby is having a particularly tough time, leaving the house for that feeding may help baby focus on taking the bottle rather than waiting and searching for mom’s scent.

-Paced feeding is very important in introducing a bottle to a breastfed baby. In paced feeding, you will keep your little one at an upright, slightly inclined position. Bringing bottle to baby’s lips, you will allow baby to open his or her mouth widely on their own, putting the full bottle nipple in baby’s mouth when open. You will hold the bottle horizontally, which slows the flow significantly as gravity is no longer playing a roll. Every 20-30 seconds of feeding, the bottle is tipped downward or removed from baby’s mouth to stop the flow of milk (creating a similar pattern as in breastfeeding). Remember, to avoid over feeding, follow baby’s cues and never try to push baby into finishing a bottle if baby seems full and insists they are done.

-Be sure baby creates a proper latch on the bottle with the entire bottle nipple in baby's mouth and lips resting around base of nipple. A shallow latch, when baby only has the tip of the nipple in their mouth, will not allow baby to properly get milk from the bottle.

-A bottle feeding should take 15-20 minutes. If baby finishes the bottle in less than 10 minutes, the flow is likely too fast. If it takes your baby 30-45 minutes to take a bottle, the flow may be too slow.

-If baby is still refusing the bottle, try different feeding positions or walking around while feeding baby. This distraction may be enough to get baby to begin their feed, and once eating, baby is more likely to continue.

-Warming the nipple under warm water or putting a drop of milk on the outside of the nipple for baby to taste may also help him or her start the feed.

Whether you're going back to work full time, part time, or just want your little one to be able to take a bottle from another caregiver so you can have an evening away with the girls, introducing the bottle can be a time of great change and frustration. Hopefully these tips will help you start off on the right track! Baby still refusing bottle or looking fora little more advice specific to your family? Contact me today to set up a consultation!

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