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Paging Margarita Marasigan, RN CCE: Breast to Bottle

Tips on bottle feeding your breastfed baby from our expert, Margarita Marasigan, postpartum/newborn registered nurse, and certified childbirth educator:

Recently, I have had a few new mommies call me about a specific concern they’ve had with their babies. In preparation to go back to work, these breastfeeding mommies have tried to introduce their babies to the bottle. To their surprise, their little ones have become as discerning as the toughest food critic, and turn their noses up at getting their milk from anywhere but mom. I can relate. A month before I went back to work, my husband tried to give my son a bottle of breastmilk while I was out grocery shopping. My darling baby refused. Many different nipples and attempts later, the result was always the same. He refused and then would breastfeed nonstop when we were together. It was frustrating & just as I was ready to throw in the towel (or bottle), we had a breakthrough and I was able to go to work confident that my baby would eat well while I was away.

Here are some tips to help your baby learn to accept the bottle. Try one or all to see what works for your baby.

Once breast feeding is well established, you can introduce the bottle. There’ s no magic number as to when this is as every baby is different. Well established breastfeeding is determined when a baby is feeding 8-12 times a day, putting out adequate wet and dirty diapers and gaining weight. To avoid undoing all the hard work you both did to learn how to breastfeed, try pace feeding with a bottle. Use a slow flow nipple and allow the baby to suck about 10 times before pulling the bottle out of the baby’s mouth and letting it rest on the baby’s bottom lip. This allows the baby to draw the nipple back in his mouth when he is ready for more. A feeding done this way will take about 15-20 minutes to complete, which is very similar to the way a baby feeds at the breast. You can see a quick tutorial here.

Choose someone other than mom to give those first bottles. Though it seems logical that dad would be that other person, some babies will accept a bottle from a grandparent or experienced caregiver more readily. Sometimes mom may even have to leave the room or house altogether in order for the baby to even consider trying the bottle.

Some babies see bottle feeding as completely different than breastfeeding and may not want to feed in the same place & position they are normally in with mom. So offer the bottle in a different location. Sit the baby upright, facing outward & even walk around so she can look around while feeding. In this case, distraction can be a huge help.

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The right temperature can be instrumental. Warm the breastmilk slightly warmer than room temperature and warm the nipple of the bottle by running it under warm water right before giving it to the baby. (*Remember NEVER microwave breastmilk. It can destroy the wonderful properties of breastmilk, as well as create hot spots in the milk that may burn the baby’s tongue.)

Timing is everything. If your baby is too upset, hungry or frantic, he may not be open to trying something new and unfamiliar. Offer the bottle when he first shows signs of hunger, which can occur before he is even fully awake. Instead of inserting the nipple into his mouth, allow him to open wide and draw in the nipple of the bottle all the way to the wide base, just as he would when breastfeeding.

This should not become a battle of wills. If your baby repeatedly refusesthe bottle, try a different method before attempting the bottle again. There are also alternatives to bottle feeding. You can spoon feed the milk to the baby. When offered breastmilk in an open cup, some babies will instinctively lap it up – much like a cat! Some babies, like my bottle averse son, will go right to a sippy cup and skip the bottle feeding stage altogether.

It’s all in the presentation. Being calm and happy when introducing the bottle to the baby helps the baby make a positive association with the bottle.

Just as every baby is different, there is no one way or method that is best. It may take several attempts to figure out your baby’s bottle feeding preferences. Remember that patience and persistence are the keys to success!

For those of you that have had success bottle feeding your breastfed baby, what worked for you? Share your tips in the comments below.

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