Ready to go from breast to bottle? A change in feeding methods can be tricky. Here are twelve tips to help make transitioning to bottle feeding easier.
Even if your baby is currently breastfeeding, you might want to go from breast to bottle eventually, or you might choose to supplement or shift to formula-feeding completely. Maybe you’d like more flexibility, are going back to work, or have been trying to manage a low milk supply or medical issue. Whatever your reason for exploring bottle feeding, we are sharing these tips to help support you as you make the transition.
How to get a breastfed baby to take a bottle
1. Wait until your baby is at least a month old.
It’s best to wait until your baby is at least three to four weeks old before introducing the bottle. This gives your body time to establish an adequate milk supply and your newborn time to master latching and breastfeeding suck-swallow-breathe mechanics.1 Any earlier could decrease your milk production, which could be an issue if you are not planning on switching to formula completely.
Are you returning to work? Give yourself a two-week head start on bottle-feeding, so both you and your baby have time to adjust.
2. Choose the right time of day and set the mood.
When introducing a baby to a bottle, timing can be everything.
- Introduce a bottle an hour or so after feeding to give your baby a chance to try it while they’re relaxed and not hungry or fussy.
- Set aside plenty of time to help ease your baby into trying the bottle. They may not be interested in this strange new feeding object at first.
- Establish a quiet, calm, distraction-free feeding zone. The more relaxed your baby—and you—are, the smoother the bottle feeding session may be.
3. Get the right equipment.
Orthodontic, flat-topped, and vented nipples. Angle neck, anti-colic, and wide neck bottles. It may seem like you need a whole new vocabulary to understand all the different nipples and bottles. But that means you have plenty of options for feeding your sweetheart.
All bottles and nipples are not the same. They come in various sizes and shapes, and babies can have their preferences. It may take some experimenting to find the ones that work best for your baby.
Although there’s no “right” nipple shape, the nipple’s hole can make a big difference. If it’s too big, it might cause your baby to gag. If it’s too small, it may be difficult for your baby to draw out liquid.
As for bottles, you’ll want to compare materials, neck shape, ease of cleaning, and special features designed for babies with different feeding needs.
4. Enlist help.
Babies are smart and associate mom with mealtime. That’s why it can be a good idea to let someone who doesn’t smell like mommy’s milk do the initial feedings. Have your partner, a grandparent, or a caregiver try bottle feeding your baby at first. Mom may even want to pop out of the room for a bit so they are out of baby’s view.
5. Try bottled breast milk first.
Going from nursing to a formula bottle can be a big change for a little one who’s been breastfeeding exclusively. Some moms ease the transition by feeding their baby breast milk via a bottle. This helps babies adjust to this new feeding method before changing over to formula exclusively.
6. Position your baby comfortably.
How you hold your baby during feeding can make a difference in feeding ease and reduce the amount of air swallowed. In fact, health experts say that your baby’s position while feeding is more important than the type of bottle or nipple you choose. Here are some bottle feeding tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics:23
- Hold your baby in a semi-upright position.
- Cradle and support your little one’s head in your arm.
- When tilting the bottle, make sure the milk covers the nipple to help your baby avoid swallowing air.
7. Offer a sample.
Give your baby a few drops of bottled breast milk or formula on their lips as a sample. Offer more if they show an interest or hunger cues.
8. Take a break when necessary.
If a bottle-feeding session isn’t going well, it’s okay to stop and take a break. Sometimes it’s best to try again later after your baby has calmed down. Stress isn’t helpful for you or your little one.
9. Follow your baby’s lead.
As your infant drinks from a bottle, allow them to pause and restart, just like breastfeeding. This helps them realize that bottle and breastfeeding are similar.
10. Go slow
Try gradually transitioning from breast to the bottle by substituting one daily breastfeeding session with a bottle. Let your baby get used to that, then replace other sessions over the course of days or even weeks.2
11. Maintain your milk supply.
Nursing naturally stimulates breast milk production. Hence, the more you bottle feed, the less breast milk you may produce. If you’re supplementing and want to increase your milk supply, try to:
- Pump after formula or expressed milk feedings and between feedings. Empty breasts completely.4
- Switch breasts throughout nursing sessions.
- Ask your doctor about herbal lactation supplements, also known as galactagogues. Three popular ones are fenugreek, blessed thistle, and alfalfa.
- Talk to a lactation consultant to get some pro insights on what could be causing your low milk supply and what you can do about it.
12. Feel the love
Both bottle-feeding and breastfeeding give you and your baby a chance to snuggle and relax. You can still feed them like before, with lots of eye and skin-to-skin contact and affection.
Getting a baby to take a bottle can take time and some perseverance, but you’ve got this! As always, reach out to your pediatrician with any questions and expert guidance. Check out our other articles covering breastfeeding vs. formula feeding and the transition to formula feeding for additional tips and insights on feeding your little one.
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