For some breastfeeding moms the time may come when offering baby a bottle of milk is necessary (mom is going back to work) or desirable (mom and dad need a night out, so baby is staying with grandma). Many breastfed babies will take a bottle if it is offered under the right conditions. Because not all babies are created equally, bottle-feeding a breastfed baby may require some patience as you sort through nipple shapes, bottle types and feeding positions.
“It is recommended that you wait until breastfeeding is well established before you introduce a bottle for the first time,” says Teresa Pitman a Guelph, Ontario-based La Leche League leader. “Typically this is around four to six weeks, however it varies from baby to baby.”
Experiment with different nipples and bottles until you find something that your child will drink from. “Generally a slower-flow nipple makes transitioning between the breast and the bottle much easier,” says Pitman. Try Baby Life Nipples Slow Flow.
When introducing the bottle it’s often recommended that someone other than mom do the feeding. “Many babies feel frustrated when mom tries to give them a bottle because they know the ‘real thing’ is right there,” says Pitman. Have dad or a caregiver offer the bottle, while mom goes out of the room.
One of the keys to successful bottle-feeding is a calm feeder. “Try to relax during this process because baby can sense your stress and will respond accordingly.” Pitman explains that there is no set age when a newborn will no longer take a bottle—meaning you can’t miss your window of opportunity, even if you wait for three or four months.
Experiment with different feeding positions to see what your baby responds to. Some will be more willing to take a bottle if it’s delivered in a manner similar to how they are breastfed. This means sitting in a familiar setting, holding baby in a cradle with skin contact and lots of cuddling. Others prefer a bottle if it’s given in a totally different setting. Try sitting baby on the lap facing outward, or offering a bottle while baby is in his car seat or stroller making eye contact with whoever is feeding him.
Remember that moving to the bottle can be challenging for babies. Don’t be discouraged if the change takes a few attempts, and perhaps many weeks, to take hold.