If you’re a breastfeeding mother then perhaps you’ve come across some issues while trying to introduce the bottle. From my own experience and that of other moms, here’s how to get your breastfed baby to take the occasional bottle without a big fight. This post is sponsored by Playtex® and all opinions and advice are 100% my own.
With my first child, it didn’t even occur to me to offer her a bottle until I really needed it. And she wouldn’t take it. With my second, I introduced the bottle early on and he took it. With my third, again I waited because I was feeling sentimental. But then he took the bottle like he didn’t notice a difference. I will pretend I did not shed brief tears.
If you work or have your baby in childcare for long periods of time then your baby likely takes the bottle without issue. It’s usually the mothers who rarely have the need to offer a baby a bottle that run into trouble when their baby just won’t seem to take it. There are a few ways you can go about helping introduce your baby to the bottle and take it without a fight and hopefully without tears.
Here’s hoping this will help you in surviving the newborn phase.
How to get a breastfed baby to take a bottle
Here are some ways you can try separately or together to try to get your breastfed baby to take a bottle. Sometimes you need more than a 2 to 4-hour window of time away from the baby for various reasons, and just knowing your baby will take a bottle (with breast milk or formula) is comforting. Plus, daddy may love it too.
1. Start when he isn’t starving
If you wait until your baby is starving and ready to breastfeed, this is the worst possible time. They will begin to feel frustrated, impatient, and – well – hungry. A good time to introduce the bottle is when they are not hungry, but may be willing to try. This can happen after you give some solids (if they are that old) or even as long as 45 minutes to an hour after you’ve normally fed them.
2. Get someone else to do it
Let your husband, older child, or other family member be the person who introduces the bottle. In fact, it’s even a good idea for you to be out of the house. Babies are able to smell you from a lot further away than you’d think (not to mention hear your voice) so hovering nearby while the bottle is offered may result in the baby resisting the bottle and crying for you.
I’ve read it helpful if the dad has something that smells like you, and he holds the baby in a breastfeeding position but offers the bottle there’s a good chance of success.
3. Get a breastfeeding friendly bottle
I made the mistake with my firstborn of trying to get her to take a bottle with a nipple not designed for breastfeeding babies. I’m sure this would be fine for some, but she wouldn’t have it. With my others, I found bottles that were good for breastfed babies and found great success. If you have one bottle and the baby refuses it, that’s not to say she won’t take the bottle with another nipple. It’s often not the fact that it’s a bottle the baby doesn’t like so much as the fact that the nipple isn’t comfortable.
4. Put breast milk in the bottle and on their lips
If you are planning on pumping then put breast milk in the bottle and show them that’s what’s in it. Put some on their lips or squeeze some into their mouths so they know that, though the nipple is unfamiliar, their milk is not. This may also work with formula too and helps to entice the baby to drink.
5. Don’t breastfeed immediately if she’s refused the bottle
If you try to force the bottle on your baby and she refuses, then you immediately offer the breast that can prolong the process. Because you’re not trying this when she’s starving, you’ll feel better about waiting for 10 to 15 minutes before offering the breast. You don’t want her to associate saying no to the bottle with nursing.
Try a few times and then, if she still refuses, do something completely different for a bit and then offer the breast. This will give it time to create a distance, and by not continuing to try to force the bottle you set yourself up for success later.
6. Change the position (or mimic it)
If your husband offers the bottle then perhaps he wants to try and keep the baby in a similar position to when you feed him. Sit her upright if you usually lay or lay if you usually feed upright, etc. This will help keep some continuity with feeding associations.
My husband does this with great success. However, if the baby is fighting that then try a completely different position. This way instead of trying to perfectly mimic the breastfeeding experience – which you can’t – you are creating a new feeding experience.
7. Try a cup then the bottle
This article has an awesome tip. If your baby is fighting the bottle then try giving him liquid in a cup. He may try to lap it up or suck on the edge of the cup, and will likely find this different enough that it almost resets the moment. Then afterward, since drinking from a cup does not satisfy the suckle reflex, they will often take the bottle when they wouldn’t before.
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