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Introducing a Bottle to a Breastfed Baby

I recently got a phone call from a tearful mom because her baby won’t take a bottle. There is no worse feeling than getting ready to go back to work in less than a week, having your freezer full of pumped milk and discovering that your baby still won’t take a bottle.

Most moms think it will be a breeze to switch back and forth from breast to bottle. Well think again, some babies won’t even entertain the idea of a bottle going in their mouth never mind sucking milk from it.

This is actually a pretty common problem, and one that can be prevented. Here are some simple tips and tricks on introducing a bottle to a breastfed baby.

The optimal time to introduce a bottle to a breastfed baby is between 2-6 weeks of age. It’s best to wait until breastfeeding is established, latching is easy and mom and baby both have
the hang of it. Babies quickly realize they don’t have to work nearly as hard to get milk from a silicone nipple as from your breast. So introducing too early can end your breastfeeding
relationship sooner than you wish.

Timing is key! Your baby should be hungry and hopefully motivated to try something new and not starving and loose her patience too easily. Be prepared and have the bottle warm and ready before your baby is hungry. Offer the bottle when she is showing early signs of hunger like lip smacking, opening and closing mouth or sucking on her tongue. The best time of day will depend on your baby, and when he or she is most mellow and willing.

Let someone else do the honors. Babies are incredibly smart! The smell of mom will trigger baby’s sucking reflex, and the chance of her taking the bottle from her usual milk source is slim. If mom is the only one available to introduce the bottle, try tricking your little one by wearing a dirty shirt that your partner has worn recently to hide your scent.

Finding the right nipple isn’t rocket science. It’s best to use the slowest nipple flow so your baby doesn’t choke on the milk or get frustrated when she is back at the breast. Most often it’s not the nipple shape it’s the feel of silicone in your baby’s mouth verses skin.

My top three recommendations for artificial nipples are Avent, Dr. Brown’s or Medela breastmilk nipple.

If your baby still has trouble taking a bottle, don’t get frustrated. Just think outside the box. There is nothing wrong with the nipples you have bought and tried. Have you noticed that every time your baby’s face is near your skin, whether it’s you cheek, shoulder or arm they start to latch on? Babies associate skin with feeding, so when you try to put an artificial
nipple in the baby’s mouth they get frustrated and won’t suck.

So here is my trick that I have used with dozens of babies with great success!

1. It’s best to start when your baby is happy, and starting to show signs of hunger, like I mentioned above. If your baby is already crying, then this is not a good time to introduce a bottle.

2. Make sure your hands are clean. Let your baby suck on your index finder, nail side down and touching your baby’s tongue. Once your baby has a good suckle going, quickly slide the bottle in her mouth. It might take a few tries, but it usually works like a charm on the first try!

If it doesn’t work after the first few tries, don’t give up. Your baby will get the hang of it, and you both will figure out how to navigate this new adventure together.

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My service area includes in and around Boston, Central and Western MA, including Amherst, Acton, Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Groton, Lincoln, Newton, Northampton and Wellesley.

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