Parents often ask, “When is the right time to introduce my baby to a bottle of pumped breastmilk?”
While the answer truly depends on family dynamics (is mom going back to work?) and your baby’s disposition, there are certain facts you should know about how to introduce the bottle to your breastfed baby. Being aware of these facts could help make the transition go much more smoothly.
- Don’t introduce the bottle too soon. If you are going back to work, the ideal time to introduce the bottle is about two weeks beforehand. Starting too soon may wreak havoc on the mom who wants to continue nursing her baby.
- Don’t worry about how many ounces your baby is taking in. This advice is sometimes difficult for a loving mother to follow. Moms who exclusively breastfeed don’t know how many ounces a baby gets at a time, so there’s no need to start playing the numbers game once bottles enter the mix. Babies will eat more when they’re hungry and less when they’re not. The real test of whether your baby is getting enough to eat is how much he pees and poops and whether he’s gaining weight appropriately.
- Don’t wait until your baby is overly hungry. Feed him when his cues indicate hunger, rather than on a schedule. If your baby is overly hungry, he might get very frustrated trying to adapt to a bottle nipple. The best time to introduce the bottle is when he’s hungry (but not starving), and in a good mood.
- Start with a slow-flow nipple. Not only can a regular nipple flood your little one with milk, causing him to regurgitate too much, but a slow-flow nipple is also more likely to imitate your own nipple’s milk flow.
- Try to feed consistently with a breastfed rhythm; mom should encourage frequent pauses while the baby drinks from the bottle to mimic the breastfeeding mother’s let-down patterns. This discourages the baby from guzzling the bottle and can mitigate nipple confusion in the future. I made the mistake of letting my boys finish their bottles too quickly, causing them to get VERY impatient at the breast where the milk flow is a little slower.
- From kelleymom: “…switch from one side to the other side midway through a feed; this provides for eye stimulation and development, and thwarts the development of a side preference which could impact the breastfeeding mother.”
- Your baby will adapt to the bottle more quickly if you fill it with breastmilk instead of formula. Introducing a “new nipple” and a new food at the same time might make the transition more challenging. Ease your baby into it, just like you would ease yourself into a new way of doing things.
These are just some tips I noticed and wished I had when I introduced the bottle to both of my boys. I am certain there are dozens of others. If you have any awesome tips that I haven’t included here, please add them to the comments below!