The introduction of bottle feeding can be an easy event for some parents and babies, but for others, it's not so easy. Whether you've had issues with achieving a good latch, are preparing to go back to work, or you're just wanting the option to be able to bottle feed when needed, there are things you can do to make the transition from breast to bottle easier.
In general, it is recommended to hold off on introducing a bottle to baby until after breastfeeding has been well established (i.e. baby is latching well, taking full feedings, and gaining weight). For some this may be as early as 2-4 weeks old. Factors that you're going to want to take into consideration when introducing a bottle include:
To start, a slower flow nipple is recommended, especially for a newborn baby. This helps baby regulate the flow of milk better and prevent them from becoming overwhelmed. Timing the feeding appropriately is also an important component, which often goes hand in hand with baby's level of arousal. You want baby awake, alert, and calm. Not overly hungry and not overly drowsy.
If you plan to continue breastfeeding in conjunction with bottle feeding then helping baby make the transition between the two will be important.
Paced bottle feeding is essentially a method of bottle feeding that mimics breastfeeding. By pacing the feeding it allows baby to:
1. Position yourself and baby so that baby is sitting more upright or lying horizontally like they would while breastfeeding. Make sure baby is adequately supported but has the freedom to extend their head back, as needed, to achieve a good latch.
2. Tickle baby's lower lip with bottle. This helps cue baby to open their mouth just like your nipple does during breastfeeding.
3. Place bottle nipple into baby's mouth.
4. Hold the bottle horizontally, which helps maintain a slower flow.
5. After 20-30 seconds of feeding, tip the bottle downward to stop or slow the flow. This creates a similar pattern to breastfeeding.
Just like swaddling, pacifiers, and many other things, babies all have their preferences! It could take some time and trialling of several different bottle/nipple combinations until you find the winner. But, with some time and patience this technique can help you master bottle feeding and continue to breastfeed your baby.