Hey mama, hopefully we've caught you before the nightmare has begun and you're reading this prior to the dreaded bottle refusal stage. Because I'm sure you've heard..it's not fun! But, if you're in the thick of it, we're here for you!
If you're wondering when or if you should introduce a bottle to your baby there are a number of reasons why it may be helpful:
1. Your significant other and family members can help you with feedings and have time to bond with baby
2. You'll be returning to work and relying on bottle feeding
3. You want the flexibility to be able to run errands, have a date night or night out with your friends!
Whatever your reason(s) may be there are things you can do to PREVENT bottle refusal and also some things you can do to MANAGE it. Let's get started...
First things first, if breastfeeding is going well (your milk supply is good, baby is latching well, and having good weight gain) then you can start offering a daily bottle at 3-4 weeks old. This bottle can replace a full feeding or can even be a snack (1/2-1 ounce). Feel free to let your S.O. or a family member help out with this! A helpful tip is to also make sure baby is alert and happy when first introducing the bottle. If you'll be doing a combination of breast and bottle feeding then preventing nipple confusion or a nipple preference is something to be mindful of. Take a look back at our post, Mastering the Intro to Bottle Feeding, for helpful tips on that!
While this can feel like a long and painful road there is still hope! First, you want to get baby comfortable with just sucking on the bottle nipple alone. No bottle attached. It's very important to NOT FORCE this. Simply, offer the bottle nipple frequently, without being pushy, and once baby is contently doing 5 consecutive sucks it's time to move onto the next step.
Next, you can use a syringe to place a small amount of expressed breastmilk into the bottle nipple. Give baby time and once he or she is sucking and removing the milk from the nipple contently and successfully, then it's time to transition to a bottle. The length of time it may take to transition through these steps will vary from baby to baby but providing baby with frequent opportunities to practice is key. The hardest part of this process is remaining calm and patient. It's not easy!
Kelly Kendall, RN, IBCLC @thebalancedboob