How to Bottle Feed
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Shel Banks

Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant based in the northwest of England, working within the NHS in research, training and project management, in private practice assisting mothers and babies with feeding issues, and the tertiary sector with various national organisations.
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Formula feeding

What do I do if my breastfed baby won’t take a bottle?

As with most things to do with babies, it's different for all of them! Some babies seem not to even notice switching over from breast to bottle. Others will put up a determined fight. If your baby won't take a bottle, try following these top tips.
In Short

Top tips for switching from breast to bottle include:

Take it slowly – if you can start at least a month before you need to.

You could begin by using expressed breast milk first – ideally just expressed and still warm.

Try a bit of bottle, with expressed milk, then a bit of breast – and gradually increase the length of the bottle.

If they really won’t take it – there’s no harm in switching from breast to a sippy cup at around 6-9 months.

Try at different times of day and in different environments. Some babies will do better when they are hungrier and others will do better when they are calmer and less frantic. You might find that you have more luck in a different room or even outside the home.

Our video is presented by Melissa Little, Paediatric Dietitian

Why would I want to switch to a bottle?

The Department of Health, UNICEF UK Baby Friendly, paediatricians and midwives all agree it’s best to exclusively feed breastmilk for the first 6 months.

However, there are all sorts of reasons you may decide to switch your baby from breastfeeding to bottle feeding. You might be going back to work for example. Ideally, you will carry on feeding your baby expressed breastmilk even when you switch to a bottle by expressing your milk. You can also still offer your baby breastfeeds when you get home from e.g., work and your milk supply will adjust to feed when you are able to.

You may decide to give your baby some expressed breastmilk and some formula which is sometimes referred to as ‘mixed’ feeding. Remember any breastmilk you give to your baby is beneficial and will provide lots of immune boosting and developmental constituents.

How do I make a complete the switch from breast to bottle?

As with most things to do with babies, it’s different for all of them! Some babies seem not to even notice switching over. Others will put up a determined fight. If your baby won’t take a bottle, go back to square one and start again, following these top tips.

Here is a video showing how to bottle feed sensitively and responsively:

Top Tips for switching from breast to bottle

The absolutely top tip is to do it slowly. Don’t expect your baby to give up the warmth and cuddliness of breastfeeding overnight. Start well in advance of when you need to make the switch, say around a month before you need to go back to work.

Let him get used to the teat as a dummy before you even start with the bottle.

Begin by using expressed milk. If you decide to use formula Don’t switch both to a bottle AND formula milk in one go. It’s too much for your baby and chances are he’ll flat-out refuse.

Start using expressed milk you have just expressed so it’s still naturally warm and fresh. If you warm it from the fridge it won’t taste quite the same, switch over gradually so your baby doesn’t notice the change.

Put some of the warm expressed milk on the bottle teat so it smells like you.

The first time you try with the bottle, choose a time when your baby is hungry but not desperately so. You don’t want him stressed out, or the bottle could be the last straw.

You can try doing a little bit of bottle, with expressed milk, just for a few seconds or minutes, in the middle of a breastfeed, and then go back to the breast. You then build up the time on the bottle slowly. This is a very unthreatening method, your baby knows the breast will come back, so there’s nothing to worry about, and then you change over slowly.

Which teat to use, is really a matter of trial and error, but generally speaking, a slow flow teat is good to start with, since your baby might get overwhelmed by the volume let through by a fast flow teat. Remember your baby has to suck pretty hard on your breast to get the milk, so they’re used to slow flow. Also sucking on a nipple and sucking on a bottle teat are not the same as the teat is much harder in their mouth.

It’s important not to be too forceful if your baby is at all reluctant. You can tickle around your baby’s upper lip and encourage them to open their mouths and then gently place the bottle inside. If they resist strongly or become upset, it’s better to stop and try again later. Your baby may also pick up if you are feeling stressed and worried so give yourself plenty of time and stay calm.

If it’s a total disaster and your baby won’t take a bottle, you can switch straight from the breast to a sippy cup at around 6-9 months. Start with one with a soft flexible spout, not a hard plastic one.

Some people find that asking someone else to do the bottle feed can help, so there’s no smell of you nearby and therefore the chance of a breastfeed. This has pros and cons, the pro is your baby might agree to feed, the con is he won’t be bonding with you through that feed. So ask the person feeding them to remember to give them lots of cuddles, eye contact, and to recognise their feeding cues, i.e. especially when they’ve had enough. People mustn’t insist your baby finishes the bottle if he doesn’t want to. So you need to find someone sensitive and patient. They may need to give your baby a break and a burp halfway through as well, then see if he wants more.

The more you can be involved in the bottle feed, the better. Then your baby will still be getting all the cuddles they want. Howeverm you may find that your baby roots for the breast in skin to skin contact

If you introduce your breastfed baby to a bottle, use expressed milk, and do it very slowly.

Don’t be surprised if it takes a long time, babies are instinctively programmed to breastfeed and they need to learn new skills to bottle feed. The more time you allow for the change the more successful it will probably be.

Every baby is different and very few don’t take a bottle in the end if their parents want them to. Take your time. Ask your friends and family what worked for them and don’t be tempted to buy lots of different types of bottles in desperation. It’s usually more about giving your baby time to get used to a change.

If it’s a total disaster and your baby won’t take a bottle, you can switch straight from the breast to a sippy cup at around 6-9 months. Start with one with a soft flexible spout, not a hard plastic one.

Some people find that asking someone else to do the bottle feed can help, so there’s no smell of you nearby and therefore the chance of a breastfeed. This has pros and cons, the pro is your baby might agree to feed, the con is he won’t be bonding with you through that feed. So ask the person feeding them to remember to give them lots of cuddles, eye contact, and to recognise their feeding cues, i.e. especially when they’ve had enough. People mustn’t insist your baby finishes the bottle if he doesn’t want to. So you need to find someone sensitive and patient. They may need to give your baby a break and a burp halfway through as well, then see if he wants more.

The more you can be involved in the bottle feed, the better. Then your baby will still be getting all the cuddles they want. However, you may find that your baby roots for the breast in skin to skin contact

If you introduce your breastfed baby to a bottle, use expressed milk, and do it very slowly.

Don’t be surprised if it takes a long time, babies are instinctively programmed to breastfeed and they need to learn new skills to bottle feed. The more time you allow for the change the more successful it will probably be.

Every baby is different and very few don’t take a bottle in the end if their parents want them to. Take your time. Ask your friends and family what worked for them and don’t be tempted to buy lots of different types of bottles in desperation. It’s usually more about giving your baby time to get used to a change.

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DISCLAIMER
This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Essential Parent has used all reasonable care in compiling the information from leading experts and institutions but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details click here.