Whether you’re planning to return to work in the near future, or you just want someone else to be able to feed the baby while you take a well-deserved break, the transition between bottle feeding and breastfeeding can be a stressful task!
The breast to bottle transition timeline:
The ideal time for starting bottle feeding is whenever the mother and baby’s breastfeeding relationship is well established.
Establish your milk supply and your baby’s latch first.
It’s ideal for babies to drink breastmilk for at least the first 6 months of life (of course, this isn’t always possible, and formula works just as well!). Breast milk supply is established within the first several months of feeding your baby, and this is the crucial time for establishing your baby’s latch.
In order to have the best milk production, it is ideal to feed your baby on demand. A breastfed baby should eat every 2-4 hours throughout the day and night during the newborn months. Going your baby a bottle too soon might interfere with the breastfeeding relationship you have with your little one.
In the first several weeks of breastfeeding, your baby will need to learn to latch properly, drain the breast adequately, and wake to feed frequently. Your breast milk will come in within the first week of giving birth, and milk production will depend highly upon how often your baby latches. Giving your baby a bottle during the first few weeks of life might cause what is commonly referred to as “nipple confusion,” in which a baby gets frustrated going from breast to bottle because the milk flow is so different.
Pick a good time to make the transition, but try not to introduce a bottle during the first month or so of breastfeeding. Take the time to establish your milk supply, perfect your baby’s latch, and make sure that your milk production is steady.
Try having another caregiver introduce the bottle.
One of the best tips to help a baby take the bottle easier is to have another caregiver besides the mother be the one to try bottle feeding. This can be a dad, a grandparent, a babysitter, or another family member who is willing to support you and your little one as he/she learns to bottle feed.
A breastfed baby will usually prefer the mother over anyone else, which makes it difficult for the mom to be the one to try bottle feeding. The baby might become frustrated and try to latch onto the mother’s breast instead of taking milk from a bottle. Even if you are feeding a baby expressed milk, he or she will still prefer the breast over the bottle most of the time.
Having another caregiver step in to support a nursing mom and her little one can help babies adjust to taking a bottle.
4 Tips For Transitioning:
Going from breast to bottle can be tricky, but following these tips to help your baby take a bottle might make a big difference in your feeding journey!
1. Pick the right type of bottle.
There are many bottles available for moms to use for their little ones, so how can someone know which is the right type of bottle to choose?
A quality bottle for breastfed babies has:
Breastfed babies should continue using slow-flow nipples, at least for the first 6 months, as this more closely mimics the natural flow of breastfeeding. Formula-fed babies might prefer a faster flowing nipple after the first few months.
Choose a bottle made of soft, food-grade silicone. Glass bottles are heavy and bulky, and plastic bottles may contain harmful chemicals. Silicone is a soft, flexible material that mimics the mother’s skin and can help your baby take a bottle easier.
Many bottles, especially the ones that come with standard breast pumps, do not contain realistic nipples. Nipple size and shape matter when a baby needs to go from breast to bottle. Nursing babies need bottle nipples that allow them to properly latch like they do during nursing sessions.
Easy to clean
There are so many bottle companies to choose from, but not all bottles are easy to clean. Parents should choose a bottle system that has the least number of pieces to clean. Exhausted moms don’t have time to disassemble and assemble a bunch of pieces all day – opt for a bottle system that is simple and easy to wash!
Free from BPA, phthalates, and PVC
Stay away from cheap bottles that contain harmful chemicals that might leak into your baby’s milk. You don’t need the most expensive bottles on the market, but purchase them from a trustworthy company that keeps a baby’s health and safety as top priority!
Wide mouth design
Your baby will need a wide mouth design to more closely mimic the breast. A rigid, narrow bottle shape can cause a shallow latch and gas pain. A wide mouthed bottle more closely resembles natural breasts and may make the transition easier on your little one.
It can be a good idea to try several different bottles before picking the one that works best for your little one. Going from breastfeeding to bottle-feeding can be a difficult task, so choose bottles that mimic the mother’s breasts.
Many breast pumps come with bottles as well, but these usually aren’t the best quality. Typically, these bottles are narrow, made of hard materials, and do not resemble the natural shape of a mother’s breast.
If you aren’t sure where to start, ask other experienced moms or a lactation consultant for some recommendations on what bottles worked best for their babies.
2. Have another caregiver step in.
If your little one has trouble taking a bottle from mama, try having another caregiver step in! Babies may prefer the mother’s breast over the bottle, which can sometimes make the transition difficult.
As long as the mother produces enough milk from pumping, a nursing mom might choose to have another caregiver be the one to try bottle feeding – at least at first. The mother might even need to be in a different room, out of the baby’s line of sight, while the baby takes the bottle.
Introducing a bottle can be a big milestone for your little one, so make the transition easier on both of you by having another person give the baby his/her bottles in the beginning. As long as your milk supply is good, this shouldn’t negatively impact your breastfeeding relationship. Just be sure to do one pumping session for each missed feeding, and make sure the breast pump adequately empties both breasts.
Be sure that your baby is relaxed for each feeding session. An overtired, extremely hungry, overstimulated baby will be less likely to take the bottle and make the switch. When you begin introducing the bottle, be sure to pick a time of day that your baby is well-rested and calm.
3. Understand pace feeding.
During breastfeeding, the milk flows slowly and your baby may take a long time to eat. Each nursing session is a process in which a baby sucks, pauses, swallows, moves around, switches sides, and drains the breasts.
When making the transition from breast to bottle, it is important to practice pace feeding to mimic the natural flow of breastfeeding.
If your baby seems to struggle with taking a bottle, try to avoid positioning him/her body similar to how he or she normally breastfeeds. Sit the baby in an upright position, facing you or away from you. You can also carry the baby and walk around while he/she drinks the bottle.
Tilt the bottle in a way that makes it more difficult for the baby to get the milk out. Be sure to pause during each feeding to burp the baby and switch what side he or she is positioned on. Transitioning to taking breast milk or formula from a bottle can be much easier with pace feeding because the milk flow will more closely resemble nursing.
4. Adjust your routine.
Help your baby make the transition between bottle and breast a little easier by switching up your routine.
If bottle-feeding is a challenge, start by having someone else feed the baby the bottle. Nursing babies will almost always prefer the mother’s breast over the bottle, so a breastfeeding mother that tries to give her baby a bottle might aggravate her little one. In the best scenario, moms have a quality support system of family and friends that are willing to step in and help the baby with bottle feeding.
Many mothers worry about going back to work after maternity leave. If you plan on returning to a full-time job, begin to prepare your baby by giving a bottle every day. You can, of course, continue to breastfeed, but don’t wait until you return to work to suddenly introduce your baby to a bottle. Try to make bottle feeding sessions as calm and carefree as possible, free of stressors. Try starting the bottles a few weeks before you return to your job.
At work, be sure that pumping sessions mimic the times your baby would normally nurse. Trick your body into thinking you’re still nursing the baby on demand by scheduling pumping sessions every few hours at work. Many companies provide special lactation rooms, but if they don’t, talk to Human Resources about what room you can use and put a sign up saying you’ll be using it and need privacy.
Many insurances provide free breast pumps to encourage lactation and nursing for pregnant women, so be sure to check with your insurance company before returning to work. A breast pump is a useful tool for nursing mothers who want other caregivers to be able to feed the baby.
Introducing a bottle can be difficult at first, but with persistence, your baby will take a bottle with ease!
Be sure to feed the baby in a relaxed state, time feedings for when the baby will be calm and not overtired, and start the process early on. Just because you’re returning to work doesn’t mean weaning is necessary!
Pick a quality breast pump, and make bottle feeding a daily habit. With a lot of patience and practice, your baby will make the transition in no time.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.