How to Introduce a Bottle to a Breastfed Baby
I am a first time mom to a wonderful six-month old baby boy. He is sweet, lovely and all manner of precious snowflake. And if I don’t get an evening away from him, I might scream.
Son is breastfed. When he was first born I tried pumping and had no luck, and with all the other madness I was dealing with, I decided not to bother. I live in the UK and am getting a year of maternity leave (which is incredibly lucky) so I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal since by the time I went back to work I would be fine with son being weaned.
Of course, with son being breastfed entirely from the breast, it means that I can’t be away from him for more than a few hours at a time. Or have a few cocktails. Not that I’m dependent on alcohol for a good time, but after pregnancy plus six months of breastfeeding, an evening out with friends and a martini or two sounds like heaven. And it would make me feel slightly less…trapped day to day (which I know sounds terrible, but there you go).
So, after putting off getting a better pump because it would be a waste of money at this late date, I was given one by a friend (score!) and am starting to have some luck with pumping (double score!). I’ve now started to try to figure out how to, you know, get some of this breast milk I’ve pumped out of myself into my son.
And I have no idea. Do I use a bottle? A cup? And how do I get him to take a bottle or a cup?
Google is failing me because all I am finding is advice for how to switch a breastfed infant to formula (and the advice is generally WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT YOU ARE SUCH A MONSTER AND YOUR BABY IS GOING TO GROW UP TO BE A PSYCHOPATH) (also, why are moms so mean to each other?). Or I’m finding advice for introducing bottles to breastfed infants which basically says do it before two months or you’re screwed. Which…not helpful.
I’d just like to be able to get him to drink milk without me sometimes but not set him up to self-wean completely or set myself up to have to fight a bottle away from him in a couple of months anyway.
Any thoughts would be appreciated.
Ready For a Break
I’m afraid “thoughts” are about all I can offer you on this one, as opposed to “actual successful first-hand experience.” While all three of my babies were breastfed AND bottlefed, we did indeed introduce the bottle much, much earlier. We could never weather the initial wait for my milk to come in (combined with initial low supply each time around) without supplementing a couple times. So all three of my babies were given a bottle during their first week of life,…which admittedly did make life much easier later on, when I wanted to use a bottle and pumped milk/formula for other reasons. Like work! And getting my hair done! And cocktails with friends! And cocktails just because COCKTAILS WHOOOOOO.
So I’m hoping commenters will be able to supplement my advice (HA! Geddit? It’s a breastfeeding pun!) with some personal tips and experience. Preferably beyond story after story of babies who never took a bottle ever, no matter what, doooooommm.
Just Do It!
My personal advice at this point would be to stop overthinking this and just go buy a bottle. Just buy any old bottle, really. BPA-free, obviously, but don’t go all deer-in-the-headlights at first and feel like you need to try 14 different styles right out of the gate. I was always partial to the Dr. Brown’s, but for the occasional bottle for a baby without gas/spit-up issues I’d say you can probably go way more basic at first. Go to the store and buy one standard (narrow) bottle and one wide neck. The next steps are as follows:
1) Put breastmilk in the bottle.
2) Give baby the bottle.
And. Yeah. That’s about all there is to it.
Okay, okay. Maybe not. You might need to let some milk drip out of the nipple and onto his lips and mouth so he understands that this is food and not some new strange kind of pacifier. You might want to give the first bottle to him yourself (so he’s primed and expecting milk in the first place), or you might need to enlist a non-boobed individual to counter any “WHAT THE HELL IS THIS GIVE ME THE REAL STUFF” reaction. Hold him slightly more upright than breastfeeding. Rub the nipple against his upper lip a couple times to get him to open his mouth. If he still requires a burp after feeding, burp him midway through the bottle (especially if you sense he’s gulping more air).
But no matter what, you have to try first. I can’t really troubleshoot any further for you until you give it a shot and see what happens. If he rejects the standard bottle, try the wide-neck one. If he rejects that, try having a different person offer the milk. Warm the milk. No? Okay, try serving the milk cold.
Try something different
Still no dice? Skip the bottle and start experimenting with sippy cups — find something labeled for his age and repeat all the steps above.
Some babies want the bottle experience to be as close to breastfeeding as possible, hence all the pricey fancy boob-shaped bottles on the market. Other babies want the opposite — the bottle is a separate thing so they want anyone but Mama, a different temperature, different nipple shape, etc. Some babies (i.e. mine) don’t really end up giving much of a crap either way, once it registers that OH OKAY MILK COMES OUT OF THIS HERE THING TOO WHEEEEEE.
Final protips on introducing a bottle to a breastfed baby
1) If you’re concerned about bottle preference/self-weaning, start him off with a nipple that’s one level below the age recommendations. Bottle preference and supply issues CAN happen if your baby gets too used to a higher-flow nipple that doesn’t require as much “work” to get the milk out. I liked to start my newborns on preemie nipples, and only moved up to level ones once I was 100% solidly sure that they were still willing to latch on and properly suck. I don’t know if the UK uses the same numbering system for bottle nipples as we do here in the US (preemie, 1, 2, 3, etc,), but if you see something labeled six months and up, try the next age range down first and move up only if you have to.
2) If you think your pumped milk looks or smells funny, or your baby makes a face/spits it out when he tries it, read this article on Kellymom about lipase. It’s an enzyme in breastmilk that — in excess — changes the taste in expressed breastmilk (even if it’s been stored correctly). A quick scald on the stove can solve the problem going forward.
Look, I’m not going to lie. I loved breastfeeding. I also totally loved bottlefeeding, with both pumped milk and formula. So did my husband, since it gave him the chance to feed and bond with his babies, and ALSO gave him the chance to see me out with him, dressed up for date night, without a baby constantly attached to my chest. Do not feel guilty for wanting a break. Now stop Googling and worrying and go see if you can get yourself a break for a few hours already.
And relax: at six months, as you introduce solids, his dependence on you as Sole Food Source will naturally diminish, so encouraging even more independence with a bottle or sippy cup now is good timing. I highly, highly doubt he’d self-wean at this stage, with six solid months of established nursing under your belt. He’ll realize food comes from other places (spoon, finger foods, cup, whatever) but he’s not going to forget where his comfort and closeness comes from.