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how to introduce a baby bottle

How to Introduce a Baby Bottle

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

You may have covered this question already but frankly, I am way too tired and have way too much going on to even look or research myself.  So I will just hope you haven’t and get on with it!

I am currently breastfeeding my almost 4 week old son and I am very interested in getting him to take a bottle.  A side note–I have a 2 year old daughter who NEVER took a bottle.  I breastfed her for 13 months, exclusively.  It’s not that we didn’t try the bottle with her.  I think we started too late and she would have nothing to do with it.  At the time it wasn’t a big deal and I wasn’t that bothered by it.  But now…I need this little boy to take a bottle.  I need to be able to get away from the two of them for more than 1.5 hours (he is a voracious eater–seriously, every 1.5 hours for at least 20 min) and go to the gym or whatever without having to rush home, worrying he is freaking out because he’s hungry and my boobs aren’t there.  My question to you is…how do I introduce the bottle?  Even though he is my 2nd child, I am a total rookie when it comes to bottle feeding.  I need guidance!  When do I start?  What is a good method to employ to ensure he accepts a bottle of breast milk?  I have a pump and am very willing to use it.  How long can breast milk sit out at room temp?  What about after it has been in the refrigerator?  I am clueless to every detail involved in this.

I’m a SAHM so this is strictly for my own personal freedom and enjoyment.  In a bin I have a bunch of Born Free bottles and accessories that we bought for my daughter that were never used.  Is that a good brand of bottle?

Wow, this is frustrating!  I hope you can help me.  My sanity is at stake here.  Not that I don’t love my kids and love being with them but…you know.  Away time is awesome too and I am currently not getting any of it.

Thanks so much!

Advice Smackdown ArchivesHow to introduce a bottle:

1) Obtain a bottle.

2) Wash bottle.

3) Put breastmilk in bottle.

4) Offer baby the bottle.


If, after these incredibly complicated steps, your baby rejects the bottle, or takes the bottle but develops gas, or wants so many bottles you need to build up a warchest of frozen breastmilk to keep up, things MAY get a little more complicated. But it’s really really really best not to overthink it all before you’ve even tried.

So right now, go grab one of those Born Free bottles. They are fine. Check the nipple for some kind of label about the flow — Level One (sometimes just labeled with the number 1) is what you want, although I also think the Preemie flow nipples are an EXCELLENT first nipple to try with a young breastfed baby — I used Preemie flow nipples for Ezra up until about 12 weeks. Put the bottle, nipple and ring into the dishwasher or sterilize it in hot water on the stove. Pump some milk — two ounces or so is probably enough for an introductory bottle, or you can use this handy dandy calculator from Kellymom to figure out how much milk your baby drinks per feeding. (And here’s a handy dandy chart for all your breastmilk storage questions, including how long the milk lasts at room temperature, in the fridge, in the freezer, etc.). Put the freshly-pumped milk in the bottle. Wait for a regular feeding time or signs of hunger.

Hold your son as upright as possible — the bottle doesn’t make him wait for the letdown so you don’t want him to choke or gag. Rub his mouth with the nipple and tap it gently against his top lip — sort of like you do when offering the breast. Let him open his mouth and accept the nipple, rather than forcing it in. Let him take a few swallows and pull the bottle back if he seems to be gulping or gasping at it. Burp frequently. Switch “sides” midway through to mimic a breastfeeding session.

We always had Daddy introduce the first bottle. Noah was absolutely fine taking a bottle from me, but Ezra definitely had opinions about Mommy and bottles. (Once he became a bit more aware, he’d reject a bottle if I was even in the room.) And I admit we completely ignored the “wait until six weeks” bit of breastfeeding advice. I’ve known way too many mothers who ended up with babies like your daughter who refused to ever take a bottle EVER, and like you, I was not going to have any of that. I love(d) breastfeeding. I also really freaking loved the freedom of an occasional bottle. Noah needed early supplementing, and since I planned to return to work I saw no reason to stop using the bottle once my supply was better. Ezra had a tongue-tie that took almost a full week to resolve and I was in pain and needed a break — just ONE LITTLE BREAK — and I again immediately remembered the wonderful freedom of…date night. A pedicure. Grocery shopping by myself. Not completely neglecting my older child by being tethered to the couch and Boppy every hour and a half.

So, at four weeks, if you’re reasonably sure that things are going well with breastfeeding — good supply, good latch, good weight gain and all that — I see no reason why you shouldn’t start pumping a little milk here and there and seeing if your son will accept it from a secondary source. And don’t get discouraged if he doesn’t take it right away. After your initial keep-it-simple attempt, you can play around with different nipple flows or bottle styles (a standard instead of a wide-neck, for example, or one of the eleventy million different options out there). Or even different milk temperatures! Kids are PICKY, even as newborns. I do think the longer you wait the more likely he’ll reject it, so what are you waiting for? Go! Go now!

Published June 7, 2010. Last updated October 29, 2017.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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