How to Introduce a Bottle to a Breastfed Baby

How to Introduce a Bottle to a Breastfed Baby

Breastfeeding is the best for babies, especially during the first year. But if you’re a working mom or have low milk supply, switching to a bottle or formula feeding is the best solution. Breastfeeding and bottle feeding both have their unique benefits, but introducing a bottle to a breastfed baby can be tricky! In this post, we’re delving into the unique challenges of transitioning from being an exclusively breastfed baby to bottle feeding. We’ll also help you choose the best bottle for your baby. 

Benefits of Breastfeeding and Bottle Feeding

When it comes to breastfeeding, there are numerous benefits for both mother and baby. One of the biggest advantages of breastfeeding is that it provides infants with vital antibodies and nutrients that they wouldn’t get from formula or regular milk. It helps strengthen the bond between mother and baby through skin-to-skin contact during feedings. Breastfeeding can also be used as a form of natural birth control, as it suppresses ovulation in some women if done exclusively for at least six months.

But bottle feeding has its own set of benefits, too! Bottle feeding: 

  • Allows other caregivers to share in the responsibility of feeding, giving mothers a much needed break every now and then. 
  • Also helps regulate milk supply if necessary as some mothers may need to supplement with formula due to low milk production or other reasons, while others may use bottles when returning to work or traveling away from their baby for extended periods of time. 
  • Provides a more predictable feeding schedule than breastfeeding alone. This is  especially beneficial for babies who have latching issues or are having trouble gaining weight due to poor latching and other breastfeeding problems. 

Tips for Introducing a Bottle to Your Baby

Introducing a bottle to your breastfed baby can be a daunting task for many parents, but with the right amount of preparation and patience it doesn’t have to be. Here are some tips that will help make the transition from breast to bottle easier for both you and your baby:

Choose the Right Setting or Environment - It is important to choose a comfortable and relaxed setting when introducing a bottle to your baby. Find a room that’s free of distractions, such as loud noises or bright lights, so you and your baby can focus on one another. You should also try to time it so that your baby is not overly hungry or frustrated before offering them the bottle.

Choose the Right Bottle & Nipple - It is essential to find the right type of bottle and nipple for your baby. Different bottles come in various shapes, sizes, materials, and flow rates, so experiment with different ones until you find one that works best for you and your little one. Most babies also prefer feeding from nipples made from silicone since they are softer and more flexible than latex nipples; however, some babies have their preferences, so feel free to buy two different nipples to try out. 

Explore and Experiment - Letting your baby explore the bottle before offering it can be helpful in making them feel more comfortable with it. Give them time to get used to the bottle’s shape and size by letting them touch while they’re in a calm state of mind (i.e., not overly hungry or fussy). As mentioned, offer them different nipples if they don’t like one and experiment until they find one they’ll love. If they resist the bottle at first, don’t worry! Try switching back between breastfeeding as that can help them ease into accepting it eventually. 

The Right Age to Transition from Breast to Bottle

The transition from breast to bottle feeding can be challenging for parents, but it doesn't have to be! If you’re going back to work, the best time to introduce the bottle to your little one is around two to four weeks before you’re set to return. Why do you need that much time? Not only does it help establish a pumping routine, but you can take your time transitioning your baby from being exclusively breastfed to bottle feeding. 

Don’t rush through the process! It's important to start slowly. Put a small amount of milk, preferably less than an ounce in a bottle and give it to your baby when they are well rested and happy, such as after a morning breastfeeding session. Timing is essential as your little one may need some time to get used to this new feeding style.

If your baby is crying because they refuse to drink from the bottle, try to calm them down and give them a few minutes. You don't need to force it; wait for a few minutes, nurse them, then try offering the bottle again when they're more receptive to trying new things. Their position, just like when breastfeeding is also a big factor. A nursing pillow can greatly help, but if it’s not available, your babybub maternity pillow can help put you and your baby into a more comfortable position. 

You should also take into account your baby’s unique needs; some may adjust more quickly than others, and some will take longer to get used to bottle feeding. And that’s okay! Some might have to start with slow-flow nipples while others are good with basic ones. Having the right type of bottle will ensure your child gets all the nutrition they need. 

What You Need to Know about Reflux and Colic

Reflux occurs when a baby’s stomach contents flow back up the esophagus. According to research, 73% of newborns experience spitting up in the first month, with exclusively breastfed infants experiencing less spitting up than infants who had mixed feedings. It’s also very common in babies and is usually resolved by 12 to 15 months of age. Reflux is not the same as the adult acid reflux. 

Colic, on the other hand, is a more severe condition which causes sudden bouts of intense crying with no obvious cause. Other signs of colic may include an inability to be consoled and can last for up to three hours. Babies with colic frequently show symptoms such as irritability, excessive gas, and sleeplessness. However, normal development and weight gain typically occur in most cases. Colic can be cured on its own and usually by 6 months old, but sometimes as early as 3 months.

Now that your baby is transitioning to bottle feeding, it’s important for you to take note of these two conditions. Although reflux is normal, overfeeding can make babies spit up more often. This is usually the case when they’re bottle-fed or fed in a position that leads to more milk intake. Overfeeding can trigger reflux as it places too much pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). You should also take into account that your little one might be intolerant towards cow’s milk. 

Experts do not know the exact cause of colic, but one of the theories include milk intolerance or allergy. Colicky babies are usually clenching their fists when crying and have flushed faces. They also burp and pass more gas more often. The signs of colic are often similar to those of other illnesses. So, make sure to bring your child to a doctor to get an accurate diagnosis.

Choosing the Right Bottle for Your Baby

Consider the bottle's nipple size and form, as well as the material it's made from, before making a purchase. Bottles made from BPA-free plastic are the safest bet because they don't contain any of the potentially toxic compounds found in other plastics. A wide base and an ergonomic design are particularly important for ease of use while feeding babies. 

When shopping for bottles, look out for features such as slow flow nipples, which are designed to mimic natural breastfeeding patterns and reduce air bubbles in milk or formula. These nipples can help prevent colic and make sure your baby gets enough nutrition without feeling overwhelmed by too much liquid at once. 

Finally, when selecting bottles for your baby, think about convenience factors such as dishwasher compatibility and easy cleaning. Many modern bottles come with self-sterilizing functions and removable silicone liners that make them easier to clean and store away safely until you need them again. With these tips in mind, you can make an informed decision on which bottle is best for your baby's needs.

Medical Disclaimer: The information provided is not meant to be a substitute for expert medical advice, diagnosis, or care. Always ask your doctor or another qualified health provider for advice if you have any concerns about a medical issue. Never dismiss or put off getting expert medical advice because of something you read on Bub's Blog.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.