Breastfeeding your baby can be a very tender and lasting time, especially for new mothers. Breastfeeding time offers us a chance to bond with our baby, learning what he or she likes and observing our babies at their most vulnerable state.

However, there comes a time when our breast milk no longer satisfies the baby’s hunger because he has now grown and requires a more nutritious and filling feeding option. Also, some mothers go back to work very soon after giving birth and rely on leaving their breast milk in the fridge for a nanny or grandmother to feed the newborn with a baby bottle.

Today, I would like to talk about the many ways that you can introduce the baby bottle to your new baby without the stress.

When is the best time to introduce a bottle?

Most pediatricians and lactation specialists suggest introducing a baby bottle when the baby is at least five weeks old. Breastfeeding is crucial in building rapport between the mother and baby. This rapport must be established before you try and get your baby to accept a bottle. The rule of thumb is to start introducing the baby bottle gradually over a period of two to three weeks. If you are to return to work shortly after giving birth, keep this timespan in mind.

A common misconception is that the baby should not have trouble sucking milk from the bottle because he will likely not understand the difference. I would like to state that this belief is wrong.

Sucking breastmilk requires a specific pattern of movement by the tongue and mouth. This movement is different when sucking milk from a bottle and sucking milk from a breast. So, don’t be surprised if he might have a hard time sucking milk from a bottle the first couple of times that you will introduce the bottle.

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These tips are bound to make the whole process much smoother.

  1. Start introducing the baby bottle with a small amount of breast milk in it after a regular feeding to familiarize him with the nipple of the bottle
  2. Look to see if he is able to swallow the milk easily and normally. If he starts gagging, change the nipple to one with slower milk flow.
  3. At first, a baby might get confused as to why he is getting a bottle instead of a regular breast. It’s totally fine. However, when you have an opportunity ask your mother or partner to make the first introduction. The baby might be more willing to suck the milk from the bottle if he will not be able to feel the scent of your breasts and its milk.
  4. I would suggest that you get out of the house when the baby is first introduced to the bottle. Knowing that you are around (and your breast), the baby might refuse the bottle altogether.

At first, the baby might become more restless, especially at night. Don’t worry its part of the process.

What do I do if my baby refuses to accept the baby bottle?

Your baby, though still very little, already has his character and all babies are different. Some might accept the baby bottle without a second thought while others might fuss about it for a long time.

Whatever the case will be, don’t stress.  The baby is capable of reading your emotional state and your discontent and nervousness will only agitate him more.

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To help the baby transition between the breast and the bottle, try these techniques.

  1. The Pacifier: If your baby has no problems with a pacifier then look for a bottle nipple that resembles the pacifier. Moreover, if the pacifier is made out of silicone instead of plastic, make sure the nipple is silicone too.
  1. Breast Milk– dip the nipple in breast milk before giving it to the baby for the first time. However, honey should not be given to the baby under any circumstances as it can cause a digestion problem called infant botulism in children younger than 12 months.
  1. Play– Play with the baby using the nipple and let him or her chew on it. Do this for a while to help your baby get used to it.
  1. Positions– When introducing a baby to the bottle for the first time, try as many positions as his or her age permits. Once you find the optimal feeding position, you can stick to just one.

Your baby will need time to adjust and get used to the new feeling of a baby bottle, so give him time. Don’t change the bottles, nipples or positions while he is getting used to it because if you do that might unnecessarily confuse him.

I can’t stress enough how important it is not to force the bottle on him. If your baby tries pushing the bottle away, crying or getting generally agitated then stop. Take about 5 minutes to cradle and comfort him, and then see if he will accept the bottle now. If he refuses again, wait for about 10 minutes and proceed with the regular breastfeeding. If you do have to go back to feeding with your breast, I suggest waiting ten minutes so as to avoid the association that pushing away a bottle brings on breastfeeding. Try again later once your baby will be receptive and in good spirits.

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What to do if your baby accepted the bottle but then suddenly refused?

Babies like to be breastfed because it offers the comfort and the warmth of a mother. A lot of babies that accept a bottle early on may change their mind suddenly and start longing for a breast again. Most of the time, this refusal will subside on its own with time. Just don’t give in. Lastly, never make feeding time turn into a battleground. Always stay calm, focused and determined. Talk to your baby in a gentle tone, and pat him when he accepts the bottle.

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Best ways to hold your baby while bottle-feeding

Holding your baby in the right position is crucial, this way you will avoid him choking on the milk or the milk formula spilling into his nose.  Most mothers report that these positions were the best fit for them;

  1. Cradle– You can achieve this position by placing your baby’s head on your arm while placing the other arm around his or her waist. Don’t forget to gently lift your arm so that the baby’s head is slightly above his body. Think of a semi-upright position. Avoid feeding your baby from a bottle when he is completely lying down because you risk the formula getting into his small ears and causing an infection.
  1. Sitting up– If your baby is big enough to sit, then place him on your lap and let his head rest on your chest. This sitting upright position also helps with colic and acid reflux.
  1. Lap– Place your baby on your lap when you are lying down or sitting up, let his head rest on your knees and allow his feet to be propped up against your chest or stomach. This position is a favorite of many mothers because it allows for plenty of contact to take place between the baby and the mother.

Another comfortable position would be to place the baby on a bobby pillow, especially if you are feeling that your hands are tired. Just never leave the baby unattended because he can easily gag on the milk. Also, don’t forget to tilt the bottle during feeding time as this will help reduce the amount of air the baby swallows, thus reducing colic.

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When should you bottle feed your baby?

Babies should generally be fed when they start showing signs of hunger rather than by a schedule. This ensures that the baby will be more willing to accept the bottle and will guarantee that he is not being overfed. Moreover, avoid side preference by switching the side mid-way of feeding. Never push or force the nipple into a baby’s mouth. Instead, allow him to take his time examining it and then, if he feels like it, slowly take it into his mouth. Furthermore, you could mimic the breastfeeding process by taking several pauses while bottle feeding. This will stimulate the let-down patterns of breastfeeding. Lastly, if your baby falls asleep halfway through the bottle feeding process do not wake him up.

In conclusion, I would like to say that bottle feeding is a much more convenient way of feeding your baby as it can be done practically anywhere and at any time. It also makes it possible for you to leave your child in the care of a family member or a hired caregiver. However, if you are a stay at home mom and don’t have any plans of going back to work in the near future, I suggest you continue breastfeeding your child for as long as possible.

Breastfeeding builds a strong connection and rapport between you and your baby that no bottle feeding session will match. It gives you that one-on-one time with your baby who will mark my words, grow far too quickly and you will find yourself missing the feeding sessions when you cradled and nested him on your chest.

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