Breastfeeding is the one of the earliest, and probably the most gratifying bonding moment a mother can have with her baby. Breast milk, aside from being the best for baby, is also the best for parents. It is economical and convenient. Sadly, it is inevitable that a time will come when a mother needs to bottle-feed her child. This happens for plenty of reasons — going back to work, loss of milk supply and getting sick, to name a few.
Doctors recommend bottle introduction to babies older than 4 weeks, or after breastfeeding is fully established. This transition, unfortunately, is not always smooth sailing. Bottle introduction is a struggle for most parents and their babies. As the baby grows accustomed to mommy’s warm breast, she learns to differentiate between the real and the artificial food source. As a result, bottle feeding becomes a battle.
Here are five points to consider in your switching technique:
1. Familiarization. Rarely does a baby bottle-feed like a pro upon being given her first bottle. It is a good idea to get your baby familiarized with the thing first. You can do this by using a nipple shield or a pacifier. This will get the baby used to sucking on silicone (or latex). Try giving her a bottle to play with. Since babies pretty much put everything in their mouths, let her put it in her mouth herself.
Other mothers who have “been there” will confess that they have bought all sorts of bottles and nipples available on the market. While it is good to try different nipples and bottles to see which one your baby will like, it is not cost-effective to keep buying a new one every time your little one rejects a bottle. Remember that babies need to get a good nipple latch to suck properly. If you have to get her a new nipple, look for something that resembles yours. Wide neck ones are a popular choice. You also have to consider nipple flow speed. Check the nipple or bottle labels to see which one is most suitable for your baby’s age.
2. Bottle source. Many parents have success in getting their babies to accept a bottle only when it is offered by anybody other than the mother. Try asking your partner or the baby’s caregiver to offer the bottle. The baby probably associates the mother with the breast, and so she won’t drink from the bottle knowing that her mother is around. You may also go to the extent of leaving the house while your baby’s caregiver battles it out.
Sometimes, it is the exact opposite. The baby will only accept a bottle from their mother but not from anybody else. If the mommy is not around in this case, try using a piece of mom’s clothing article to wrap around the bottle, so the baby can smell it and hopefully she will think that her mother is feeding her.
3. Milk content. Breastmilk is undoubtedly the best food a mother can give to her baby. You probably breastfed your baby from day one with that thought in mind. If this is no longer achievable and you have to formula-feed, introduce it slowly. Start by mixing a small amount of formula with expressed milk. As the days go by, slowly increase the amount until the baby is comfortable drinking formula alone. If your baby is picky, you may have to try different formula brands to see which one she likes.
Sometimes, it is not the kind of milk that is causing the problem. Check the temperature. Most babies prefer warm milk over fresh-from-the-fridge milk. You should also try tasting the milk. Maybe your baby is fussy because she is trying to send you a message: “Mommy, this milk tastes sour!”
4. Execution. Different babies have different feeding preferences. One trick may work for your baby but not for another. The same goes for your first baby against your second or third one, and so on. When attempting to bottle feed, you may have to try different positions: nursing position, baby’s back against your chest, drinking from an infant seat, a car seat or rocker. You may also have to add some distractions like rocking motion, walking, bouncing or TV. Motivating your baby by talking or singing to her may also work. Try them in different combinations and see which one will get your baby to drink more. The goal here is to get her to be comfortable.
Compared to nursing from the breast, babies take in more air when they drink from a bottle. Observe your baby’s milk and air intake. She may have to be burped more, and you may also have to adjust the nipple hole size to avoid spit-up after feeding.
5. Timing. Getting your baby to accept the bottle also requires the right timing. Try offering the bottle in between meals, when the baby is in a good mood and less fussy. Another trick is to do a quick one, by giving the breast first, and once she gets the hang of it, swapping it with the bottle in a split-second. Hopefully, she won’t notice it and keep on sucking. This especially works when the baby is dozing off. Do not wait until your baby is starving before you offer to feed.
Remember that going from breast to bottle can be a challenge for both the mother and the baby. Although familiarization, bottle source, milk content, execution, and timing may all play a role in a successful transition, it is the mother’s persistence and patience that will make the transition a smooth one.