Some babies readily take a bottle. Others don't. If you're in the latter group and frustrated by it or you want to prepare to bottle feed, these tips are for you!
If you’re already breastfeeding or planning to, it’s helpful to have breastfeeding already well established before introducing a bottle to your baby.
If a baby comes to have a preference for bottle feeding over the breast, nursing may become more challenging and your breastfeeding goals might suffer.
There are no hard and fast rules about when to start a baby on the bottle. But the "sweet spot" for introducing a bottle seems to be between 4-6 weeks of age. That doesn't mean it won't work at another time. Babies can learn to take a bottle at different stages in their lives, with varying degrees of resistance.
Whenever a bottle is introduced to your baby, whether at 5 weeks or 3 months old, there are ways to make it a little more palatable for your little one. (Pun intended!)
Initially, you want the introduction to the bottle feeding experience to be completely different from nursing. If there are too many similarities, your baby might be left wondering (and complaining!) about why they're not getting the real thing.
I suggest trying one or two tips at a time. Here they are:
- Have someone other than mom give the bottle. Make sure baby can't see, hear or smell mom. (Mom could go to another room or floor of the home - or even go outside for a much needed break/walk).
- Sit in a different chair than where mom typically nurses. Not the usual rocker or glider. If mom has a favorite nursing spot on the couch, sit somewhere else.
- Try standing. Sway, rock or even walk slowly.
- Sing, talk or hum softly in baby's ear.
- Hold baby upright - don't cradle.
- Dress appropriately for the weather and go outside. The fresh air, temperature difference and the outdoor sensations sometimes do the trick.
- Hold baby close to your chest; not away from your body.
- Remain calm. Don't force bottle into baby's mouth.
- Try PACED bottle feeding. Take a look at a video demonstration here. Essentially, it's a method of bottle feeding that allows the baby to control flow and speed, much like breastfeeding does.
When you hit upon something that works, stick to it for a couple of days before slowly making any changes.
If your baby still refuses the bottle after trying a combination of these tips, don't despair. Babies are always growing and entering new phases of likes and dislikes.
From a baby’s perspective, there are many differences between being breastfed and bottle fed. The shape of a baby’s mouth as they latch, tongue placement, Suck/swallow patterns, rate of milk flow, and of course, the shape, texture and feel of the breast versus the bottle are nothing alike. But if your baby is still refusing the bottle for now, there are other ways to get breastmilk or formula into your baby. You can try cup feeding or spoon feeding. These methods are successfully done around the world. For more information about the mechanics of breastfeeding/sucking, check out this link.
If you're planning a return to work, want some alone time outside of the house or want to share nighttime feedings with your partner, bottle feeding can be an important tool. Hopefully with these tips, your baby will get on board and cooperate!