I am getting overwhelmed just thinking about the stress of trying to get by breastfed baby to start taking a bottle. As a working mom, getting my exclusively breastfed baby to take a bottle was one of my first challenges as a first time mom. I was dreading giving up some of my breastfeeding time on maternity leave to try the bottle but I knew I needed to find a solution before heading back to work. Nothing makes for a more terrible return to work than knowing your baby is starving all day. It happened to me! The first week I returned to work, my baby refused all bottles. She essentially screamed all day and I would make up for her missed feedings by reverse cycling at night. Between feeding her all night and trying to work and her misery at childcare, I knew I needed to find a better solution. This is what eventually worked for us to get our baby to take a bottle.
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Try Different Bottles…And Then Try Some More
I remember choosing a bottle I liked to add to my baby registry with my first. This ended up being a huge mistake! I assumed my baby would adjust to whatever bottle I chose. She HATED the first bottle, and I now had a pile of them available from my registry. I ended up ordering one of each kind of bottle I could find and tried them all the see what clicked. We are the proud owners of every baby bottle ever made! Every baby has a different preference.
To start, you want to look for a bottle that closely mimics breastfeeding if you are nursing. It should have a wide and soft nipple along with a similar sucking needed to dispel milk. There are some great choices in bottles for breastfed babies including Tommee Tippee, Dr. Browns, and Phillips Avent. Comotomo is a baby favorite, as its nipple most closely resembles the breast (it even looks like a breast!) It also has a slow flow and its uniquely shaped body is squeezeable.
We tried all of these brands and had mixed results. We kept trying until we landed on the Lansinoh Momma Bottle. It was instantly more successful with our baby than any other bottle. This bottle involves the same sucking motion used in breastfeeding and it is designed to limit the swallowing of air which seemed to be an issue with some of the other bottles we tried. Plus, the Lansinoh brand focuses on supportive tools for breastfeeding, including pumps. They definitely know their stuff. We stocked up on these bottles with slow and medium flow nipples and have used these bottles well past the first birthday. I highly recommend giving these bottles as try for your breastfed baby!
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Another big factor when it comes to getting your breastfed baby to take a bottle is the temperature of the milk. A lot of parents assume the milk should be warm, especially when seeing all the bottle warmers on every baby registry, In reality, babies have preferences on temperature too! Our baby liked her milk as close to room temperature as possible, even on the cooler side. We were heating all her bottles at first, and did not realize that was a factor in her not taking the bottle easily. Experiment with a few temperatures to see if it makes a difference in your baby’s willingness to drink from a bottle.
Time It Right
When I first started the bottle with my breastfed baby, I assumed that once she got hungry enough, she would take the milk however she could get it. I could not have been more wrong! Not only was she now starving when trying the bottle, but she ended up getting so worked up it took a long time to calm her down. For many babies, being extremely hungry makes the feeding situation worse. Try the bottle after a small nursing session in the beginning. If baby is interested in eating without being hungry, it will be easier to find success. I promise that those little babies can outlast us when they want to, so don’t wait until baby is starving to give it a try.
This one made me incredibly sad when I was a first time mom, but it did make a big difference. When we first started trying the bottle, I was the one trying to feed our baby the bottle. We then tried having my husband or grandma try at home and had no luck. The first time our baby took a full bottle was when I was out of the house completely. A lot of breastfed babies can sense when Mom is near. Your baby can actually smell your specific breastmilk. If your baby knows the real deal is around, they may hold out on accepting the bottled milk. Our baby would not even open her lips for the bottle while I was around.
Try running a short errand or sitting outside while a support person feeds the baby the bottle to see if that is having any effect on your success. Dad could also try giving the bottle while doing skin to skin, which can help put baby at ease. You could also try having the person giving the bottle wear a drape a shirt or article of your clothing over their shoulder. The mom smell can be powerful for baby!
It’s All About The Angles
When we feed our baby a bottle, we tend to position the baby in our arms in a way that feels natural to use. For some babies, they need a particular angle and position for feeding that is not our first thought. A breastfed baby often likes to take a bottle in a position similar to breastfeeding. You could try using the nursing pillow for support or switching up how you are holding your baby. My first baby actually started taking the bottle when I was NOT holding her. We had to prop her up on a pillow and feed her without holding her. Talk about something that does not come naturally! It look us several trials to figure out that this was how she wanted to be fed from a bottle.
If All Else Fails, Relax
Babies feed off of our stress, even when we think we are hiding it from them. If the stress of getting your baby to take a bottle is getting to you, your baby will feel that tension. This could make it even more difficult for the baby to feel comfortable trying the bottle. Try your best to relax and make the bottle seem natural. Continue trying different strategies and giving it multiple opportunities. You will find what works best for you and baby so that bottle feeding becomes a normal occurrence. It may feel like that day will never come, but hang in there! Baby is learning the bottle just as you are learning about this baby, and the learning process takes time. You got this, mama!
All the best,