Tips for bottle feeding and what to do if your baby refuses the bottle
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Starting Bottles

Some babies take to the bottle like a fish to water, others need a little more coaxing. The important thing to know is that the best bottle for a breastfed baby is the one your baby likes. There is no single best bottle, there are no magic tricks to making a bottle like a breast. When you are choosing a bottle for your baby, just follow these two guidelines:

  • Buy only one of each kind until you know what your baby will take
  • Stick to newborn nipples.

Newborn or slow-flow nipples are the most appropriate for breastfed babies. Feeding at the breast is more work than drinking from a bottle (which is why breastfeeding helps normal jaw and speech development), but if your baby gets used to a very fast-flow nipple, it could lead to breast refusal or overfeeding during the day. Not all slow-flow nipples are created equal - test them by turning over a bottle of water, and try to use the ones where the milk only drips out slowly, not one where the milk shoots out in a stream.

When you start giving bottles, remember to pump once each day for each bottle given so that your supply stays balanced with your baby's intake. Try not to give more in the bottle than you're able to pump. If your baby is still hungry after having a bottle, allow him to nurse as often as he wants to until he is satisfied.

How much to send?? - check this link for information on how much milk your baby will need at daycare.

When to start?

The common wisdom is that the best time to start a bottle is when your baby is between 3 and 6 weeks old. Younger than that can interfere with the establishment of breastfeeding, while older babies may be more likely to refuse a bottle.

When you start giving your baby a bottle, it may be as easy as waiting until he's hungry, offering a bottle of expressed milk, he drinks it and you're done - but often it's a little harder than this.

Many babies won't take a bottle from mom - they're smart, they know the real thing is right there. Before you say "my baby won't take a bottle", have someone else try. You may need to be out of the room, or even out of the house, before your baby will accept the bottle. You may even need to have been gone for several hours, or even several hours again and again over the course of several days, but eventually, most babies will take a bottle.

Bottle Refusal
If your baby is resistant, here are a few tricks to try:

  • Try different feeding positions - some babies won't take a bottle in the position they are in when they breastfeed. Some babies like to be fed sitting up with their back to the belly of the person doing the feeding.
  • Try different temperatures - maybe the milk is too warm or too cool - vary the temperature and see if that helps.
  • Try different nipples. My friend Tracey swears by Dr. Brown's bottle system - her babies had a hard time taking a bottle, and this was the one that worked for them. The Playtex nipples work for a lot of babies, as do the Avent, but really, the best nipple is the one your baby accepts. Don't forget - low flow.

Alternate feeding methods
There's no law that says babies have to be fed from bottles. In fact, avoiding bottles reduces the risk that your baby will learn to prefer the bottle. 

  • From the day they're born, babies are able to drink from a cup - just not like you or I do. Very small babies can lap up milk from a small medicine cup held so that the milk is at the level of their lower lip.
  • Babies can drink milk from a spoon - just use the spoon to tip a little at a time into their mouths.
  • A syringe can be used for feeding - no, not a syringe with a needle! Just the plastic part!! Squeeze a little milk at a time into the corner of your baby's mouth, wait for them to swallow, then squeeze in a little more.
  • An older child's sippy cup can be used - babies usually have better luck with them without the valve - just tip the milk gently into their mouths, letting them suck it out of the cup.

If your baby really, truly won't take milk from any source other than your breast, try not to panic. There are ways to work around this. Most involve some extra work, but all are do-able.

  • See if you can find a care provider who will bring your baby to you during the day for feedings.
  • For older babies, usually two good nursing sessions is enough to get through a regular work day.
  • If your baby is close to six months, you may be able to have your care provider feed enough rice cereal mixed with breastmilk to get through the day.
  • You may be able to adjust your schedule so that you work two shorter shifts during the day, with enough of a break in the middle to feed your baby.
  • You may be able to telecommute or work from home for a while.

And even if your baby has vehemently refused a bottle for months, don't stop trying. Babies change all the time, and suddenly, one day, he may decide the bottle is just fine.


Copyrightę 2005 Kirsten Berggren. All Rights Reserved.

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