Tips on how to get your breastfed bub to take a bottle

Tips on how to get your breastfed baby to bottle feed

Whether you intend on breastfeeding for a few months or years, there comes a time (or many!) when all mums just need a break.

Introducing bottle feeding – formula or expressed breast milk – is a wonderful way to give you some much-needed ‘mum time’, or give you the freedom to pick up work outside the home.

Some breastfed babies take to the bottle experience like a duck to water, others take a bit more convincing.

If you’re having trouble getting your baby to take to the bottle, here are a few strategies you can try.

Make sure the teat flow is developmentally appropriate

Bottle teats on the market have slow, medium and fast flows, with age recommendations attached. This can be helpful, but keep in mind that if your breasts have a fast flow and your baby is 3 months old, the slower bottle teat (aimed at 3-month-olds) may be too slow for him, and he won’t want to drink.

Try a range of styles and brands until you find what works

While this can be an expensive exercise, if you can find the brand that your baby prefers, then you’re set. To reduce costs, ask a friend who bottle feeds if you can sterilise and try their bottle before you buy.

Ask someone else to try feeding him

Sometimes babies will associate their mother with breastfeeding so strongly, they won’t accept the bottle from you. Ask your partner, the baby’s babysitter or grandparents (ideally someone the baby is already familiar with) to offer the bottle instead. It will probably help if you’re out of the house first, so the baby isn’t distracted by your presence.

Father feeding his son

If the bottle isn’t working, try a small cup, a syringe or a spoon

Remember that even tiny babies can learn to drink from a plastic syringe or cup. If the bottle isn’t appealing, syringe some milk into their mouth or offer in a cup so they recognise that it’s their mother’s breastmilk. Then they may be more inclined to try the rest in the bottle.

Give the first bottle at 6 weeks, and then give occasionally after that, just so they get used to it.

If you wait too long to offer the baby’s first bottle feed, you may be up against a feisty 6-month-old who’s developed very particular preferences. Also, the introduction of solids around this time will be confusing enough without adding bottle feeding into the mix.

Whether or not you need to leave the baby at 6 weeks, try introducing the bottle at this stage as they haven’t formed strong habits yet, and will more likely accept it early on. Then continue to offer the bottle regularly – once or twice a week – so that you’re prepared when you need to return to work or want to go to a wedding or away overnight. The last thing you want when you’re getting dressed up to go out, is to find your baby – who took the bottle like a dream three months ago – is now kicking up a stink!

Newborn baby drinks from bottle

Ask mother to leave a shirt that smells like her

All babies are highly sensory creatures, but some are more sensitive to their environments than others. If you’re minding a child while their mother goes out, take the ABA’s recommendation and ask her to leave a shirt that smells like her. Holding this next to the baby or wrapping her in it will make her environment more familiar, and she may be more likely to drink from the bottle.

Try heating the breastmilk to different temperatures

Find the temperature that your baby prefers by heating portions of the milk by standing the bottle in hot water. Or better still, feed the baby from the bottle just after the breastmilk has been expressed.

See the Australian Breastfeeding Associations recommendations for bottle hygiene and reheating here.

Mother bottle feeding baby

Be patient and persistent

Even though bottles will promise to mimic the breast in flow, touch and temperature, nothing can replace the comfort and familiarity of a mother’s breast. Patience and understanding while your little one learns this new skill of bottle feeding is the secret to enjoying bottle feeding success – and freedom!

What tips have you found helpful in enticing your breastfed baby to accept the bottle?

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