The role of the Registered Nurse or Newborn Care Provider is to feed, soothe, bathe, change & provide all other gentle care to baby through the night.

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How to Offer a Bottle to A Breastfed Baby

Question: I will be returning back to work soon, and my breastfed baby refuses to take a bottle of breastmilk or formula.  Help! Amy Black, IBCLC answers this common question in how to offer a bottle to a breastfed baby.

How to Offer a Bottle to A Breastfed Baby
photo by Rainier Ridao on Unsplash

How to Offer a Bottle to A Breastfed Baby

When attempting to offer a baby a bottle for the first time, there are a couple things to remember. First, your baby is very smart! Since s/he connects food with mom, sometimes it is best for mom to leave the house. Second, it’s widely advised to introduce a bottle only after breastfeeding is fully established, usually after 4 weeks. This avoids confusion and ensures your supply remains at the level baby needs. La Leche League recommends starting with pumping after one feeding session a day, when you feel like your breasts may still be a little full. As LLL says, Remember you are pumping “leftovers” and should only expect a small amount.

Additionally these tips can help:

  •  Offer the baby a small amount of food when the baby is not too hungry and perhaps a little sleepy. In other words, when baby is in a good mood and more open to change. 🙂
  •  Let someone other than mom feed the baby in a location that is not the normal nursing spot for mom and baby.
  •  Tickle the baby’s lips with the nipple of the bottle to get the baby to open his mouth wide.  Let baby take the lead in drawing the nipple into the mouth.
  •  Hold the baby in an upright position with the bottle at a horizontal position to the mouth.  This will mimic breastfeeding and allow baby to eat at their own pace without overfeeding.
  •  Once the baby starts drifting off and letting go of the nipple, cease feeding.  Follow the baby’s cues and be finished when he or she is done. Don’t force the last bit of milk by jiggling the nipple or waking him up.
  • If the bottle has been in the refrigerator, don’t forget to warm the nipple as well as the milk. You can run the nipple under warm water so it’s not too shocking to your baby.

How Should the Bottle be Given?

Caregivers can practice a method of feeding called paced bottle feeding ensures that your baby receives the right amount of milk. This feeding method slows down the flow of milk into the nipple and the mouth, allowing baby to eat more slowly and take breaks the way s/he would when nursing. Milk is slowed because 2 things are happening:

  1. Your baby is being held upright, the way s/he might be during a nursing session.
  2. Milk should only filling the bottle’s nipple about halfway. This makes sure baby isn’t being overfed. By not overfeeding the baby, mom will be able to keep up with pumping at work and maintaining milk supply. Here’s an excellent video showing paced bottle feeding.

Of course babies are all different and will accept a bottle in their own time. Even with all of these tips the best way to make sure bottle feeding is successful is to be consistent and patient.