Feeding Your Baby Breast Milk in a Bottle

For many women who choose to breastfeed, there will come a time when you might want to give baby a bottle of pumped breast milk, or have someone else take over a feeding that way. There is nothing wrong with giving your breastfed baby a bottle either occasionally or even regularly. Breast milk is the same no matter what the source. You might find, however, that your baby is resistant to the bottle, so take it slowly and follow these tips.

Breast Milk in a Bottle – Pick Your Timing

Most breastfeeding experts recommend against giving a breastfed baby a bottle in the first few weeks of life. During this time, baby and you are establishing breastfeeding, both learning the necessary skills and also getting your milk supply regulated.

Because sucking from a bottle requires a different mechanism of the baby’s mouth to extract milk than does nursing, babies who are given bottles in the first weeks of life may have more difficulty learning to latch on to the breast properly, or may prefer the bottle because it is easier to get milk from. Giving a bottle too early can be detrimental to the long-term success of breastfeeding.

Although you may have heard that giving the baby a bottle earlier will make it more likely to be accepted, it isn’t worth the risk of damaging the process of establishing proper nursing.

Choosing the Right Bottle

When selecting bottles for breast milk, look for a wide mouth bottle with a larger nipple. These wider nipples are designed to feel more like the breast to the baby, making it more likely that your baby will accept the bottle. You might also want to consider choosing bottles that attach directly to your breast pump for convenience, but these are often not the wide mouth type. Some pumps do have a converter that allows you to use the wide mouth bottles on the pump.

Feeding Breast Milk in a Bottle for the First Time

Don’t be surprised if baby refuses the bottle the first time you try. Remember that this is a new experience, and your baby has no idea what a bottle is! Keep it familiar by feeding baby in the same position in which you normally nurse, slightly modified. If you use a nursing pillow, you should also use it for bottle feeding. Try to warm the bottle to a temperature very close to breast milk from the body – you can estimate this better if you test freshly pumped breast milk to know how it feels. You may have more success if you attempt bottle feeding when the baby is very hungry and searching for food, but beware that this might also cause frustration for the baby who is looking for the breast and instead finds the bottle.

Odds are that once baby discovers that the bottle contains the same milk as the breast, you won’t have much trouble with feeding your baby breast milk in a bottle. To encourage this, try putting some breast milk on the outside of the nipple so that when you touch it to baby’s lips, the taste and smell of breast milk make the bottle more appetizing.

Most babies will have no difficulty switching back and forth between the breast and bottle if you time it right and go slowly at the beginning. You may find though, that baby does show a preference for one or the other. Just like anyone else, babies will have opinions and preferences! In most cases though, this won’t lead to refusal of either the breast or the bottle in the long term.

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