Introducing a bottle to your newborn
Even if you aren’t supplementing with formula, there will come a time (as impossible as it seems right now) where you’ll be away from your baby long enough to miss a scheduled feeding. Whether you’re returning to work in a few weeks or just need a date night with your partner, it’s a good idea to get your baby used to drinking from a bottle - after your milk supply is stable, of course. Most lactation experts agree that six weeks is generally the time when your body works out the breastfeeding kinks and figures out supply-and-demand proportions.
If you’d rather not introduce a bottle whatsoever (it’s just another thing to wean them from, right?) then that’s perfectly fine as well. While it’s nice to have the freedom to leave the house for more than three hours, keep in mind that missing a scheduled feeding time will require you to find somewhere to pump, in order to avoid engorgement, clogged milk ducts and a compromised milk supply. For more information on pumping read our breastfeeding guide.
Even if you don’t plan on giving the baby a bottle, it’s a good idea to pump and store at least six bottles in the freezer, just in case of an emergency where you are physically separated from the baby.
Here are some tips for easing your baby into the transition:
- Have someone else make that first feeding from the bottle. If there’s a choice between a foreign bottle and a nearby breast, it’s pretty obvious which will win. If you have to do the feeding, cover up those breasts.
- Wait until your baby is definitely hungry, but not when he is frantically starving. A hysterical baby is likely to get more upset that a breast isn’t available for comfort.
- There are different types of nipples, so this might be a trial-and-error period to see which one is accepted. Many bottle companies offer nipples specifically designed for the breast-to-bottle transition, which are a little wider.
- Around six weeks is the perfect time to make the transition: Both you and your baby have (hopefully) gotten a hang of breastfeeding, yet it’s still early enough for them to accept a change. If you wait too long, the baby might be so used to the breast that a rubber imposter will not do.
- Let your baby decide how much milk to drink. There aren’t measuring cups on your breasts, so you really have no idea how much the baby is actually drinking. Finally seeing the actual number might be distressing if it’s less than you imagined. Trust your baby to eat what he or she is comfortable with, which can be anywhere from 60 to 180ml.
- If you’re introducing the bottle in preparation of returning to work, start using the bottle at least two weeks before your first day back. If you’re going to be away for three feedings a day, start off by offering one bottled feeding a day and work yourself up to three by the time you’ll be back to work.
Read more about expressing breastmilk
Breastfeeding after returning to work
Expressing and storing breastmilk
This article was written by Linda Drummond for Kidspot, New Zealand's leading pregnancy and parenting resource.