As a mom of a newborn or an exclusively breastfed baby, sooner or later you may start to consider how to make the breast-to-bottle transition. Whether you’ll be continuing to breastfeed along with bottle feeding pumped milk, or you’re transitioning to formula feeding (or any combination thereof), bottle struggles can arise. Here are a few answers to common questions about how to make bottle feeding a little easier.
When should I start?
Sometimes, bottle feeding becomes necessary because of struggles with breastfeeding, unforeseen health issues for mom or baby, etc. On the other hand, many moms of newborns plan to transition to a bottle before they head back to work after maternity leave. If this is the case for you, you are definitely going to want to make sure your little one is prepared and used to taking a bottle before you make that transition.
For a baby who’s been exclusively breastfed, experts recommend waiting until they are four weeks old to introduce a bottle. If you plan to wait longer than that, it’s important to introduce a bottle at least two weeks before they will need to rely on it.
If you plan to formula feed, you’ll start getting your baby comfortable with a bottle right away. Read on for more tips on creating a warm and natural bottle feeding experience.
What if I’m bottle feeding and breastfeeding at the same time?
Lots of moms are in this situation, and it can be difficult to deal with bottle struggles while keeping up your supply and worrying about nipple confusion. Using bottles designed for breastfed babies can help make latching easier as your baby gets used to switching back and forth.
What should I know about bottle feeding?
There are a few important things to remember during the bottle transition and anytime you’re bottle feeding your baby.
- In general, babies take milk better when it’s a little warm. It’s crucial to remember to never microwave a bottle, as this can create “hot spots” throughout the liquid with the potential to cause burns. Instead, heat the bottle in a bowl of hot water for up to 15 minutes. Test the liquid by sprinkling it on the inside of your wrist to check the temperature, or use the BlueSmart Mia, which has a sensor to let you know when the bottle contents are at the optimum temperature.
- Paced feeding. Encourage your baby to take frequent brief pauses while bottle feeding, and pay attention to their fullness cues and any signs that they're gulping down milk without stopping for breath (they may not be able to signal that they need a break). Making sure they're upright helps them pace themselves (BlueSmart Mia’s motion sensor makes this easy). It’s important to switch the side you hold your baby on each time you feed them. This helps their vision development.
- Follow appropriate guidelines for preparing and storing formula or breast milk. Don't let it go to waste!
What if my baby has difficulties?
Bottle struggles can be very frustrating, because you want to help your baby but it’s hard to always know what they need. It takes time for a baby to learn how to bottle feed, so don’t be discouraged if they don’t seem to master it immediately. Keep an eye on their output to make sure they are getting enough to eat, and consult your pediatrician if you’re worried that they aren't.
If your baby has trouble latching, don’t be afraid to try a few different nipple styles or flow variations. It might help to have someone other than Mom try to do the bottle feeding at first, since the baby will sometimes refuse the bottle if they can smell mom nearby.
Although the learning curve can be a difficult experience, with patience and perseverance, both you and Baby will conquer the bottle transition.