Bottle Feeding

Introducing Your Breastfed Baby to the Bottle

Baby Feeding on Bottle

Whether you will be returning to work after your maternity leave or would like to get your partner more involved in feeding your new babe, introducing a bottle to your breastfed baby can be a helpful, and sometimes tricky, endeavor. Many women like to have the option to have pumped milk available that a family member or caregiver can give the baby should they need a break, some extra sleep or happen to be away for more than a couple hours. Here are 5 helpful tips to introducing your breastfed baby to the bottle so that it’s a smooth and gentle transition for you both.

5 Tips to Introduce Your Breastfed Baby to the Bottle

  1. Timing is everything: Your midwife or lactation consultant will likely tell you that introducing any sort of bottle or artificial soother must be well-timed. Too early, and you run the risk of disrupting your newly established breastfeeding routine and too late, your babe may reject the bottle all together. The ideal time to introduce a bottle is between 4-6 weeks. That way, you will have already found your groove with breastfeeding and your baby will likely not experience any nipple confusion. 
  2. Choose a slow flow nipple: When picking out a bottle and nipple for your baby, choose one that most closely mimics the breast and allows for a slow flow of milk. Sucking from a bottle requires a different latch and tongue movement than suckling from the breast. A slow flow nipple will most closely replicate the experience of breastfeeding and allow baby to take his time eating. 
  3. Have your partner give the bottle: Getting a bottle from mom who usually breastfeeds can be confusing and frustrating for a little one. If possible, have your partner be the bottle aficionado. Even better yet, take the time that your partner is learning to bottle feed your baby and do something for yourself. Take a shower, take a nap, go for a walk or run an errand. Your baby is more likely to have a successful bottle feeding experience if they can’t smell mom and her milk nearby. 
  4. Take baby steps: Rather than having your partner or family member offer the bottle when your baby is hungry, try introducing it after they have breastfed. This way, they will not be frustrated as easily with the process and can explore the feel of the bottle without the pressure of needing to satiate their appetite. You don’t need to put a lot of breastmilk in the bottle, even starting with a half an ounce should suffice. If the milk is not freshly pumped, place the bottle in warm water to heat it prior to feeding. Baby may be more likely to accept a warm bottle versus milk that is directly from the refrigerator. 
  5. Encourage paced feeding: One of the challenges with bottle feeding is that we decide how much baby should drink rather than baby deciding. To most closely simulate the experience of breastfeeding, never force the nipple into baby’s mouth and simply allow him to decide how much he wishes to drink. Give baby breaks for burping and rest and switch sides from which you feed him as he would when breastfeeding. It’s also important to make sure your partner or the caregiver is able to recognize baby’s hungers cues so that he or she can feed baby when he’s hungry versus on a set schedule. 

Introducing bottle feeding does not have to be a stressful process if approached slowly, gently and with plenty of time for practice. If you have questions about the process of introducing a bottle to your breastfed baby or are pregnant and considering a natural birth in a homelike setting, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center. We are here to support you throughout your journey of motherhood.

Infant Hunger Cues - A Simple Guide to Baby's Hunger

Infant Hunger Cues

Wouldn’t it be nice if newborns came with an instruction manual? One of the more challenging feats as a new parent is learning your baby’s various hunger cues and how to catch them before tummy rumbles turn to tears. Initial signs that your baby is hungry may be subtle and easy to miss if you don’t know what you are looking for. Here’s a simple guide to breaking down the stages of baby’s hunger cues and what to do if baby becomes upset before you notice them.

Early Hunger Cues:

Your newborn is not likely to raise his hand and ask for the breast or bottle when he is feeling hungry. There are, however, some early indicators to look for that may suggest he needs to be fed. Early hunger cues include waking from sleep, stirring, turning of the head, lip smacking, opening and closing the mouth and rooting or seeking the breast. The rooting reflex, for the new parents out there, is a baby’s automatic tendency to turn his head toward the stimulus and make sucking motions with his mouth when the lips or cheeks are touched. This is a natural reflex that helps with the process of breastfeeding. If you see baby displaying any of these cues, offer the breast or a bottle.

Mid Hunger Cues:

If you miss the first set of cues (which can easily happen when you are just learning), the second set of more active cues may be more noticeable. Babies who are beginning to feel frustrated and hungry may display increased physical movement such as fidgeting, stretching, rooting around the chest of whoever is holding them, positioning themselves for nursing, fussing, fast-paced breathing or putting their hand, toy, clothes or just about anything in their mouth. If your baby has reached this stage of hunger, offer a bottle or the breast as soon as possible.

Late Hunger Cues:

Responding to late hunger cues is when it gets a little trickier. Every new parent has missed the early and mid-cues at least once and found themselves having to soothe an inconsolable baby. If your baby has reached this point of frustration and hunger they will begin to cry, move their head frantically from side to side, turn red and display signs that they are agitated and distressed. At this point, you will need to comfort your baby before feeding them in order to have a successful nursing or bottle feeding. 

Try calming your baby by cuddling him, having skin-to-skin contact, wearing him, singing to him, rocking, bouncing or even taking a warm bath together. Once your baby has calmed down, offer the breast or bottle. Although it will likely happen to even the most attentive parent from time to time, you want to avoid reaching this stage of hunger to the best of your ability. Once baby has reached this stage of agitation, he is more likely to have a poor latch, feel overly tired, eat less and wake sooner for the next feeding. Routinely letting your baby reach this stage of hunger and distress can result in feeding problems and poor attachment.

A good rule of thumb in the early days is-- when in doubt, feed baby. For breastfed babies offering the breast frequently and for comfort in addition to hunger will only help increase your milk supply and develop a strong and lasting bond with your baby. For bottle fed babies, feeding with love and attentiveness is also a great way to strengthen your attachment and nurture your bond with baby. If you have questions about hunger cues, nursing your baby or any and all things related to pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center

*Special note for bottle feeders*

With bottle feeding, it is also important to look for signs that your baby has had enough. These signs include turning the head away, refusing to suck and becoming fidgety or frustrated. Just as it is important to be aware of hunger cues, it is also important to respect signs that your baby is full and let him take the lead on how much he eats. This will help prevent overfeeding baby.