By now, most parents and caregivers will know the value and benefits that breastfeeding can bring to a baby.
One of the only downsides is that breastfeeding requires mum to be around at every feed. Either that, or you’ve decided to wean from breastmilk (for whatever reason) and have decided to switch your baby to formula.
Thanks to breast pumping, mum doesn’t always need to be present when her baby is being fed. However, expressed milk needs to be fed to a baby via a bottle, and that is often harder than it first appears.
Many breastfed babies simply aren’t interested in taking a bottle, no matter how much delicious breastmilk is inside. So how can you interest the baby in taking a bottle? We have some ideas.
1. Get Quality Bottle Nipples
The first step in tempting your breastfed baby to taking a bottle is to invest in really good quality nipples for that bottle. For young babies, try the slow-flow nipples so they are not overwhelmed by the change from sucking to gravity-affected feeding. You may find that you need to try several different kinds of nipples before you discover one that works for your child.
2. Warm It Up
When testing a new nipple with your baby, try and warm the nipple first before attempting to feed them. Remember that mums are warm, and when babies feed they are close to that warmth, which may have an impact on their willingness to feed. You can warm the nipple by running it through some hot water. If your baby likes to cuddle while they feed, try and hold them while they bottle feed instead of laying them down to feed.
3. Have A Helper On Hand
Guess what mums? To a baby, you smell good! So good in fact that if you’re attempting to bottle feed them, they might be wondering why there’s no boobies and breast milk. If your baby is getting distracted or trying to find your breast when you bottle feed, get someone else to help you out. A comfortable and familiar person, but not mum, may have more success in encouraging baby to feed via the bottle.
4. Use Different Nursing Holds
Many mums fall into habits when they breastfeed, holding their baby a certain way with each feed. Babies notice this, and if you attempt to hold them in the same way when you bottle feed, they might get confused. Mix things up a little by holding your child in a different way during bottle feeding than you do with breastfeeding. Over time, your baby will recognise this position, and anticipate the bottle.
5. Give Them A Taste
To encourage babies to give the unfamiliar taste and texture of a bottle a try, give them a taste of what is inside. If this is breast milk, babies are more likely to go towards the familiar taste and smell of their usual food. Also, allow the baby to play with the nipple as much as they need to get comfortable. Some babies might chew on the nipple, but that’s ok as well, they’re just getting used to it.
6. Introduce Another Method
If your baby just doesn’t seem interested in taking the bottle, you may need to teach them that breast milk doesn’t just come from mum’s nipples. Get some breastmilk on a spoon or in a medicine dropper and give them a try on it. Babies will recognise the taste of the milk, and if the practice keeps up, they’ll soon realise that breast milk can come from things other than your boobs. Then you can try again with the bottle.
7. Ease Them Onto It
Getting used to the bottle takes time, and the process can be challenging for babies. Make it a simpler transition by beginning to introduce the bottle straight after breastfeeding, when babies are satiated but not entirely full. That way, the baby will be able to explore the new experience of drinking from the bottle while still in ‘feeding mode’.
8. Go Slow
It’s important to remember when teaching your baby how to drink from a bottle that babies move much slower than us. Don’t be too quick to abandon certain nipples, holds or bottle types just because your baby hasn’t responded to them right away. Try them several times at least, if not more than that, before swapping to another nipple or abandoning that style altogether.
Transitioning a baby from breastfeeding to bottle feeding can be a real trial for parents, and for babies. That’s why it’s important that you persevere through the process, even when there are tears and tantrums. We’ve already covered the ‘going slow’ aspect of this, but parents need to know that they shouldn’t just default onto things that work, like the breast, when babies get grumpy. Having a meal delayed by 15-20 minutes it not the end of the world, so keep going.
10. Skip It Altogether
If you reach a point where, no matter how many different methods you have tried or how much you have persevered, you still cannot get your baby interested in taking the bottle, maybe you need to change your track. Not all babies are interested in drinking from a bottle, but many parents find a much better update with cups. Sippy cups, or cups with straws, are a great alternative for slightly older babies who can’t adjust to the bottle. If you’re about to give up on your baby and the bottle, try a cup and see how you go.