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Breast-Feeding: Introducing a Bottle to a Breast-Fed Baby

It’s usually best to try to avoid giving your baby a bottle for the first 3 to 4 weeks after your baby's birth. This gives you and your baby time to get good at breast-feeding. Then, once you have a good milk supply, you may want your baby to get used to bottle-feeding so that other people can feed your baby some of the time. Some breast-fed babies readily accept a bottle, while others may resist a new way of feeding. Breast-fed babies may be more likely to accept a bottle if it is offered by someone other than the mother. If the nursing mother tries to give the bottle, the baby may protest and turn toward the breast to nurse. On the other hand, some breast-fed babies accept the bottle better when they are in their mother's arms and can hear her voice.

Here are some ways to help your baby accept a bottle.

  • Plan a time when you can spend 10 to 15 minutes to try the bottle. Your baby will feel the pressure if you are rushed.
  • Choose a time when your baby is alert and a little hungry. This helps him want to learn a new way to feed. On the other hand, don’t introduce a bottle when your baby is very hungry. An upset, very hungry baby will be in no mood to try something new.
  • Offer milk that you have pumped from your breasts earlier in the day. Warm the milk first, taking care not to overheat the milk. Because the bottle nipple smells and tastes different from your breast nipple, it helps to have a familiar fluid to drink.
  • No one bottle or nipple works best for every baby. If your baby uses a pacifier, he might prefer a nipple shaped like his pacifier nipple. Stick with one nipple for several days before you switch to another. Trying a lot of different nipples will just confuse your baby more.
  • Go slowly and gently. First touch your baby's lips with the nipple, and watch how he reacts. Express a little milk from the bottle nipple onto your baby's lips or tongue. Don't force the nipple past his lips. Instead, let your baby draw the nipple into his mouth at his own pace. If your baby is not upset by the bottle, move the nipple a little further into the baby's mouth and let him explore it.
  • Your baby may resist a bit at first by turning away, making a face, or pushing the nipple away with his tongue. Don't force the bottle into your baby’s mouth. Stop at the first sign that your baby is unhappy with this lesson.
  • If your baby is not upset by the bottle, move the nipple a little further into the baby's mouth and let him explore it. Keep smiling and talking in a soothing voice. Do not stick the bottle into your baby's mouth with too much force. This may make your baby gag.
  • The most important thing is to stay calm when you offer a bottle to your baby. Keep a smile on your face and keep talking calmly the whole time. Babies watch faces and take their cues from them.
  • Don't spend more than 10 to 15 minutes trying the bottle. Stop sooner if your baby or you are getting frustrated. It's better to end the session on a positive note and try again another day.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2013-12-18
Last reviewed: 2013-12-18
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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