There comes a time when you may want to give your breastfed baby the occasional bottle – say if you have left the baby with the father and won’t be back in time for the next feed…
Here is some advice on when and how to introduce the occasional bottle of expressed breast milk.
“I’m looking for advice on introducing the bottle to a breastfed baby,” asks Jose.
“I’d like the flexibility of offering a bottle of expressed milk if I need to miss the odd feed. My first baby completely rejected the bottle so I’m keen to avoid that,” she goes on to explain.
So when should one introduce the bottle to the baby and who should do it? How likely is the baby to accept it?
It’s all about the timing
There’s a balance here. If we introduced the bottle too soon, it could affect your breastfeeding. Not in terms of the baby going to the breast but in terms of the milk production…
So the first six weeks, I would say, establish a good feeding pattern with breastfeeding before you give them a bottle. The first six weeks is also the time when a mother’s milk production is being regulated and one doesn’t want to interfere with that. Introducing the bottle before six weeks can put a mother at an added risk of getting mastitis.
As to how to introduce your baby to the occasional bottle, here is some practical advice…
Once we get to six weeks what I do is I start to give a little bit of a bottle in the evening, and they can have it every evening and as well as a breastfeed. So we’re not actually substituting the feed for a bottle, but we’re getting the baby to practice on the bottle. The sequence is called feed, bath, feed and in the beginning, I just get 40mls of expressed milk, which you could express in the morning after the morning feed and I give the baby the 40mls.
Mum or dad?
It doesn’t matter whether this practice bottle comes from mum or dad. By giving this bottle when baby is hungry, they are more likely to take to it. Now that gets them sucking on the bottle so at any point where you might need to skip a feed because you’re out or you get caught up doing something, you can then give a bottle and the baby most likely will take the bottle.
As to which brand of bottle to use, the important thing to look for is the width of the neck. I would go with a wide-necked bottle, not a standard bottle because the standard baby bottle will make the baby shut her mouth into a smaller gate. So you want a wider gate for the bottle.
Fine as a one-off
While it is fine to give the occasional bottle after breastfeeding, be careful about skipping feeds. So as a one-off, you’ve got to remember if you miss a feed, you’ve got to substitute it with expressing initially. You have to be really careful because your risk of mastitis could be greatly increased. In time and as the baby gets older and sleeps longer, that’s not as important, but initially in those early weeks you have to do like for like.