Monday, October 15, 2012

How can I teach my breastfed baby to take a bottle?

from Jan Barger lactation consultant

First of all, have someone else give her the bottle while you're out of the house. {Babies can smell their moms from a distance of at least 20 feet, and she may know you're around even if you're in another room.}

Offer her the bottle when she's not dreadfully hungry, rather than waiting until she's starving.

Tried that.

Next attempt: (try when also just fed some, next when hungry):  If she takes a pacifier, try a bottle nipple similar to the pacifier she uses. {For example, if she sucks on a latex pacifier, use a latex bottle nipple rather than a silicone one and vice versa. If she just chews on the nipple and plays with it, let her. She may actually start to suckle on it.}   Make sure you have a lot of time to put your feet up and relax during this process. If she starts crying and pushes the bottle away, back off, comfort her, and try again. {The last thing you want to do is get in a battle with her over the bottle.} If you've tried three times and she refuses all three times, then call it a meal. Do not breastfeed her immediately. Wait five or 10 minutes, and do something else entirely different before you put her to the breast so she won't associate her refusal to bottlefeed with immediate gratification.

Some mothers have induced their baby to take a bottle by holding the baby in a totally different position than they would when breastfeeding. {Try putting her in an infant or car seat so she is semi-upright, and then feed her the bottle while facing her. Once she is used to taking a bottle, you can hold her as you usually would for feedings.

One enterprising father put on his wife's bathrobe and tucked the bottle under his arm while holding the baby in a breastfeeding position.

Keep in mind that back in the 1940s, mothers were advised to have their babies feeding from a cup by 2 months of age (and potty trained by 6 months, but that's another story!). If all else fails, you can feed her using a little cup — a shot glass or small see-through plastic juice glass works well. Put her in an upright position in your left arm and bring the cup to her mouth, tilting it gently until a wee bit goes in. She'll actually begin to lap and then to drink it. I'd practice this with a bit of sweetened water until she gets the hang of it, as you don't want to waste any of your precious expressed milk! You can even use a hollow-handled medicine spoon to do the same thing.  {Often after you've tried this, the baby will go ahead and take a bottle because cup feeding isn't familiar and it doesn't satisfy her urge to suck. Then you have an alternative for when you are at work — either cup or bottle — and her caregiver can try either.}

NB: Some babies don't eat very much when Mommy isn't home, and since they have been separated from her all day, may begin waking a bit more frequently at night simply to touch base, so to speak. So don't be surprised if your baby awakens a couple of times at night to feed after you return to work.

I've heard many moms in your situation say things like, "It's my fault. If I had only given her a bottle a day from the beginning, this wouldn't be happening." Please be assured that this isn't true.

Many babies who have been getting bottles all along will suddenly decide at about 3 months that they don't want to take a bottle anymore.  While starting an occasional bottle when the baby is ready to take one (once she's gaining weight and latching on well, and your milk supply is established and your nipples aren't sore) may smooth the process later on, it isn't necessarily an ironclad guarantee that your baby will take the bottle when you really want her to.

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Thanks so much! I greatly value thoughtful comments!! ~ Gabriela