A new mother who is just returning to work after her maternity leave or just needs some time off from round-the-clock baby care needs to get the baby used to bottle feeding. After all, the best way to take care of a baby is when the mother is well refreshed and feeling her best.
Like most other things about caring for a baby, getting a baby used to a feeding bottle will either be very easy or will require an awful lot of trial and error. The success rate and time taken vary from baby to baby. In most cases, following some tried and tested steps could set up the mother for success way faster than expected.
Babies can get quite finicky when they switch from breastfeeding to bottle-feeding. They are so used to getting their food from a warm, snuggly source that is their mom’s breast that the transition to a completely different source can be quite mind-boggling, to say the least.
The rubber nipple on a feeding bottle, although designed to mimic a breast or a real nipple will still not be close to the real thing in terms of the feel it offers the baby. With some tweaks and adjustments, the baby is sure to take to the bottle in no time.
Make sure that you give the baby ample time to adjust and a good time to start is about two weeks before you head back to work. This gives both the mother and the baby time to adjust and also enough time for any trial and error that may be required if the baby continues to be fussy about bottle feeding. Here are some tips and tricks that might help you get your baby used to a bottle faster than expected.
Get the timing right
According to most lactation experts, a mother should wait at least a month old before introducing a feeding bottle. This ensures that the baby is used to breastfeeding in the sense that breastfeeding is well established. The muscles used for sucking milk from a bottle are different from the mouth and tongue movements used for sucking milk from a breast, and your baby may take time getting used to that.
The baby needs time to adjust to this change. Suckling may be difficult during this switch, and so, the baby may become fussy and difficult to handle. So, two weeks is the time period that most mothers require to get themselves and their babies used to the bottle.
Nurse before offering a bottle
Since the baby has to use a different sucking action to drink from a bottle, it becomes important to get the baby used to a bottle nipple. When it is time to do this, it is imperative to choose a time when the baby is rested and happy. A good example of this is after a morning breastfeeding session. A good method to do this is to put a very small amount of milk in a bottle and offer it to your baby. Be patient while your newborn plays with the nipple and takes some time to become familiar with it.
Dipping the tip of the nipple in a little bit of breast milk could make things easier as the baby gets to taste something that it is familiar with and will try to latch on to the nipple for more of the same.
Choose a bottle that mimics breastfeeding
Since the baby is so used to the shape of the breast and the nipple, the type of bottle and nipple that is chosen for the transition plays a huge role in how soon the baby accepts it. Here it is important to choose a bottle that mimics the experience of breastfeeding as closely as possible.
There are quite a few brands of baby bottles that are specifically designed to simulate breastfeeding for babies who switch from breast to bottle and back again. The nipple plays an important role too, and a slow-flow nipple has to be chosen for babies that are new to bottle feeding, as they have a flow rate that is closest to the flow rate from a breast.
Have someone else do it
Like most of us, babies are creatures of habit. So, if the mother is doing the feeding, they expect it to be from the breast. The baby knows the smell of the mother, and it can be quite confusing as to why they are not getting the breast and getting a completely foreign object instead.
To avoid this confusion, a mother needs to take herself out of the equation. Get the baby introduced to the bottle by your partner, or another caregiver. It is important that the mother is out of the room while the feeding is happening, as seeing the mother hovering around may lead to a cranky baby. As difficult as it is for mothers to let go, this is the best way for the baby to get familiar with being fed by other caregivers like their fathers, grandparents, or a nanny.
Feed on the bottle when the baby is hungry
It is important to not wait until the baby is starving before offering a bottle, similar to breastfeeding. Babies tend to get quite finicky and difficult once they are really hungry, and will not eat anything like adults when they are hungry. Mothers and caretakers should watch out for hunger cues and a bottle should be kept ready at the first sign that the baby is getting hungry. A good way to get the baby excited about the bottle is to feed a little bit of milk as an appetizer and they will be ready for more.
Patience is key
Each baby is different, and a baby may take some time to get used to the new system of feeding on the bottle. This is completely normal and happens with every baby. If the baby will not take the bottle at the first attempt, it is important not to force the affair. Soothe the baby and try again after some time. If this also does not work, get rid of the bottle and nurse your baby. After nursing, while the baby is full and happy, try reintroducing the bottle as the baby is more likely to be open to trying new things as it is in a better state of mind.
Prepare lukewarm milk and fill the bottle to match it with the breast milk temperature. Not every baby falls for this. And the solution to this is to try to offer cold or lukewarm milk and see if the baby responds to this as it may prefer it that way. There have also been cases of babies rejecting thawed frozen milk as they prefer freshly extracted milk from the breast. As mentioned above, it is all a case of trial and error, and a mother can figure out what the baby likes or dislikes and tailor the temperature of the milk accordingly.
Babies are used to sucking on a breast and may need a little extra something to settle down after bottle feeding. A pacifier may come in handy to soothe the baby after a bottle-feeding session is over. As with baby bottle feeding nipples, pacifiers also come in a variety of shapes and sizes and ones that mimic the real thing are preferred a lot more than others.
Experiment with positions
One of the easiest things to do is to change up the feeding position while feeding. While bottle feeding, the feeding position can and should be flexible. If the baby is not taking to the bottle in a particular position, changing the way the baby is held may be enough to encourage your baby to eat. This is the case with either the mother or the caregiver. While some babies take to the bottle lying down or snuggling in the cradle, others might prefer to be sitting upright during the feeding. Figuring out which position the baby is comfortable in is totally up to the mother.
Put all of these together
Depending on the personality of the baby, if it is generally a fussy baby, accepting the bottle can take some time. Keep trying until you can figure out what works for your baby during different times of the day. While some moms may have found success in getting the baby to take a bottle when they offer it first thing in the morning, when their baby is the hungriest, it might not be the same for everyone.
The baby may insist that it be given the breast or does not stop fussing. Once the baby has accepted a bottle, start using it for at least one feeding a day. It is important to switch this schedule up as the baby may take the bottle only during the morning feed and not any other time.
As for the mothers themselves, it is easy to forget that they also need rest and care as they are fully focused on the baby. During the times that the baby is being bottle-fed or resting, the mother should try to get adequate rest and relaxation periods of their own. Pumping breastmilk for bottle-feeding can also get quite tiresome and it is easier if these are planned in advance, whether at home or at work. A quick tip is to try and schedule pumping over three sessions in a day so that these do not mess with the mother’s other commitments.
While all of these tips and tricks have worked for many babies, they may not work for all of them. Some babies are known to hold out from taking the bottle unless they absolutely have to, like the time they are dropped off at daycare. Whatever the case, they will get accustomed to the bottle in due course of time, and mothers should remain patient and not reach for the breast every time the baby creates a fuss by not taking the bottle. The transition will happen in due time, and there is nothing to worry about.