I need to start planning for the end. The end of my maternity leave is only two weeks away, and I have not wanted to think about it until today. My breast-fed baby will have to take a bottle once I go back to work, and he has yet to try one. But today is the day, he will get his first bottle, or so I hope!
I settle down on the couch with my baby and a bottle. (I promise myself that I won’t cry, but I am unable to keep that promise!) Looking lovingly at my precious baby looking back at me, the bottle ever so gently touches his lips and HOLY HELL BREAKS LOSE! He will have NO PART of this plastic impostor of his life-source. The synthetic version of the only comforting and soothing feeding apparatus that he has ever known doesn’t smell like mommy, it isn’t as warm and soft as mommy – it is NOT MOMMY! The baby is crying – and now I am really crying too – because he is crying, because I am returning to work – and just because! All I wanted was to bottle-feed my breast-fed baby – without tears.
This was me – with our first baby! I modified our bottle-introduction with each baby – to fit the baby’s individual personality, and using the experience I had learned from his older brothers.
As the working mother of four breast-fed babies, I am thrilled to share with you my best tips and tricks of how to bottle-feed your breast-fed baby, without tears. Remember – if tears are shed and the bottle is viewed as the devil to end all devils, put it aside and try again another day when you have read these tips.
- Have someone else do the bottle feedings. This is a great opportunity for dad or the nanny/ babysitter to step in and form their own feeding bond with the baby.
- Leave the house – yes, YOU! Babies have an incredibly keen sense of smell and he will know if you are just “hiding in the next room.” Besides, it may reduce the stress for dad/ caregiver if you aren’t “supervising” the bottle feeding like only a mama bear can do. Take a (quick) walk around the block – it will be good for you too – trust me!
- Try different types of bottles and nipples. Some babies prefer nipples for premies, others like the big breast-shaped bottles. Buy only one of each different type of bottle or nipple until you find what works for your baby – otherwise you WILL go broke!
- Change the temperature of the nipple and milk. Teething babies may like a cold nipple, while other babies prefer one that was warmed in warm water. Some babies don’t mind drinking cold milk, while others like it mommy-temperature. (NEVER heat milk, bottles or nipples in the microwave.)
- Offer the bottle before the baby is ravenous hungry. Try to time these initial feedings before the baby gets cranky (too tired or too hungry).
- Do a “dream feed” when the baby is half asleep. Cuddle your sleeping/ sleepy/ drowsy baby and quietly offer the bottle. You may be able to pull a fast one on him.
- Offer breast milk/ formula in a cup. Surprisingly enough, babies are fully capable of drinking from a cup and they may prefer this to a bottle. We have had great luck with these cups: Doidy Training Cups
- If you are supplementing with formula, mix it 80% breast milk/ 20% formula and for each day you add a little more formula until he’s getting 100% formula. Give your baby a chance to get used to the bottle AND the new taste and smell of the formula. In order for the baby to adjust and to troubleshoot properly, try to only add one new thing at a time – either new bottle or new formula – not both.
- To insure that he is getting enough liquid, or to measure his intake you can use a syringe (like the kind the pharmacy gives you for liquid antibiotics).
- Babies LOVE their mother’s smell, have dad or the caregiver hold the baby in the t-shirt you slept in or a baby blanket you had in your bed – anything that smells like mommy!
- Try holding the baby in different positions – but don’t turn the feeding session into a baby juggling act. Switch positions quietly and gently, babies pick up on your stress and anxiety. Once the baby is calm and comforted in the new position, try to introduce the bottle with confidence.
- Cradle-hold in the crook of your arms, while you enjoy the eye contact.
- Sit the baby in your lap with his back against your chest, facing outwards. Some babies do well with the distractions in front of them while they eat. You will make up for lost eye-contact later when you cuddle him.
- In a carrier or wrap with his neck supported (this did the trick for our nanny with two of our babies).
- Sit with your legs bent and prop the baby up against your legs, facing you.
- Put the baby in the highchair. If the baby is old enough to sit assisted, try to put him in the highchair with either finger foods on the tray (if he’s 6 months or older) or a toy for distraction. This position works well if you are introducing a cup.
- Distract the baby with a soothing song, rhythmic gentle movement like rocking or swaying. I know my ABCs really well after having four kids!
IF ALL ELSE FAILS… please know that babies instinctively will NOT starve themselves! Instead you may find that he will nurse more at night (or whenever the breast is available).
Our oldest son never took a bottle. He drank a few ounces from a cup when I was at work, but then he made up for lost time at night – this is called “reverse cycle feeding” and it is perfectly healthy and OK for the baby to do. In short, instead of sleeping “through the night”, he simply nurses all night, stocks up for the day time when he then goes without much to eat. As long as the number of wet and dirty diapers in a 24 hour period is the same as before, there is nothing wrong with this behavior. (This is when I realized that co-sleeping was necessary for our family’s dynamics. I know it doesn’t work for everyone, but I got my sleep and cuddle time, and the baby got his milk and cuddle time as well, a win-win for us).
Introducing the bottle may not be a raging success the first day, or the second. If you calmly try these tips, you will eventually find what works for YOUR baby. Try to introduce the bottle well in advance of your first real time apart from the baby. When the big day comes, you can leave and confidently know that he will be OK. Remember to continue to have many nursing sessions and mommy-baby skin-to-skin time, so your supply isn’t affected by the bottle feedings.
Don’t miss the other articles about Breastfeeding. You may just find the answer to one of your questions, or find yourself nodding in agreement with my breastfeeding trials and triumphs.