To suck from a bottle or from your breasts is not the same. Here are the main differences:
- Your baby has to open her mouth wide to latch on to the breast, which is not the case with a bottle.
- Milk sucked from your breasts flows faster at first and when you have a let-down reflex, while milk from a bottle flows at a constant rate.
- Most bottles will drip into your baby’s mouth even when she doesn’t suck, which is not the case when she drinks from the breast.
Some babies will switch back and forth between breast and bottle without any trouble, while others find the transition more difficult. After being fed from the bottle several times, some babies don’t open their mouths as wide to take the breast or get frustrated when the milk doesn’t flow as fast.
Here are some tips to make the breast/bottle combination easier:
- Don’t introduce the bottle until breastfeeding and milk production have settled into a pattern (around 4 to 6 weeks).
- Wait until your baby opens her mouth wide before giving her the bottle.
- Opt for a slow-flow bottle nipple.
- Give your baby breast milk in a bottle rather than commercial infant formula. It will help you maintain a good milk supply.
Partial or mixed breastfeeding
Although exclusive breastfeeding is the best way to feed your baby, you may find yourself in a situation where partial breastfeeding is the only way you can continue nursing. This approach may allow you and your baby to enjoy breastfeeding longer. Some babies adapt well to this type of breastfeeding while others don’t.
Partial (or mixed) breastfeeding is when your baby drinks both breast milk and commercial infant formula every day.
Women may choose partial breastfeeding for a number of reasons, and for different periods of time. However, whatever your reason for choosing partial breastfeeding, you should be aware of the following:
- The more your baby nurses, the longer your milk production will last.
- If you feed your baby commercial infant formula every day, your milk production will drop because your breasts are less stimulated.
- Some babies gradually lose interest in breastfeeding when milk production drops.
- Some babies may prefer the bottle and lose interest in the breast, even if your milk supply is plentiful.
- Complete weaning may occur earlier than anticipated.
If your baby refuses the bottle
Some babies, regardless of their age, simply don’t like drinking from a bottle. This is perfectly normal; after all, bottle and breast are quite different. Occasionally, babies who have had no problem drinking from both breast and bottle may suddenly start refusing the bottle after a few months. As they grow, babies learn to express their preferences better, and some make their choice perfectly clear!
This can be a difficult situation for parents, especially if the mother feels trapped or obliged to breastfeed. Be patient, and don’t force your baby one way or the other. He is not likely to accept something new if he’s frustrated.
Here are a few tips to help ease the introduction of the bottle:
- Wait until your baby is in a good mood and not too hungry before making the change.
- Introduce the bottle for a milk “snack.” Your baby will probably drink very little to start with.
- Get the father to give the bottle. Discreetly leave the room at feeding time.
- Try with breast milk first, then with commercial infant formula.
- Try giving the bottle differently from the way you present the baby your breast. Change routines.
- Patience! If it doesn’t work the first time, try again a few days later.
If you have tried these tips and your baby still refuses to take the bottle, you can try giving him some milk in a little cup. He may be more willing to take it.
Express: Pump or squeeze milk from the mother’s breast.
Weaning: Gradual phasing out of breastfeeding.