Bottle-feeding your breastfed baby

If you supplement your baby’s diet with bottle feeding, it’s preferable to use expressed (pumped) breast milk. Also, if you feed your baby commercial infant formula, it’s a good idea to express your milk each time you do so as not to interfere with milk production.

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 onto the breast properly, whereas this is not as important with a bottle.
  • Milk flows from your breast at different speeds, but flows at the same rate from a bottle.
  • 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 easily switch from breast to bottle and bottle to breast. For others, it’s more difficult.

When bottle feeding:

  • Opt for a slow-flow bottle nipple.
  • Hold your baby in a stable position with her head tilted back slightly.
  • Place the nipple against her upper lip and wait until she opens her mouth wide before giving her the bottle.
  • Hold the bottle horizontally to slow the flow of milk and respect your baby’s pace.
  • Observe your baby and take breaks as needed by tilting the bottle down or removing it from her mouth.

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.