Dr. Greene

Helpful Tips When Introducing the Bottle to Breastfed Babies

Question: Dr. Greene, I need your help.  My six-moth old baby is exclusively breastfed. I am headed back to work soon and need her to take my pumped breast milk from a bottle, but she’s having a hard time.. What do I do? By the way, I don’t want to stop breastfeeding, I just need her to take the bottle while I’m at work.

Dr. Greene: Breastfeeding is a wonderful gift to your daughter. Continuing to give her breast milk even when you can’t be with her all the time is a great gift as well, though it can be a challenge. I strongly encourage you to continue.

Here are some things you can do to help her get used to the bottle:
  1. Preparation.  You’ve likely got a store of pumped breastmilk by now, but you may not have a bottle that is designed to be closer to the nursing experience. Some bottles let the milk flow freely to baby. Some require a lot of suction. Try choosing one designed to require just the right amount of suction to initiate flow, such as BornFree with ActiveFlow.
  2. Proximity. It is typically easier to get a baby to take a bottle when mom (or as your daughter may think of you – the source of all goodness) is not in the same building.  Tip: leave your home when trying to introduce a bottle to a baby who has refused the bottle in the past.
  3. Familiarity. It’s best if someone baby already knows and trusts is offering the bottle. This could be dad or a grandparent or close friend, but introducing a totally new person into the equation at the same time as introducing a bottle may make things tougher.
  4. Duration.  Have your trusted partner start offering your baby a bottle long before she is expected to be hungry. Don’t try to coax – just put it at her lips so she knows what is there. If she doesn’t go for it, put the bottle away. Repeat the bottle offer every half hour or so. At first she won’t be hungry and will likely take a pass on the bottle. By an hour after her normal feeding time, she’ll likely be quite hungry, and may go for it. If she doesn’t take a bottle by then, Mom can come on back and feed normally.
  5. Determination. If at first you don’t succeed, try tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that. Typically the routine will become familiar and baby will relax into taking a bottle, allowing Mom to be gone longer.

I know this process feels hard and like it will never end.  But this phase will end all too soon. Soon she will no longer be interested in breastmilk and before you know it, she’ll be feeding herself and riding a bike.

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Dr. Greene

Dr. Greene is a practicing pediatrician, author, speaker, children’s health advocate, and father of four.

Dr. Levine

Dr. Alanna Levine is a New York based pediatrician and a mom of two children.