When you are breastfeeding, there may be times when you might still need to give your baby a bottle. Perhaps you are returning to work, or you're simply going out for the evening and need to leave your baby with some milk whilst you are away. Whatever your reason, if your child has been exclusively breastfed, you may encounter some resistance from your child when trying to get them to drink from a bottle and this can make it difficult for you (the one with the boobs) to be away from your child.
Photo: Marianna, Wikimedia Commons
If you're having struggles with getting your child to take a bottle of expressed milk or formula, then consider trying the following tips:
1) Get someone else to bottle feed your baby.
Often, as you are the one breastfeeding your baby, getting them to then take a bottle from you, can be tricky business as they may dislike the notion of taking the bottle, knowing that you are normally the provider of a comforting breastfeed. Instead, ask your partner, or friend to try to bottle feed your baby, and don't hover near by. Try to create some distance between yourself and your baby, as they have a strong sense of knowing when you nearby, and may refuse a bottle if they think there's a chance of a breastfeed.
2) Try a completely different posture to your normal breastfeed. A different position for a bottle feed might help your baby to disconnect to what is normal, and this might give way to them trying the bottle.
3) Get the right bottle/teat combo. Babies can be fussy things, and if they're used to breastfeeding, then the likelyhood is that they've also gotten used to a particular milk flow and also the shape of your nipple. On this basis, you may need to try out a few different bottles and teats to get the right milk flow and experience for your child. Don't go spending a fortune on lots of different models, but maybe ask your friends for recommendations and do your research. Some bottles are specifically created to mimic breastfeeding and have softer teats. It's also worth noting, that different teats will allow for a different speed of flow, so you may need to experiment to find the most suitable one.
4) What's in the bottle, is also equally important. If your child has been exclusively breastfed for some time, then they may not immediately take to the taste of formula if this is what you've been trying them on. Instead, and if you are able to, see if they'll take some expressed milk. Some particularly fussy babies will also tell the difference between freshly expressed milk and expressed milk that has been frozen, so for best results when you're desperately trying to get them onto a bottle, go for some freshly expressed milk.
5) Timing is everything, and you might want to try using a bottle in the morning or at another time of the day when a good night sleep is at stake. The night time feed is such an important one, that it's not ideally the feed to choose to go to battle on. This can often lead to a very cranky and tired baby and a restless night. Instead, choose a feed where you've got time to try a few times if need be. Finally, if trying the bottle descends into battle territory (which it can do), you might want to set a time limit on it, so you don't turn meal times into a total fiasco. A well meaning friend, once advised me to 'wait it out' and they'll take a bottle when they are hungry and I tried this. My child, despite being hungry, demonstrated that they could go far far longer than I was willing to take this particular battle, and starving my child was just something I couldn't stomach.
6) Try a cup. If your baby refuses to take a bottle and you've tried all the tricks and tips to no avail, then you could try giving cup feeding a try. There's some great tips here by the Australian Breastfeeding Association.
7) Talk to your health visitor about other alternative ways to feed your child if your absence (as a breastfeeding mother) is going to be a short one. A friend whose child adamantly refused a bottle, but who had to go away for a whole morning, was recently advised by their health nurse to try syringe feeding. Whilst not the ideal situation for anyone, this did mean that the breastfeeding mother was able to attend her appointment, and the baby didn't go hungry.
As your child gets older they will move onto solid foods and start to drink water through sippy cups and kids bottles. Once they start to accept fluids in this manner, they'll likely be able to take expressed breast milk or formula more readily through these means too.
What tricks and tips did you use when trying to get your little one to accept a bottle?