July 6, 2022

Bottle-feeding A Breastfed Baby

Katie Hilton, MAM Midwife

By Katie Hilton – MAM Expert Midwife & Health Visitor

Katie Hilton is a dual qualified nurse, midwife and health visitor and the expert adviser for MAM UK. She is also a mu’ma herself to one cheeky little man.

When To Introduce A Bottle

One of the most common concerns of parents who are breastfeeding is when to introduce a bottle to their baby. Every baby is, of course, different and what works for one baby might not work for another, but the general rule is to wait until your full milk supply is established and when breastfeeding is going well. Occasionally waiting much longer after the first 6-8 weeks can result in a baby who refuses to take a bottle. 

How Often Should I offer a Bottle?

How often you offer a bottle to your baby will very much depend on your lifestyle and feeding wishes, but try to at least offer at least once a day to ensure your baby stays familiar with the techniques required when feeding from a bottle, this will also help you to maintain a great breastfeeding relationship. Remember, if little one receives a bottle you will need to pump to maintain your milk supply. 

Choosing the Right Bottle

So, we’ve established when you’re going to start offering your baby a bottle, so how exactly should you feed your breastfed baby a bottle? It all starts with the selection of your bottle and more specifically the teat. When a baby feeds from the breast they use a unique movement called peristaltic tongue movement, this basically means they used their tongue to massage the underside of the nipple, which results in the milk ejection reflex. Traditionally when a baby was to feed from a bottle they would use a completely different style of feeding, which explains why babies would become confused and refuse to switch between breast and bottle. Because of this reason, it’s really important that you select a teat which will allow your baby to use the exact same technique as feeding at the breast. The MAM bottles feature a SkinSoftTM flexible teat with a 94% acceptance rate and encourages your baby to feed in the same way as at the breast.

mam easy start anti-colic bottle

Tips for a Successful Bottle feed

It’s important to remember that when a baby feeds at the breast they are an active participant in feeding, so try to keep little one involved. Feed using a paced responsive technique, which involves sitting your baby up in an almost upright position, hold the bottle in a horizontal position with milk just filling the teat. By feeding with the bottle in this position gravity does not then play a part in the feed and it encourages your baby to work for the feed. 

What to Look For During a Feed

Always start with a slow flow teat as this will require your baby to use some effort to get the milk out of the bottle and promote an ongoing breastfeeding relationship. When your baby starts to take the feed, tip the bottle up just enough so that milk is completely covering the teat. Allow your baby to pace the feed to their own comfort level. Give your baby a break every now and again by removing the bottle or tipping it up to the roof of the mouth. Watch your baby’s cues for a comfortable versus a stressful feed. If little one is gulping milk with wide-open eyes and splayed fingers, the milk may be flowing too quickly. Lower the end of the bottle while it is still in your baby’s mouth to slow the milk flow. Your baby should be using jaw-dropping sucks, similar to breastfeeding and should not have milk leaking from the lips.

How long should a Bottle Feed Take?

A bottle-feed should take around about 15-20 minutes. If your baby finishes the bottle in 5-10 minutes it is likely because the flow of milk through the teat is too fast. If the feed takes 30-45 minutes, it is likely the opposite in that the flow is too slow. If you experience either of these change to either a slower or a faster flow of teat. Do not coax your baby to finish the bottle. Watch your baby’s cues (slower suckles, releasing teat from his mouth, falling asleep) for indications that he has finished his feed, do not continue past this point.

What if my baby rejects the bottle?

Some babies will refuse to take a bottle if they know mum is around. To overcome this have your partner, friend or family member offer the bottle. You may need to step out of the room or leave the house during a bottle-feed. This is because your baby associates you with feeding and might become distressed when offered something other than the breast. Likewise, some babies prefer to be offered a feed from mum, regardless of whether it’s breast or bottle. If you are successful in bottle-feeding, try switching mid feed so both you and your partner can offer the bottle together.

MAM Glass bottles

Other tips to try if your baby refuses the bottle include trying to hold your baby in different feeding positions including holding your baby more upright in a semi-reclining position, holding and cuddling your baby close similar to when breastfeeding, holding your baby on their back leaning on your chest and looking outward and placing your baby in a bouncy seat when offering the bottle, use distraction techniques during feeding such as walking around the house when feeding, taking baby outside, singing songs whilst feeding

If You Have Any Questions About Introducing a Bottle to Your Baby Or Anything Else Why Not Join our parenting support group