When and how to bottle-feed your breastfed baby

You’ve decided to breastfeed, but you may be wondering how to bottle-feed your baby without disrupting…everything.

When and how to bottle-feed your breastfed baby

Written by: Jessica Diamond, MPH, RDN

You’ve decided to breastfeed, but you may be wondering how to bottle-feed your baby without disrupting…everything. Some moms will be excited for the change because it means more freedom and more sleep (and who doesn’t want more sleep?!). Other moms will be hesitant to add something new to their routine, especially if they’re worried about the bottle causing “nipple confusion” or discouraging their baby from breastfeeding altogether. We’re here to tell you that it’s important to introduce a bottle, but timing and strategy are everything. It’s really simple when you break it down! 

  1. Introduce the bottle some time between 2-4 weeks old. It’s best to wait to introduce a bottle once your milk supply is established and your baby is successfully latched and breastfeeding. You don’t want to wait too long (longer than 6 weeks) because you run the risk of your baby rejecting the bottle. We’ve found that some time between 2-4 weeks is the sweet spot! 
  1. Once you start, stay consistent. This means giving your baby the bottle 3-4 times each week. You want to give them the bottle only once or twice per day when fully awake during the day so that they get used to the artificial nipple but don’t get “nipple confusion” (i.e., they don’t get so used to an artificial nipple that they begin to prefer it over the breast). Using a rubber nipple requires a different mouth movement than breastfeeding, so it is possible for them to lose the skill of breastfeeding if you overdo the bottle-feeding.

You also want to avoid giving your baby the bottle at 4 weeks old, seeing how they like it, and then waiting to give them the bottle again for another few weeks (or months). We often hear of parents giving their baby the bottle at 3 weeks old and then not giving them the bottle again until it’s time to go back to work…and then the baby refuses the bottle! Consistency from the get-go will help you avoid this.  

  1. Use paced bottle-feeding. Paced bottle-feeding can help any baby, but it’s especially important for breastfed babies because this style of bottle-feeding closely mimics breastfeeding so that your baby doesn’t get confused and then begin to prefer the bottle over the breast. 

Here’s how you do it: Have someone besides the breastfeeding parent give the baby the bottle. This will help your baby get comfortable being fed by other caregivers and is a great way to involve your partner, family member, or nanny. Then sit your baby in an upright position, offer the bottle, and wait for them to open their mouth like they do when they breastfeed. Moving slowly, tilt the bottle upwards to let the milk flow out and then move the bottle back to a horizontal position so that no milk comes out. Repeat this until your baby shows signs that they are done (e.g., they turn their head away from the bottle, get easily distracted and don’t seem interested in eating, or cry after you give them more milk).   

  1. Make sure to pump when your baby is scheduled to have their bottle so you keep your milk supply up and stay consistent with their demand.

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