For mums who breastfed their babies exclusively, introducing bottles your your baby might be a challenge. Your baby has gotten used to one method of feeding- ‘succulent breasts’. If you find yourself in this situation, you will need a lot of patience.
Some babies will switch over with no problem and just start sucking on the bottle. However, most babies will love breastfeeding so much they won’t want to change and they’ll put up a fight.
The best advice anyone can give you on making the switch – however you do it – is do it slowly and start out well before you absolutely need to have made the change. So if you’re going back to work when your baby is six months old, start switching over to the bottle in a very gentle way around a month beforehand.
Tips to make switching easier
- Make the switch firstly while still using expressed milk. If you switch from breast to a bottle with formula milk, you’re making the change even bigger. Make the changes as small as you can
- Use expressed milk that you’ve just expressed, so it’s warm. If you take it out of the fridge and warm it up, it won’t taste quite the same
- Pop some of the warm expressed milk over the teat of the bottle, so your baby can smell it there
- Try using a teat as a dummy for a little while before you switch, so your baby is used to it
- Try a bottle feed when your baby is getting hungry but not frantic for a feed. If they’re stressed already, giving them a bottle may make them even more stressed
- You can even try doing a little bottle feed after you’ve done a breastfeed – say every evening, so your baby slowly gets used to the idea
- Try different types of teats – a fast-flow one might make them gag with too much milk, so a slow-flow one might be less overwhelming for them
- After around six to nine months, if they’re really resisting the bottle, you can also try a sippy cup – your baby may be happier going straight onto that. They need to have good coordination to manage this. Start with one that has a soft and flexible spout, rather than a hard plastic one
- Some people find asking someone else to do the first bottle feeds can help – such as your baby’s dad or grandparent. The idea is that if they can smell Mum (and her breasts) the baby may wonder why they aren’t getting breastfed. If you try this approach, make sure your baby doesn’t miss out on any of the skin-to-skin contact, eye contact or cuddles they’d have with you
Don’t be surprised if it takes a long time – this is really normal. Also, don’t be surprised if your baby doesn’t feed so well if someone other than you is feeding her through the day. She may then want to reconnect with you in the evenings and may go through a phase of wanting more feeds through the night. While it may be exhausting for you, this is a really normal reaction from a baby, so try to make the change well before you have to be on good form through the day at work.