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When & How to Introduce a Bottle

Believe it or not, a major question I get asked as a lactation counselor is, “How do I get my baby to take a bottle!”

Yes, as soon as breastfeeding gets easier and you are feeling confident, have built a supply and feel ready to step into the world (maybe go shopping or sleep a little longer, or get a haircut) and desire to offer your baby a bottle; they can go on strike!!

Breastfed babies LOVE the breast! It smells good, is warm and after all that hard work, with a full belly, the breast is the perfect pillow to rest your weary head on and take a good long nap. When we have all these creature comforts why in the heck would they want to take a hard, cold and un-snuggly bottle! Hence, the bottle strike!

First off, if you ever want to incorporate a bottle do it sooner rather than later!

The best time to introduce a bottle is anywhere between 4-6 weeks of life and if your breastfeeding relationship is smooth sailing at this time. Anywhere between 4-6 weeks is the perfect time to start to have daddy/partner do a night feed. This is the best break for mom and will allow her the extra sleep she desperately needs!

In addition, babies at this time, are more apt to accept and adjust well to an occasional bottle. Once you establish an occasional bottle continue this practice so that baby can easily go back and forth between breast and bottle.

If we have passed this window and there is a struggle to get baby to take a bottle follow these tips:

  • Often times a baby will refuse to take a bottle from the nursing mother as the breast is so near, they can smell it! It can be too confusing for the baby and frustrating for the mother to work this out. Mom may even have to leave the room all together. So, enlist a partner or other care provider to offer the bottle feed.

  • When you try the bottle feed ensure that your baby is not TOO hungry. Anticipate the feed, be prepared in advance and schedule the bottle feed at a time when baby is relaxed and calm, this will help them be more accepting of the bottle.

  • Also, you want to ensure that you angle the bottle to touch the roof of baby’s mouth. This can help trigger the suck reflex.

  • To encourage baby, it can be helpful to hold them like a breastfeeding mother; close to your body and turned in. You will also want to try to hold the bottle in a similar style like the breast.

  • Try giggling baby too as keeping them calm is key! It can help to sit on a bouncy ball too. Or, walk with baby. Such motion can distract, sooth and calm baby to acceptance of the bottle.

  • If baby resists cradling like nursing, try another position that is different than mother. The key is to try many things and don’t give up easily. You may even need to take them into a different space or outside, offer them distraction as you feed them.

  • Sometimes a calm sleepy baby will be less resistant too. Try a dream feed.

  • DON’T GIVE UP! If it becomes too much give it a day and try again! This is a new skill your baby is learning and it may take sometime.

I hope this help and if you are struggling we send you patience!! Feel free to contact us with any questions!


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