Breast to Bottle Transition: How to Bottle/Cup Feed a Breastfed Baby?

Introducing Bottle or Cup to Breastfed Baby

One of the key problems that hinder a baby’s transition from breastfeeding to bottle feeding is the fact that the mechanism powering them both is rather different. Breastfeeding involves creating a grip around the areola to press the nipple, which allows the milk to flow in smoothly and the baby swallows it up. Bottle feeding ends up with the baby taking more effort in suckling as he needs to reduce the milk flow to suit his own pace. Therefore, introducing the bottle needs to be a tricky endeavour.

How to Introduce Bottle Feeding to Your Breastfed Baby

To figure out how to bottle feed a breastfeeding baby here are certain steps and procedures you can adhere to:

  • Choose to introduce the bottle to your baby when he is hungry and not when it is the time to feed him. If you bring the bottle as per schedule, he will immediately notice the difference and choose to push it away. For a hungry baby, the presence of milk will take higher importance rather than the source, increasing the chances of him accepting the bottle.
  • Do your best to feed your baby via a bottle after making him sit upright. Many mothers continue to feed their little ones while they are lying down. Though that isn’t a problem, the chances of such babies developing ear infections and dental caries due to pools of milk staying collected in the mouth are higher. Give him support and hold him while he uses the bottle.
  • Try to keep the bottle feeding duration to last somewhere around 15 minutes or so, which should be closer to the usual time he takes when feeding on your breast. This could also make it necessary to choose an appropriate nipple size, which allows the milk flow rate to be as close as possible to your own. Any difference in it could either irritate the child or cause him to drink excessive milk before he realizes he has had enough.
  • Don’t push the bottle’s nipple in the mouth of your baby. It is necessary that the baby accepts the nipple by himself, just the way he accepts your breast. Start by stroking the nipple of the bottle against his lips to kick in his reflex of sucking on the bottle. The initial times might take a while before he gets used to the different texture of the artificial nipple, and realises that it also contains milk.
  • When a baby breastfeeds, he tends to take numerous breaks in between, just to catch some breath or to look around. Make sure the bottle feeding mimics that same behaviour as well. At times, babies can drink down a lot of milk in a single go, which can cause them to throw up when burping. Stay close to an actual breastfeeding session as much as you can.
  • Don’t force your little one to finish all the milk that’s present in the bottle. Most babies have a good idea of their satisfaction and will push away the bottle once they are done. Some may even fall asleep midway once their stomach is full and their nap kicks in. Don’t wake him up to finish the milk.
  • In the initial stages, start by switching your baby from one breast to another so that he doesn’t end up depending on one breast. Slowly, you can switch him from one breast to the bottle and then back, helping him get used to the sensation and trusting it fully.
  • Don’t mix breastmilk and formula milk in the bottle. The baby is getting used to the sensation of the new nipple, and a confusing taste of the milk can catch him off-guard. You can start off with breastmilk first and then replace it with formula as he accepts the bottle.

Introducing Bottle to Breastfed Baby

What to Do If Your Baby is Refusing to Feed on the Bottle

It is quite natural for a baby to be sceptical about a new entity being thrust into his mouth, especially when it feels nowhere close to the real breast. If your baby tends to refuse the bottle, here are a few ways you can make it easier for him.

  • Some babies might not accept the bottle when they are fully awake and aware of it. Choose a different time and see if it works for him. He might readily accept the bottle at night when is partially asleep or so.
  • At times, the temperature of the milk could also be a deal breaker for your child. While the milk from your breast is at the body temperature, the milk might taste better from the bottle if it is a tad warmer or even cold. Experiment with that as well and see if it works.
  • The position of feeding can be a little uncomfortable for the baby, causing him to reject the bottle. If sitting upright is getting difficult for you and the baby, you can start by using your lap and feeding him on his back. Else, if he likes a particular spot or a seat quite a lot, try starting him off from there. Gradually, you can return to the default feeding position.
  • Even if your baby does not drink from the bottle, let him play around with it and get used to the feeling. He might chew on the nipple or simply play with it. That would make him comfortable and more open to drinking milk from it.
  • The tastelessness of the artificial nipple might be weird for the little one. This can be countered easily by squeezing your breast and applying some breastmilk onto the bottle’s nipple. The familiar flavour will get him to start using the bottle immediately.
  • For a child that is already comfortable with a specific pacifier, opt for getting a bottle nipple made from the same material. Try warming the nipple up a bit to be closer to your body temperature as well.

What If Your Baby First Takes The Bottle and Now only Wants to Breastfeed?

Babies change their minds on the fly, which makes transitioning from breast to bottle more than a one-time thing. While you are rejoicing at the fact that your baby accepted the bottle right away, he might push it away after a few days and then choose only to breastfeed. The reason behind this could be a sudden realization that bottle feeding is absent from their mother’s breast and the touch of her skin and the body warmth. If this is the scenario for your child, try to sit with him for a few more days and using the bottle while he is next to you. At times, other situations such as an illness or other problems could cause him to reject the bottle. This would require a doctor to check him up and figure out the reason.

How to Teach Your Baby to Drink from A Cup?

Few families choose not to introduce the bottle at all. They rather prefer breastfeeding their child for a longer duration and then transitioning him directly to a cup. This has its advantages for sure. The chances of the baby getting confused with nipples are highly reduced. While most families continue to bottle feed their babies while they are lying down, opting for a cup can reduce chances of dental problems emerging early in life. Weaning the baby also gets a tad easier.

The transition to a cup requires more time than the bottle. Starting off with a sipper cup can be a stepping stone, allowing your baby to start sucking differently. Once that happens, you can make sure that at least one feed of the day is being rendered via a cup. As your little one grows up, he will get used to drinking from the cup right away.

Introducing Cup to Breastfed Baby

What If Your Baby Completely Refuses to Take Bottle?

Some parents do complain about their baby not taking bottle feed at all. While they might blame time or habit for it, some babies would simply refuse to accept a bottle at all. Keeping him hungry for long durations is also not a good way to make him take the bottle. Such babies are well-used to the sensation of a nipple and might be more accepting of a sippy cup instead.

What If You Decide to Wean Your Infant from The Breast?

Whether you are deciding to wean your baby early just by habit, or to make it easier for you to return to work, it is necessary to continue giving him breastmilk in other ways. Make sure you get your baby adapted to a bottle or a cup early on, to make the transition easier for you as well as for him.

Moving from breastfeeding to bottle feeding can make mothers feel like they are breaking the bond with their child. However, the bond is made by the mother’s love and her presence, which can continue in various ways that go beyond the act of breastfeeding.

Also Read: Signs That Baby is Getting Enough Breast Milk

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