Bottle Feeding a Breastfed Baby: A Lactation Expert’s Top Tips

Infant Sleep

Breastfeeding has so many benefits, but it can definitely be overwhelming for Mom to be the only one who can feed her baby! Sometimes it may be nice, or even necessary, for breastfed babies to be bottle fed.  I am here to provide you with my top five tips on how to make bottle feeding a breastfed baby a smooth process.

Tip #1

The best time to introduce a bottle is around 3-4 weeks of age.  In the first two weeks, it is best if Mom can feed baby directly at the breast to help boost and regulate her milk supply.  If we add in lots of pumping and bottle feeding, the Mom may get an oversupply of breastmilk.  And on the flip side, if we wait until 5, 6, or more weeks to introduce the bottle, many babies will refuse the bottle altogether as they are so used to only the breast.

Some parents may be told to bottle feed due to weight gain issues in baby, and then it would be necessary to supplement breastfeeds with bottle feedings (per your baby’s doctor) earlier than this time frame of 3-4 weeks. But if all is well with weight gain and your newborn is meeting his/her diaper goals, then wait until this time of 3-4 weeks.

Tip #2

Have someone other than Mom offer the first bottles.  Some babies are  smart and will refuse the bottle from Mom, but will take it from another caregiver. Some babies even need Mom to be completely out of the house in order to take a bottle in the beginning!

Tip #3

Always use a slow flow nipple in the first few weeks, often up to the third month.  Some brands call this “size 0” or “size 1,” and others will use the term “slow flow.”  These types of artificial nipples have the milk come out very slowly, similar to the flow at the breast, so that when Mom comes home from work, baby will remain to be patient at the breast as he/she is not getting the milk faster through the bottle.  A wide-based nipple is also helpful, as it more resembles the breast compared to a very narrow artificial nipple/bottle type.

Tip #4

Always use paced bottle feeding. During paced bottle feeding, the baby is upright and has more control of the feeding.  You can also tip the nipple up to stop the flow every few sucks to help the baby take the milk more slowly. I always recommend showing this technique to your childcare provider so they are aware of this type of feeding.  This way of feeding baby bottles can truly make the biggest difference in keeping a baby nursing after a mom goes back to work full-time.

Tip #5

Repetition!  It may surprise you to know that most babies need frequent reminders on how to take a bottle.  After you have given that first bottle, continue to offer one at least once a week; some babies even need one every couple days in order to continue to take the bottle well.

About the author: Kimberly Kelk is a Registered Nurse and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Kimberly graduated with her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing and has worked as an RN in Labor & Delivery, Postpartum, and Special Care Nursery units in the hospital setting.   Kimberly currently supports nursing moms and babies meet their breastfeeding goals in an inpatient and outpatient hospital setting. 

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