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How to Start Bottle Feeding Your Baby

Updated on April 4, 2007

Whether you need to go back to work and you want to supplement with formula or you just want to get to the gym once in a while, it may be time to add bottle feeding to your baby's schedule. For best results, you'll want to start out by making the expressed milk or formula as much like fresh breast milk as possible, in quality and delivery.

Some babies resist the bottle when given my the mother. It may confuse the baby or trigger the mother's breast let-down response. While it's good to have the person who'll be feeding the baby in your absence do the training, some mothers are able to get bottle feeding off to a good start. It's likely you'll have to experiment some.

Here are some tips to make the transition easier.

Getting Baby on the Bottle

Try different nipples. Nothing is going to be just like your breast and your baby may turn away from a synthetic nipple at first. Don't be discouraged. Keep trying and you are bound to find one she likes. Whatever the shape, try to find one with a single hole rather than many holes. If the milk or formula flows too easily from the bottle, the baby may not want to go back to the breast, therefore sabotaging your breastfeeding if you're trying to do both. On the other hand, some babies are so used to the slow flow of breast milk that they won't like the quicker flow and may refuse the bottle because of it. A too-quick flow may also cause some babies to choke.

When you first offer the bottle, squeeze a drop or two into the baby's mouth before you put the nipple in. Let her taste the milk so she knows what the new object is for. If you're trying to start formula, it often helps to mix expressed breast milk with the formula so that the change in taste is not so drastic. If your goal is to wean the baby from the breast completely, gradually add more and more formula to the mixture until she is used to the flavor.

Make sure the temperature is right. Testing a drop on the inside of the wrist is the tried and true method for a reason. You want milk or formula that is body temperature, just like fresh breast milk.

Don't let your baby get overly hungry when you're trying to teach the bottle. It's a new skill and must be learned like anything else. If the baby is famished, she may not put up with any extra effort to get her food. Although hunger is not so good for learning the bottle, drowsiness may actually help. Try giving the bottle when she is nodding off or just waking. You may be able to pass it off easier when your baby is less alert.

Getting your baby to try the bottle is most of the battle. Once she realizes that the good stuff comes from the bottle too, she should be less resistant.

Challenges to Bottle Feeding

If the baby is taking a bottle from you, but not anyone else, try leaving an item of your own clothing, which your caregiver can use to comfort the baby when trying to give the bottle. If she can smell you, she may be happier to take the bottle. Another way to ease this change is for you to hold the baby while someone else feeds her the bottle. This way she gets the idea in a non-threatening way. Also, have the other caregiver hold the baby just as you do, even holding the nipple of the bottle near the breast.

If you still have a terrible time, try finger feeding (see for a how-to) Once the baby gets used to taking milk from something other than the mother's breast, she may accept a bottle. You can also try using a sippy cup instead of a bottle.

You know your baby best. Trust your instincts, adapt your methods and don't give up. Save your energy for the next phase: getting her to eat her peas!

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  • MarkMAllen15 profile image

    MarkMAllen15 6 years ago

    This is helpful hub.

  • profile image

    Anonymous 7 years ago

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  • Lela Davidson profile image

    Lela Davidson 9 years ago from Bentonville, Arkansas

    Try letting someone else feed her. Also, mix the formula with breast milk so when she does taste it, it's not as unfamiliar. Don't worry about what will happen when you go back to work. Other child care providers will probably have a lot more luck feeding her. Remember, she won't starve - when she's hungry she'll take that bottle!

  • profile image

    eso 9 years ago

    hello there, i have a 4months old daughter,I have been trying to introduce formular to her but she seems not interested in the feeding bootle. She wont event taste or lash on the nipple instead she scream as if i cut her with a sharp object. Could you please advise me on what to do as i will be going back to work soon and she is spending too much time on my breast.

  • 2patricias profile image

    2patricias 9 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

    You may find that your baby will feed from a bottle if you are out of the room. (Obviously, another person has to be feeding the baby!) If baby can see/smell you, she may refuse the bottle as a poor substitute.