How and When to Introduce a Bottle to your Breastfeeding Infant

As a mom of two boys, I know the benefit of having a few moments to myself. Sometimes I forget how necessary a yoga class, a nice walk, or even a relaxed trip to the mall is to repair a tired and worn down psyche. For a new mom, this personal time is even more precious since your baby is extremely dependent on you. While this can be magical and beautiful time, it is also very exhausting. We often forget to take care of ourselves.

Breastfeeding moms also have an even more difficult time finding 'me-time' because our darling babies not only need us for comfort, but also for nourishment. So, how do we find that balance between 'me-time' and meeting our babies needs? One of those ways is to have someone else give our babies their nourishment....expressed breastmilk in a bottle.

How do I get breastmilk for a bottle when I am exclusively breastfeeding?
Babies go through growth spurts around 2 weeks and 6 weeks of age. By three weeks, if breastfeeding is going well (baby is back to birth weight and gaining well, baby is peeing and pooping appropriately, and mom's breast tenderness has subsided), it is a good time to start pumping. Choose a time in the morning, when you are most full, and pump after your baby takes a full feeding. You probably won't get much (maybe 1/2oz), but you can put that in the fridge. Do this for a few days until you have about 2-2.5oz. Now you have a full amount for your baby's bottle. Once your baby takes the bottle, replace your breastfeeding session with a pumping session, so that you can keep up with your baby's feeding needs.

Which bottle should I use?
Once your baby feeds easily from breast and bottle, it really doesn't matter which bottle you use. Initially, you will want to choose a slow-flow nipple, to help your baby from becoming 'flow-preferenced.' Also, it is sometimes helpful to choose a bottle that comes with a nipple that looks most like your own anatomy. This way, your baby won't notice a huge difference.

When should I introduce a bottle?
The best time to introduce a bottle is between 3-5 weeks, in between your baby's growth spurts. This way the bottle-feeding shouldn't affect your milk supply.

How should I introduce a bottle?
First off, have someone other than you give the first few bottles. Babies can smell their moms and usually will not want to take those first few bottles from mom, since they would prefer to breastfeed. Have dad, grandma, anyone other than mom introduce the bottle. The goal is to do it in a breastfeeding-friendly manner. Have the bottle-feeder hold your baby in a somewhat upright position. Keep the bottle horizontal, so that your baby has to work for the milk, rather than letting it drip quickly into his/her mouth. This will help your baby from becoming 'flow-preferenced.' Help your baby to pause, as he/she would while breastfeeding, rather than guzzling the whole bottle down in 5 minutes.

Hopefully these techniques will help your baby to take a bottle, as frequently or infrequently as you desire. Now, go and get that pedicure you have been wanting for the past few months, but never had the time to get. You deserve it!