Introducing a bottle to a breastfed baby
Breastfeeding mothers are often actively discouraged from offering their baby a bottle at all. They are told by a large number of healthcare professionals, which include health visitors and midwives, that giving a baby a bottle (whether it is expressed breast milk or formula) will confuse their baby and put her off the idea of breastfeeding. This can scare mothers, particularly first-time ones, who really want to be able to breastfeed successfully. The unfortunate thing is they then refrain from offering a bottle for so long, that when they eventually do at the age of four, five, six months or in some cases even later, their baby understandably refuses to take one at all.
My recommendation is that a breastfed baby is offered a bottle of EBM on a daily basis from the age of two to three weeks. Once breastfeeding is established, which usually takes between 7–14 days, and the mother has a good milk supply, a breastfed baby will never prefer a bottle rather than the breast, and will certainly never go off the breast completely. I am not just assuming this, which is what a lot of people do when telling new mothers that their baby will probably go off the breast if they give them a bottle, I know this to be true for a fact!
I have worked with hundreds of babies, and every single one of them that has been breastfed solely from day one, as well as my own three children, have all been given at least one (but usually two) bottles of either EBM or formula from the age of 7–14 days old – and not one of them has gone off breastfeeding at all!
In fact, many babies will happily take the breast immediately after a full bottle-feed as a form of comfort, just because they enjoy the closeness with their mummy.
You will instinctively know when your baby is ‘established on the breast.’ She will be latching on well each time without too much fuss and taking regular feeds. Once you get to this point, which usually happens by the time they are around 14 days old, then you can introduce a bottle.
Introducing a bottle of expressed milk means daddy can get involved in feeding times and also older siblings!
For your baby to accept the bottle happily without any fuss or problems with the transition then it needs to be done by the age of four weeks at the latest. For every week you leave it after this age your baby is less likely to be interested in the idea of taking milk from anything other than the breast. If you are happy with this scenario and would like to continue solely breastfeeding your baby without ever getting her established on to a bottle, that is fine. This post has been written for mothers who may want or need to get their babies established on to a bottle to make things more practical and less of a strain when they need to go back to work. It’s also helpful to know that a baby will happily take a bottle of milk if you want to leave your baby with a family member or close friend for a period of time that involves feeding.
I have had calls from countless mothers whose babies have been completely breastfed from day one and never been offered a bottle. The mother then reaches the stage where they are almost completely tied to their baby, because the only form of milk she will accept is directly from the breast. This means she can never go out and leave her baby with a family member or close friend for more than a couple of hours at a time, as she needs to be available for feeding.
From a practical point of view it is good to get your baby used to a bottle from an early age if you are planning on going back to work after a period of maternity leave at home. For the majority of families today, it is necessary for both the mother and father to work, even if only part-time hours for one parent.
A lot of parents are lulled into a false sense of security over how easy it is to get a baby to take a bottle later on when it becomes a necessity that they need to take one, due to work commitments etc. Unfortunately it is never that easy and she may fight you tooth and nail and refuse to feed from it every step of the way if you leave it too late.
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