Most experts recommend against giving a bottle to your baby for the first several weeks after birth to ensure that a good nursing relationship is well established first. It is important that mom’s milk has come in fully and that baby is familiar with the nursing process. Most experts suggest giving a bottle to a baby after four to six weeks of successful breastfeeding. This should reduce the chances of nipple confusion, where the baby gets used to an artificial nipple and refuses the breast.
It is a good idea to feed the baby from a bottle in such a way to mimic breastfeeding. Hold the baby close to you as you feed her. Cuddling close makes baby feel secure. Switch sides halway through a feeding. If baby’s head on the left when you start, rotate baby so the second half of the meal has baby’s head on the right side. Rather than force the bottle nipple into baby’s mouth, let her gently pull it in by first teasing her lips with it.
Don’t force baby to finish a bottle just because you prepared x ounces of breastmilk. If baby seems satisfied and pulls away, take it as a hint and stop trying to feed her. When nursing, breastfed babies are in complete control and this should be imitated when bottle-feeding as well. By allowing baby to dictate how much milk she consumes you are ensuring that she gets an appropriate volume for her age and hunger level. An over-full belly can produce colic-like fussiness.
When Sophia was born, establishing a successful breastfeeding relationship was the most important thing to me. So I told all the hospital nurses not to give her any bottles or pacifiers. And when we came home from the hospital, she got no bottles for the first 5 weeks at least. Then we introduced a bottle here and there of pumped breastmilk – she took it well enough. And then we got lazy.
She got her next bottle when she was around 3 months old, and she flat out refused it. I’m talking about: full-on turn the other cheek, squeeze her lips shut, and start screaming as hard as she can! She wanted no part of it. So we had to work with her persistently to get her to take a bottle. Now at 5 months she takes one fine. Since I work from home, it was never a huge issue that she didn’t take a bottle well. But it did mean that I could not leave the house for more than 2 or 3 hours at a time, and that was tough. Especially when I’ve been home all day with a fussy, teething infant and wanted a little break. In a future post, I will write about what I did to help Sophia learn to take a bottle.