When my boy held the bottle and guzzled down the milk all by himself at 10 months old, I was the happiest parent around. Many will not understand why I was so elated at such a simple motion that maybe their 4 month old could do. But they do not know what I had gone through to finally get him to drink from the bottle. Here are some tips that we learnt the hard way. I got the tips and info from reading and from speaking to people like pediatricians and lactation consultants. Hope it will benefit you when you are weaning from the breast to the bottle.
Tip Number 1 – Introduce the bottle as early as possible (But preferably after 3-4 weeks old)
Being new parents, we want the baby to latch directly as this would stimulate more milk production. Latching directly proves also to be an excellent way of bonding between mother and baby. We are afraid of something we have heard called “nipple confusion” and we do not want our babies to go through that. What if he chose the bottle instead of our nipple? Really, there is no worry here. If you have 3 hourly feeds which is 8 feeds a day, one bottle feed a day will not cause confusion. Babies are smart. They will ALWAYS prefer the real thing. So, start bottle feeding as early as when the baby is a couple of weeks old.
Tip Number 2 – Maintain at least 1 bottle feed a day
At 3 weeks old, while the confinement nanny was still at our place, we decided to introduce the bottle so we could learn how to feed. We tried once a day for a few days and he slowly got the hang of sucking from the bottle. After that, we gave him the bottle once in a few days and he seemed ok with it. And then we made the mistake of stopping the bottle, thinking it was easier to latch so we didn’t have to wash and sterilise bottles. That was the biggest mistake ever. Thinking back, we could have started on the 4th week, but we shouldn’t have stopped the 1 feed a day or maybe even 1 feed every couple of days. Big mistake!
Tip Number 3 – Choose a bottle and stick to it
We started having problems introducing the bottle again at 4 months old. I had to go back to work soon and decided that we should try the bottle again and that was when it was rejected totally. After all, he had enjoyed “the real thing” for 4 months now. Why should he change to an artificial one? We panicked and thought it was the bottle’s fault. We bought all sorts of different brands, silicon and latex teats, different hole sizes, wide/narrow neck etc. All did not work of course. He wasn’t rejecting the brand/type of bottle. He just did not want a bottle! In the end, a lactation consultant recommended that we stick to one bottle. We decided to choose NUK latex wide neck bottle as we felt latex teats were softer as compared to silicon ones. So at least there was some consistency now. It’s either mummy or this particular bottle.
Tip Number 4 – Feed before baby is hungry
Many aunties told me to starve baby until he is super hungry, and he will take the bottle easily. That doesn’t work. For my boy, he will scream and cry and demand to latch. And I found the trick. Try to introduce the bottle to him when he is not so hungry yet. Maybe if the feeds are every 3-hourly, try to introduce the bottle at the 2.5-hour mark. Then, he is more open to try new things and not panic when he is already hungry and he is not getting what he wants.
Tip Number 5 – Do not latch immediately after baby rejects the bottle
This is when the parent panics. When they cry so badly and even choke on the milk from the bottle, we want to solve the problem and we know by latching, the problem will be solved instantly. We cannot do this as the baby will associate it with rejection of the bottle. If reject, he cries, mummy will latch. After we stop trying to feed with the bottle, carry and distract the baby for about 5-10 minutes first before latching.
Tip Number 6 – Try using warmed freshly expressed breast milk(ebm)
Many times when we try to feed using the bottle, we introduce frozen ebm or formula milk (fm) too. We should only change one thing at a time. You might ask what’s the different between frozen ebm and freshly expressed ebm. Well, try tasting it yourself. Freshly expressed ebm is sweet and frozen one is not. Why warm it up after expressing? We want to make it as similar as possible to when they are latching directly. The only thing we are changing is the bottle.
Tip Number 7 – Use a warm teat
When we try to feed using an artificial bottle teat, it is a lot cooler than our nipple due to our body temperature. You can just dip it in warm water before feeding to warm it up a bit. This would make it more easily acceptable by the baby.
Tip Number 8 – Stay far away
Get your hubby to feed, and stay far away. Do not be tempted to peek or ask if he needs help. Go for a massage or go shopping or have a nice long shower. Baby can smell you even if you are in the next room.
Tip Number 9 – Distractions help
When the baby realises that while drinking, he can also be looking at other things and this cannot be done while latching, he will drink more readily. Distract the baby by showing him things that he likes. Eg bringing baby near the window to show him the birds in the sky, to your wall where you have pasted some family photos, etc. They are distracted easily and might then take to the bottle.
Tip Number 10 – Try and try and try and try again
Do not give up trying. It might take you one month, or two. But you will get there one day if you persist. We took 1 month before he took 20ml of milk. When he was sent to infant care, the teachers managed to feed him more. It was only 5 months later when he was really good at guzzling the bottle and that was the best sight I have ever seen with my eyes. If you do not have to send your child to infant care and are able to get other child-caring options like parents or parents in law or the helper, remember that bottle-feeding is not the only thing you can do. You can always use a syringe (buy the 10/25ml syringe and not the 3ml ones), cup, or even straw when the baby is older. All I can say is bottle feeding is definitely more convenient and fast and they will tend to drink more. So hang in there! For more tips, or any questions, do drop me an email or comment below. If you have more tips to share from your experience, do comment below too!