Breastfeeding is the ultimate bonding experience between you and your new baby. Still, it is common for new mothers to wonder: When is the best time to start bottle feeding a breastfeeding infant?
Experts agree that many babies can start drinking breast milk from a bottle at around two to four weeks. The only exception is if the baby has breastfeeding difficulties, as the switch can make it even more challenging.
Knowing when to start breastfeeding may be only the beginning of your worries. Many new mothers also feel anxious about how to bottle feed a breastfeeding baby.
We want to help ease some of your concerns with this guide. Read on for our top tips on making a smooth transition from breastfeeding to bottle feeding an infant.
If you can, collect breast milk before it is time to start bottle feeding your baby. You can do this with a breast milk pump. Baby formula is another option to consider if you do not produce enough milk.
Before feeding, you must also prepare the milk and test it for flow. Learn more about getting ready to bottle feed your baby below.
Pumping Breast Milk for Baby Bottles
Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in the freezer for up to six months. That means you can start pumping as early as possible to make up for the fact that you will only be able to collect a small amount of breast milk each day.
Ideally, pump after one feeding a day. Again, you will likely only collect a small amount of milk. Some days, you may not have any milk left to express, especially if your baby is going through a growth spurt.
Testing Breast Milk Flow
If you want to save major headaches while bottle feeding your baby, always test the flow. The milk should slow slowly and bottle feeding should take about 15-20 minutes.
You can control flow with the right bottle nipple size. Smaller sizes typically come with a slower flow, while larger nipples will drip out faster, but this varies by brand. Purchase a few different options to find the right flow for your baby.
How to Bottle Feed a Breastfeeding Baby
Now that you understand how to prepare breast milk, it is time to learn how to bottle feed your baby. Here’s how to get started.
Warming the Bottle
The first step of bottle feeding your baby is to warm the bottle. If it is frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. You can also thaw the milk in warm water if you are in a rush.
Avoid using the microwave, as it may create hot spots that could burn your baby’s mouth. This is especially critical the first few times to ensure your bottle-fed infant has a positive experience.
If you are using baby formula, follow the directions on the label. Again, avoid heating the formula in the microwave as it can destroy nutrients essential for your growing baby’s health.
You know the breast milk or formula is ready when you can dab a few drops on your wrist, and the temperature is comfortable.
Getting into Position
The next step is to find a comfortable spot to sit while bottle feeding. Hold your baby close with a gentle yet firm grip and at a slight incline to enable easier burping.
Avoid bottle feeding your baby in bed when possible. Babies can become accustomed to this habit, making bedtimes more difficult once they wean off breast milk and formula.
Feeding Your Baby
To bottle feed your baby, angle the bottle up and put the nipple against their lips. Your baby should open their mouth and suck.
Allow your baby to feed until they stop sucking hard or when the bottle is half full, whichever happens first. Try burping them before resuming bottle feeding. If your baby refuses the bottle after burping, they may be full.
If your baby refuses the bottle on the first try, moving around while feeding or to a new room may help. Other strategies to try include using a cup and offering small sips or spooning milk into their mouth.
Never stress if your baby falls asleep or refuses the bottle without finishing. Your baby is already learning to recognize their hunger and fullness cues. Most babies stop drinking when they feel full.
Many babies fall asleep after bottle feeding. This will give you the chance to wash the bottle in soap and water or take a nap of your own.
Still Need Help With Bottle Feeding Baby?
In this guide on how to bottle feed a breastfeeding baby, we have offered tips and tricks to help you before, during, and after feeding. Just remember that every feeding journey is different and as unique as you and your baby.
If your baby still has trouble with bottle feeding, the Kentucky Breastfeeding Center experts can help. Schedule an in-person or telehealth appointment to have all your questions and concerns addressed.