Switching from breast to bottle

10 tips to help when switching from breast to bottle

If you enjoy breastfeeding very much, but you want your baby to be able to take a bottle Johanna Cusack lactation consultant explains how to ease switching from breast to bottle.

Switching from breast to bottle, or introducing a bottle

When introducing a bottle to a breastfed baby, it’s important to go slowly and make sure that it doesn’t become a battle of wills with both you and baby getting frustrated. Just like us, babies like meals to be relaxed, enjoyable and not forced.

Bottle feeding and breastfeeding are two quite different things, so it will be important to be patient and allow your baby time to learn how to drink from a bottle. Some babies seem to be able to switch between breast and bottle easily, while others seem to have no time for bottles at all! This is down to your baby’s own personality, and as you know your baby best, you can explore the way that works for you. For any baby, slowly and gradually is usually the way to go.

It isn’t true that there is a need to introduce bottles at a very early age to ‘get them used to it’. Every baby is unique and sometimes babies who take bottles early on go on to reject them later, and vice versa.

10 top tips to help you make the switch

Switching from breast to bottle

1. Sometimes, having someone other than the breastfeeding mother introduce the bottle helps. Babies often won’t take a bottle if they know that the ‘real thing’ is right there. If baby isn’t interested, the carer can stop trying for the moment, offering again a little while later. Babies are very smart, and if it is pushed too hard the baby’s reaction may become more and more strong against the bottle.

2. Let baby breastfeed first. It may be easier for your baby to accept the bottle when they’ve already had some milk and time at the breast. Try a bottle of about 10-20 ml of expressed breast milk after your baby has had a chance to breastfeed for a bit. Go slowly, and you can allow your baby time to get the feel of the teat without pressure to have a big feed. With gentle repetition your baby will be more and more familiar with the bottle and so more likely to take it.

3. Use a slow-flow teat. Breastfed babies are used to having to work a bit for milk, and if the teat is fast flowing baby may suck vigorously and gag, splutter or cry. Sometimes the cheapest teats have very small holes and are the best for slow flow!

4. Make sure to feed your baby when hungry, rather than to a schedule. Hunger signs are baby wriggling, licking or sucking motions, or putting hands up to mouth. Your baby under about six months will usually ask to feed in and around every two to three hours if fed expressed breastmilk, and maybe a bit longer with formula as it is slower to digest.

5. Only put small amounts of milk in a bottle. For a very small baby that can mean 10-20 ml, and for an older baby 30-40ml. That way if your baby doesn’t drink it all it isn’t going to waste! It’s hard work pumping milk, and formula is expensive. You can always offer another small portion until your baby is satisfied. Another lovely way to introduce the bottle is by using ‘paced bottle feeding’. Paced bottle feeding allows your baby to control the flow of milk, as they do when breastfeeding. Here’s how it works:

6. Instead of lying them on their back, let the baby sit up on the carer’s lap, resting in the crook of the arm.

7. Bottle is held level (teat half-filled with milk and half with air) and offered in the same way you would the breast. Gently tickling the top lip encourages baby to open wide and allows baby to take the teat into the mouth and suck.

8. Bottle is held level or very slightly tilted up (depending on flow) while the baby drinks, and when the baby pauses, you can tilt the bottle down (leaving teat in the mouth) to allow the baby to rest for a moment.

9. When the baby starts sucking again, you can raise the bottle up until the teat is half filled with milk again. Repeat until the baby has taken the full feed.

10. Sucking a partially empty teat doesn’t usually cause a problem when sitting up as the baby controls how much milk is taken. Problems with wind and colic often come from gulping down milk and air when lying on the back.

If your baby is newborn and breastfeeding well, it’s recommended to wait until about four to six weeks to introduce bottles. In the early weeks your baby needs to feed a lot, at least eights to12 times every 24 hours. All of this feeding is for a very good purpose! The more time your baby breastfeeds, the more milk is produced. You and your baby are learning all about breastfeeding and bottles can interfere with this process.

Switching from breast to bottle

What to do if your baby REALLY doesn’t like the bottle

If your very young baby is needing supplemental feeds, a cup, medicine syringe, or teaspoon can be used. Again, baby is held upright and fed slowly, taking in just a little milk at a time. Please contact your local breastfeeding support for guidelines about supplementing your baby safely. Here is a link to supports around Ireland https://www.breastfeeding.ie/Support-search/

If your baby is six months or older it might be possible to skip bottles altogether! Babies at this age are usually eating solids, learning to use a spoon and are also usually well able to manage either an ordinary or a sippy cup. It’s a good idea to only put a small amount of liquid into the cup so that any spills are easy to clean. This will give you much more flexibility as to how your baby takes liquids as the bottle is optional.

Johanna Riley Cusack is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant serving Clare and Limerick. She also teaches Clare Boyle’s Preparation for Breastfeeding classes in Limerick for expectant mums and their partners. Classes also run monthly in Cork and Dublin. Visit: http://breastfeedingconsultant.ie/index.php/services/breastfeeding-classes/ 

Facebook: Johanna Riley Cusack Lactation Consultant IBCLC

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Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.


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Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….