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 Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.


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.