BabyCenter Guest Blogger
posted in Parenting
By Dr. Amy Dettori
As a new mom who was soon going back to work within a few weeks of having a baby, I struggled with so many questions around feeding. I wanted to ensure my baby had breast milk. When do I introduce the bottle? When do I start pumping? What kind of bottle or nipple should I use? Will my baby get confused and reject the bottle completely if I do it wrong? Is it even possible to “do it wrong?”
Now that I am a pediatrician, I realize that so many new moms have these same questions and I often spend time discussing these topics with them.
Introducing the bottle
First, when you introduce the bottle is dependent on how the baby breastfeeds initially: If you plan to continue breastfeeding outside of the newborn period, you should wait until breastfeeding is established. If you don’t intend to continue with breastfeeding, you can introduce the bottle as soon as you’d like.
Breastfeeding can sometimes be established in as little as a week, but some babies take longer to get it down. Sometimes the limiting factor in starting a bottle is when you are ready to pump if you do not wish to use formula. In general, it’s recommended to not begin pumping until your milk supply is established, which coincidentally is usually when breastfeeding is established. However, you may try pumping earlier if you are trying to increase your supply.
Regularity is key
As for the type of nipple on the bottle, there are so many options to choose from. In an ideal world, you would want a nipple that both mimics the natural shape of the breast while also promoting proper development of the baby’s mouth. But, regardless, if breastfeeding has been established, it’s unlikely your baby will experience nipple confusion. It is recommended that once you introduce the bottle you should continue to give the bottle periodically so that the baby remembers it and won’t reject it when you try to re-introduce it.
I hear a lot from parents who give a bottle early on and the baby does great, but then they don’t give the bottle again for a few weeks when mom goes back to work and then the baby has trouble taking it. If the bottle is continued periodically, this helps the baby remember it.
The pros of early bottle feeding
Finally, what are the benefits of introducing a bottle early, even if mom isn’t going back to work for several weeks? Being a mom is a selfless job, but sometimes it is important for moms to take care of themselves, for a healthy mom (both mentally and physically) leads to healthy babies.
If the baby learns to take the bottle early, this allows mom some extra freedom away from her baby. For example, she can go to the grocery store and know her baby will be fed at home if needed. This also allows dad a chance to participate in the care, aside from just changing diapers and holding. Feeding a new baby is such a special experience and this allows dad a chance to be a part of it. In addition, early bottle introduction allows mom and dad to have some alone adult time (such as a date night), which can be very important to help relieve the stress of having a new baby at home.
In the end, there is no “wrong” way to introduce the bottle, but doing so earlier rather than later after the baby is born can be beneficial for many reasons.
What’s your experience with introducing a bottle to your baby?
Read more feeding tips from BabyCenter:
Introducing your breastfed baby to a bottle or cup
Bottle feeding basics for formula-fed babies
Dr. Dettori started her education at Tulane University, earning a B.S. in Neuroscience and then continued on to Georgetown University for her medical training. After graduating from medical school, she served time in the United States Navy as a Pediatric Resident and then as a Flight Surgeon. Once her time in the Navy was complete, she returned to Pediatrics, and now lives in Dallas, TX with her husband and 2 children.