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Bottles and Breastfeeding

Breast is best, but breastmilk in a bottle is pretty awesome too

If you’re a brand new breastfeeder, you may be asking when you can or should introduce a bottle. Full disclosure, I’m a lactation lady who believes that it’s a good thing for a breastfed baby to take a bottle.

I have a few memories in my lactation career journey that stand out. One enduring memory was visiting a mama up on the surgical floor in the hospital who had just had emergency gallbladder surgery. She was the mama of an exclusively breastfed three-month-old baby girl. To make all this even more interesting, dramatic and heart wrenching, she had just taken her first trip alone with her baby to visit her mom.

Okay, let’s add these challenges up.

  • Stress number one – Traveling on a plane by yourself with your three-month-oldWe all know “those” looks you get when you board a plane with an infant.
    • We probably gave “those” looks before we had our own baby.
  • #2 – Being in a different environment where you don’t have all the baby comforts of home
    • It just isn’t humanly possible to take all the “stuff” you have for your baby.
    • Most of that “stuff” isn’t necessary, but it sure makes life more comfortable and convenient.
  • #3 – The pain of a gallbladder attack
    • I’ve never had one but I’ve heard they are pretty awful.
  • #4 – Needing surgery for said gallbladder attack
    • Enough said
  • #5 – Your baby will be in the sole care of a loving grandma, who she has never seen before two days ago.
  • #6- Your baby will have to get formula, which she has never had before because you weren’t planning on being separated from her.
  • #7 – Your baby is going to have to get a bottle, which she has never had before.

I’m super stressed just writing all that!

The mom was fine. The baby was fine. The baby took the bottle of formula just fine. I brought the mama a pump so she could supply her baby with her own milk.

But some babies don’t take bottles just fine. Some babies will not take a bottle even if you swing from the ceiling and spit wooden nickels.

Most babies will eventually take a bottle with repeated offers. Some need some coaxing and tricks. Best to find out which one yours is before you need her to take a bottle.

All this was a long way of saying that a breastfed baby who is willing to take a bottle allows not only for flexibility (date night, anyone?) but for emergencies.

I recommend offering a bottle when breastfeeding is well established.

I don’t give a specific age. I don’t believe that if you don’t do it by a specific time the door to that option is shut forever. The reality is some babies will refuse a bottle from very early on, and others will start taking them at an older age.

Can I just say, if your baby is an older age, just skip bottles altogether and use a cup. One less thing to wean from.

Breastfeeding takes a minimum of two weeks to get established. I say it is established when you have stopped thinking about all the details. You don’t have any pain in your nipples or breasts. Your baby is swallowing all the time and gaining tons of weight and having more diapers than you can count. Her feeding cues are second nature for you to recognize. You can latch easily without paying attention.

That is how I define breastfeeding as being well established.

Hint: Milk should not dribble out of a baby’s mouth like this.

Hint: Milk should not dribble out of a baby’s mouth like it is in this picture.

The first time you offer a bottle, just make it an appetizer. Offer 1/2-1 ounce, then finish the feeding at the breast. The reason for this is that is if your little one takes one look at that bottle, clamps his mouth shut and looks at you like you’ve maybe lost your mind, then you won’t be throwing away large amounts of your precious breastmilk.

If this was your baby’s response, continue to offer small amounts. If he happily took the bottle, next time you can do a full feeding in a bottle.

I often get asked which bottle is the best for a breastfed baby. I honestly don’t think there is one bottle that is best for all babies. That said, I do like this one, and it was also recommended to me by a speech therapist.

Good luck mamas! Let me know if there is a bottle you like. I would also love to hear about your experience of introducing a bottle. Leave it in the comments section.

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