There's nothing more intimate and bonding than breastfeeding your new baby. But whether you want to head back to work or back to bed, you'll need to wean your baby to bottle so that another caregiver can feed your baby. "Transitioning your baby from breast to a bottle isn't always easy," says Robin Larabee, MD, a pediatrician and owner of Sapphire Pediatrics in Denver, "but doesn't have to be difficult either." Here are her best tips to introduce bottle-feeding to your breastfed babe:
Start early. Get your baby on a bottle two to four weeks after you've given birth. "After you've established a solid milk supply and your baby has gotten latching on down pat, offer your baby a bottle," says Larabee. You don't want to wait until you have to go back to work or hire a babysitter to introduce a bottle. The sooner they learn how to feed from a bottle, the easier the transition will be. That said, if you're planning on going back to work and pumping, break out your pump now and learn how to use it. "Pick one time a day after you just breastfed your baby when you have some extra energy and pump some milk," says Larabee.
Give it to her when she's hungry. But not too hungry. Offer your baby a bottle about a half hour before her regular feeding so that she'll be hungry enough to try it. But don't offer her a bottle for the first time if she's ravenous and crying; you don't want her to become more frustrated than she already is.
Offer breast milk first. Instead of introducing your baby to two new things, put breast milk in the bottle at first so he's getting used to the bottle--not the bottle and formula, says Larabee.
Let Dad (or Grandma) try first. "Your baby might more easily accept a bottle from someone other than you," points out Larabee. When your baby knows you've got the real thing, she might not go for the bottle from you. In fact, it might be helpful for you to not even be in the room, as a baby can smell her mother's milk from several feet away.
Try different bottles and nipples. Some babies don't care what kind of bottle or nipple they use, but others are pickier. Larabee suggests starting simple and avoiding complicated feeding systems with straws and odd nipples. And when in doubt, try an old-school latex nipple, which tends to have a softer texture than silicone nipples. "Whenever I've ever dealt with a fussy baby who refuses a bottle, it's always the latex nipples that are successful," says Larabee.
Warm it up. "Breastfed babies are used to warm breast milk," says Larabee, so bring bottles to a lukewarm temperature but don't heat them in a microwave, which heats liquids unevenly and can cause hot spots that can burn baby's mouth. Always test liquids on the inside of your wrist before giving them to your baby.
Make it intimate. Be sure to hold your baby really close and cuddle him to simulate the intimacy of breastfeeding. Just because you're using a bottle doesn't mean you have make feeding time less social. It's another way to get extra cuddles and kisses in!