The best bottles for breastfeeding babies
Breastfeeding has many benefits for both baby and mom. But there may be times when you may want to incorporate bottle feeding into your baby’s life, whether it’s because you’re going back to work, want your partner to be able to feed the baby or even if you just need a break. Getting your baby to drink from a bottle can be stressful, but don’t panic. Here is what you need to know when transitioning to a bottle, along with which bottles are best for your breastfeeding baby.
When should you introduce the bottle to your baby?
There is no exact time says Wendy Wisner, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Wisner stresses that you should wait to introduce the bottle until your baby’s latch is pain-free and easy-to-accomplish.
“You want to make sure that your baby is nursing well and effectively,” she says.
Feeling confident as a nursing mother is key here, and that can take several weeks.
Pediatrician Dr. Jarret Patton says to make sure that you introduce the bottle a good one to two weeks before you intend to begin using it regularly.
“This will give both baby and mom time to adjust while having the additional security of knowing it works,” says Patton.
What are the best bottles for breastfeeding babies?
All babies are different and you may need to try several bottle options. The most important thing you can do is to “keep putting breast milk in the bottle,” says Dr. Patton. In other words, just keep trying. No one bottle is best for all babies, but there are certain features you should look for that will help a breastfeeding baby transition more easily.
Bottles with a wide nipple base: These bottles most closely resemble the shape of mom’s breast and encourage the baby to open her mouth wide just as she does during breastfeeding. A wide, flexible base will help your baby keep a similar latch to when she is on the breast and that will make it easier for her to transition back and forth between the two. The Comotomo Natural Feel is a popular wide base choice that is well-loved by breastfeeding moms for its ergonomic shape and its soft feel.
Bottles with a slow-flow nipple: It’s important to look for a slow-flow bottle, says Wisner.
“The breast requires babies to suck strongly to get the milk flowing, and if they get used to the passive fast flow of the bottle nipple, it can cause them to be lazy on the breast,” she says.
For this reason, Wisner also recommends continuing to use a slower-flow nipple even as your baby gets older. Many breastfeeding moms love the Munchkin Latch, a slow-flow option that mimics breastfeeding with its accordian-style nipple, which stretches like the breast, helping your baby latch properly. Some babies respond better to a long nipple and some to a shorter one, but a slow-flow nipple is your best bet either way since the milk flow will more closely resemble the flow from the breast.
Bottles with proper venting for gassy babies: Even with a slow-flow nipple, babies get milk more quickly while bottle feeding, and a breastfed baby might experience more gas-related issues when feeding from the bottle. For babies with sensitive tummies, you should look for a bottle with proper venting. This means that the bottles are designed to prevent air from going into your baby’s mouth as he drinks. The Playtex Baby Ventaire is designed specifically for babies who go back and forth between the bottle and the breast. There is no vent in the nipple itself, which means no air should find its way into your baby’s stomach.
Bottles made from safe materials: Many moms worry about the materials bottles are made from and want to make sure that their baby isn’t ingesting anything she shouldn’t be. Luckily, there are a lot of safe options available. If you’re concerned about chemicals leaking into heated milk, glass bottles are a good choice. If the thought of glass near your baby makes you nervous, you can find BPA-free plastic versions of the same bottles. The Philips Natural Avent bottles are available in both glass and BPA-free plastic and are a favorite of many lactation consultants because of their specially designed slow-flow nipple and wide base.
Things to try if your baby won’t take the bottle
You may have tried every type imaginable and your baby still won’t take the bottle. Change can be frustrating for both mom and baby, but there are things you can do to make the transition go more smoothly.
1. Make sure your baby is sitting upright during feedings
For some babies, the speed of bottle feeding can simply be too much, even with a slow-flow nipple. Putting your baby in an upright position can help you control how quickly the milk is getting from the bottle to your baby.
2. Try paced bottle feeding
During breastfeeding, your baby has a great deal of control over when they take a break from drinking. Bottle feeding is much more passive, and your baby might get overwhelmed if she can’t catch her breath. Paced bottle feeding is when you take a short break every 20 to 30 seconds by removing the bottle gently to stop the flow of milk before beginning again. If you’re going to be switching back and forth between bottle and breast, paced bottle feeding can be important.
“Paced bottle feeding can help to ensure that bottle feeding is more like breastfeeding and that baby doesn't begin to prefer it,” Wisner says.
3. Trigger the rooting reflex
Lightly touch your baby’s cheek when you first put the bottle in his mouth. This will trigger his rooting reflex and encourage him to latch onto the bottle.
4. Have someone else give your baby the bottle
Your baby may not be willing to accept a bottle from mom at first because she associates you with breastfeeding. Having a partner or someone else try to bottle feed in the beginning helps some babies get over that transition hump.
5. Take a break
If you and your baby are both getting frustrated, take a break. Do something else for five or 10 minutes, then come back and try again. Introducing a bottle is a new experience for both of you, and it may take time, experimentation and patience before you settle into your new routine.
Read next: Breastfeeding 101