True story: Nipples are amazing! No need to be shy about it; your breastfeeding kid certainly isn’t. But their nipple zeal could lead to some trouble if you’re making a transition from the real thing to the bottle-topping facsimile and trying to figure out how to start bottle feeding.
Transitioning your kid to bottle feeding is like every other transition in an infant’s life: There are plenty of ways to go about it, but no right way. Starting between week 2-4 is common practice. Not only does it let you get in on some of that killer mealtime bonding with baby, it gives your partner a chance to “just not” for awhile. But before you turn into a bottle pusher, there are a few things to consider.
Consider limiting bottle feeding to once a day or less — 3 to 4 times a week total — to maintain the breastfeeding relationship. If the bottle starts looking too good, the kid may struggle with breastfeeding. Then you’ll have to cut the bottle feedings even more, or stop for a full month altogether to get them back to loving the boob as much as you do.
Come feeding time, make sure you get Junior situated right. Hold them nearly upright, bottle horizontal so the nipple is just filled with milk, then keep the flow steady; not too fast or slow. A feeding should take around 20 minutes. Look for signs of a stressful feeding. If your kid’s making the face you make when you’re unprepared to shotgun a beer — gasping, gulping, splayed fingers, “worried brow” (technical Lactation Consultant term) — the flow is most likely too fast.
The goal is for bottle feeding to be an experience that’s as close as possible to breastfeeding. That means making sure the kid is comfortable, has the entire nipple in their mouth (remember, kids: root, seek, open wide … and latch!), and is working just a bit for the milk.
There are times when bottle refusal might occur with either you or your partner. If the kid refuses the bottle simply because mom and her perfectly fine set of working breasts happen to be in the room (can’t blame ’em), your partner may just need to step out and let you take over. In that event, try to ignore the screeching tires and yelps of joy as she speeds away. On the flip side, mom might be the only one who can offer the bottle because she is most associated with feeding.
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The important thing is that both you and your partner are involved in the process to make it a shared, supportive experience. If things don’t seem to be going well, take a breath. Don’t ever try to force bottle feeding. The last thing you want is for it to become a stressful. Need more advice? Here are a few more techniques and product recommendations from some ladies who may be the only people on earth more jazzed about nipples than your kid.