Getting Baby Used to Bottle Feeding

Going back to work can be an emotional time especially if your baby is still refusing to bottle feed as your reporting date draws near. This is not only true for mothers who have to resume work but also if you want to run some errands or go to the salon. In order to get a few minutes/hours of ‘Mommy Time’ you might need to get your baby used to bottle feeding. It is advisable to start this training when your baby is 4+ weeks of age to avoid nipple confusion. You could try bottle feeding twice every week to get your baby used to the idea then every day (around the time you expect to be out of the house e.g. from 8 am to 6 pm depending on your office schedule) two weeks before you go back to work.

NIPPLE CONFUSION: Breastfeeding and bottle feeding require the baby to use different types of tongue and mouth movements in order to create suction for milk extraction. If a bottle is introduced early (even just once) a baby might get confused and be unable to effectively apply the right suction method to extract milk during breastfeeding. This could result in early weaning which is not recommended.

Here are a few tips on some strategies you could take to get your baby to bottle feed, it’s important to note that each baby is different and what might work or has worked for one baby (whether it’s yours or someone else’s) might not necessarily work for another therefore, be patient and take your time to get it right.

1) Get the right bottle and nipple  There are many types of bottles out there in the market, with some claiming to be ‘just like mothers breast’, this is usually not true since it is difficult to create an artificial bottle or nipple which is similar to the real thing. Therefore, do not spend thousands of Shillings on an expensive bottle or nipple unless you have to. None the less, you should make sure that the nipple is the right size (wide enough to allow the baby to comfortably cup the nipple), texture (soft enough for the baby to suckle form) and offers the right milk flow (a nipple which releases a lot of milk at once could overwhelm and/or choke the baby). The correct flow of milk should be one drop per second. You can test this out by turning the bottle upside down and checking the flow.

You could also warm the nipple up by pouring some warm water on it, as some babies might find this a little more comfortable and familiar. This also applies to the breast milk in the bottle since milk directly from the breast is usually warm. It is important to note, that this does not apply to all babies and some babies may like their milk warm in the beginning but as they get older they prefer to drink lukewarm milk. You can warm the milk by putting it in warm water or using the bottle warmers, however never warm your baby’s milk in boiling water or in the microwave as this could make it too hot or create hot pockets respectively which could potentially burn your baby.

2) Let someone else feed the baby
You might have heard some people say that babies can sense their mother’s presence or smell their mother’s milk. I am not 100% sure how true this is but one thing is for sure, your baby will most likely not bottle feed if you are in the room. Therefore, it’s important to get someone else to help you get your baby used to the idea of bottle feeding. This could be the Dad or anyone else who has had experience with bottle feeding like the Baby’s Grandmother, Aunt etc

Some people advise putting the baby in the same position as that during breastfeeding to make the feeling more familiar while other discourage against this as it might make the baby want to breast feed. Whichever method works for you be sure to put the baby in a slightly propped up position to prevent him or her form choking on the milk. You could try having them face you or face away from you to see which one has the best results.

It’s important to note, that you must NEVER leave the baby unattended while drinking milk from the bottle as this could lead to serious choking.

3) Be patient
Bottle feeding is a new experience for your baby and while it might seem simple enough to you to your baby who has just discovered a whole new world away from your womb this might be an adventure. Therefore, above everything else, be patient. Ensure that your baby is in a relaxed mood before you introduce the bottle of breast milk, some websites even advise breastfeeding first for a while to calm the baby. Afterwards squeeze some milk out from the bottle and rub it against their lips to let them know what it is. Then let them play around with the nipple and eventually they should begin to suckle.

We strongly discourage against force feeding or starving your baby into submission as this turns meal time into a battle field. If your baby refuse to bottle feed right away, that’s fine. Give him or her a break and try again later. However, don’t breastfeed right away as this might create the perception that if they hold off long enough they will get what they want.

4) Plan B
If all else fails, you can always go for plan B. This is the use of a cup or spoon or dropper to feed your baby. Believe it or not but some babies might be more receptive to drinking their expressed milk form a cup or spoon or dropper than from a bottle. If this is a good description of your baby then GREAT. Let him or her drink from the spoon or cup or dropper; you can always try bottle feeding again later but NEVER GIVE UP.

In addition, we always advise mothers to visit their baby’s paediatrician or nutritionist for some more one on one advice specific to their baby’s needs and situation since all babies are different.

My Personal Experience:
It was around two weeks before the end of my maternity leave and my daughter was still refusing to bottle feed. I hadn’t yet bought any new clothes which could fit my new weight and my hair really needed some touch up. To make matters worse, I had just gotten a new nanny and my daughter was still getting used to her. In a moment of desperation, my husband took one week off from work to help get my daughter used to the idea of bottle feeding. He would cradle her with the bottle of milk and walk from one end of the living room to the next as he sang to her. During this time I would leave the house or hide in the bedroom only stepping out briefly to peep and see how things were going. The first two days or so all my daughter did was play around with the bottle’s nipple. But it wasn’t long before she started to drink from the bottle. Within less than a week she had started bottle feeding comfortably. We taught this method to my Nanny and she tried it out successfully during the next week and eventually I was able to go back to work at ease knowing that all would be okay, and it was. 

Did you have to train your baby to bottle feed? If so, kindly share with us your experience below.

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