We all know what we know, right? So let me be clear – this post is strictly regarding babies that have been exclusively breastfed and are being asked to drink from a bottle for the first time. Because, to an exclusively breastfed baby, bottles are, simply put – weird.
So it should come to no surprise that when offered for the first time our babies will, sometimes, freak the F out.
Less than ideal breast milk.
Sure, it’s still breast milk, but anything that’s not straight from the source is just not the same.
Less than ideal nipple.
Plastic nipple vs momma’s nipple. Huge difference for babies mouth and something they will definitely have to get used to.
Less than ideal temperature.
Bottle warmers or a warm water bottle bath is no match for the perfectly temped 98.6 degree “nursie”.
Less than ideal distance from momma.
Usually asking a baby to take a bottle is also coupled with the request to have their meal with someone else besides momma. So not only is the milk all weird but some newbie (with clothes on!!) is trying to force them to eat it. It’s just all wrong.
Less than ideal.. well everything.
You get the idea. It’s just odd.
Getting Maddy to drink a bottle for the first time was actually not too bad! We waited 6 weeks like I was recommended by my Lactation Consultant and she took it like a champ! I had read horror stories of babies screaming at the thought of the bottle but she was amazing! I thought, “Thank God! Something will be easy, finally!”
Well, not to much of my surprise, that was just a fluke. As it turns out there is a little milestone that happens right around 8 weeks that allows our little angles to be able to DECIDE if they’d like to drink the lovely bottle we took so much care and love to make for them. Before this time, it’s simply instinct. Food=survival, rather than, “Hmmm, this is weird, so NOPE!”
Back to Work
When Maddy was 11 weeks, it came time to return to work, and I was in panic mode. The time was coming and there was no stopping it. And my Maddy simply HATED bottles. My support group assured me she “wouldn’t starve” and not to worry too much. But the first day back she drank less than a single ounce of milk. Literally. I was lucky that I was able to visit on lunch and she at least breastfed for one session, but I was certain she’d pass out from not eating pretty much all day.
This went on for two weeks.
Making Up for Lost Time
During the first two weeks she simply didn’t drink much at all from her bottles. She hated them. She was at my parents’ one week and my husband’s parents’ the second. We thought they’d enjoy some bonding time before we put her in daycare full time. They absolutely did, but I wasn’t the only one stressed that she wouldn’t eat. She just screamed because she was hungry and because she missed me and because she hated the bottles. It was awful. Not gonna lie. So when I came home from work each evening she was glued to me. She nursed from the second I walked in the door to the second I left in the morning. Not even an exaggeration (cosleeping saved us). She reverse cycled and nursed all night long, and in the evening she cluster fed. I was exhausted.
We went through about nine (?) different bottle types. Mam, Tommee Tippee, Dr. Brown, Avent, etc. They were all plastic so of course so nothing was to her liking. It didn’t matter the shape, size, no-gas-making-thingymabobs – they were all just WRONG.
Finally, one day, a coworker told a similar story about her friend’s baby. She said they tried about six different kinds and finally landed on a winner.
Playtex Baby Nurser with Drop in Liner. And the best part was that they offered a variety pack of different shaped nipples. A crooked one, even, to mimic the way a breast is positioned on a babe’s cheek while laying on one side. It’s genius.
Three weeks after I went back to work, my baby finally figured out which bottle she liked. The daycare was nice and let her try a different nipple from the variety pack each day and would report back with the results of each. The winner was the nipple named “breast like shape” – go figure!
Daycare For The Win
It should also be mentioned that week three was also the first week she was in the care of the daycare. Maddy’s grandparents obviously did an amazing job caring for her and loved the time they got to spend with her, but bottle refusal is something the daycare providers in the infant classroom see everyday and they know tricks to get a little one to take their bottles.
Tricks for Bottles
As it turned out, Maddy didn’t want to look at the person feeding her. Remember that weirdness of someone else (with clothes on!!) trying to feed her? Well she just wasn’t having it being reminded that momma wasn’t there while she had her meal. So they faced her outwards looking at something different while eating. Be it another baby, a toy or just a different direction, it helped her.
On days when she was still adamant about not taking it, they would sneak it in while she was sleeping. They said the swallow reflex would automatically start once the milk hit her mouth (I asked if they were trying to drown my baby when they told me this. They must’ve LOVED me!)
Finally after finding the right bottle and some tricks for the right technique she was off on her own, drinking her bottles, never needing me again.
Just kidding, she was still my magnet the second I walked in the door and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Important Notes on Bottle Feeding
It’s important to note some things that will help your little one be successful at bottle feeding but also have it remain compatible with your nursing relationship.
1. Slow Flow Nipples Only – If your baby is not having to work for their milk when receiving a bottle they will be more frustrated when they have to work or suck harder at the breast. To avoid this, remember to always use the slow flow nipples. This goes for any age they receive a bottle.
Our breast flow does not change, so neither should the flow of their bottles.
2. Practice Paced Bottle Feeding – Just like with the slow flow nipples, your goal with bottle feeding is to mimic the breast as much as possible. Paced bottle feeding ensures that your baby won’t have the milk just dropped into their mouth, rather they have to work at it, just like at the breast. Below is a very helpful video to demonstrate Paced Bottle Feeding. And again, this should be practiced any time your baby receives a bottle.
3. How much, how often? General rule of thumb is 1-1.5oz per hour that you are away. Additionally, this is also how much your pumping output should be. If the care provider is asking for more and making you think you have a supply problem, be sure to, before you go into panic mode, ask them if they are paced Bottle Feeding. Chances are, they are not and that’s why your little one is drinking too much.
4. Pumping– when you’re at work you should pump, ideally, when your baby would normally eat. If that’s every half hour when you’re together, that’s not gonna happen, so instead, do every three hours. For me my output was about 3-4oz each pumping session which was every three hours at 9am, noon, and 3pm. I nursed at 6am before leaving for work and 6pm when I got home. At the end of the day I made my bottles from the milk I pumped. I had about 12oz of milk to put into three 4oz bottles for her to drink at 9am, noon, and 3pm. If I pumped a little more I’d top off her bottles a little bit or I’d put it in a bag for the freezer stash. It was very rare that I’d have extra. My supply was pretty consistent and I never had extra, but I was never too low either so I’m definitely not complaining.
Pro tip- if your baby will tolerate it, give the bottles cold. If the bottles are warmed up they have to be discarded after a certain number of hours (per state regulations). But if they are cold they can be kept and you can use them the next day. I did this and any time I had extra at the end of the day I would put it in bags for the freezer and use my fresh milk from that day for my next day’s bottles.
You Got This
It may take some time for your little one to get the hang of this weird thing called a bottle, but more often than not, they figure it out eventually.
And eventually, they’ll be eating Cheerios off the minivan floor and you’ll think, “Whatev.. thanks for cleaning!”