Over the years of helping parents with their children I have often been called out to homes where babies have refused to take the bottle when Mum decides for some reason or another that it’s time to wean. Many mothers wean when returning to work. Others just want to be able to offer a bottle when they are going out and leaving their child with a guardian or babysitter.
When visiting a mother who is breastfeeding a newborn, I suggest they introduce a bottle early so that the child will be able to adapt to both the breast and the bottle. Suckling from the breast and sucking from a bottle are totally different actions. I do not believe in ‘nipple confusion’ but be warned that if a bottle is used to top up your baby after a breastfeed then baby will look for the easier option and may begin to refuse the breast as it takes more effort the a bottle. Supplementary feeding can also cause problems with milk supply. Therefore I would recommend to give only 20-50 mls of EBM (expressed breast milk) twice or three times a week from birth. This will not interfere with milk supply and is not sufficient to encourage lazy feeding or a bottle preference - it is just enough for the baby to remember how to suck on a bottle. I would not suggest that you replace a breastfeed with a bottle feed until the baby is at least six week old, the reason being that this can cause your supply to decrease or worse mastitis from skipping a feed. The best feed to replace is the late evening feed when you supply will be at it's lowest.
Once the baby is over six weeks old you may like to introduce one full bottle feed once or twice a week.
What bottles do we recommend?
If you have a low supply I suggest using the Medela Special Needs or Haberman Feeder which has a variable flow teat. If you are just introducing a bottle for convenience then be aware that some of the more expensive brands are not always the best for newborns, as their teats can be too fast. Try finding a teat that regulates the flow, such as a Y or X cut teat. This will help the baby to work for his feed, and not just have it drip into his mouth, making him lazy and possibly causing breast refusal. Click here to purchase or read more about the Special Needs Feeder.
Tips: Choose a long, straight shank teat, as it is better for the development of the mouth muscles. Try the Medela, new Avent Natural teats or Pigeon Peristaltic teats.
Remember: EBM can be kept for 48 hours in the fridge, and up to 2 months if frozen correctly. Once offered, milk must be discarded after one hour. Wash equipment and bottles in hot soapy water.
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