As a new parent, you likely have specific ideas of how to feed your baby.
If you choose breastmilk, you’ll soon be ironing out the specifics: will you exclusively breastfeed, express milk and bottle feed, or choose a combination of the two?
With my first two babies, I planned to return to work shortly after their births. So it was a no-brainer that they would be need to be comfortable with both breastfeeding and having bottles.
Following the birth of my rainbow baby, I decided to stay home. I was planning to be home the majority of the time so, although bottles weren’t a necessity, I decided that flexibility was key. I wanted my baby as comfortable as possible with a bottle so I could rest-assured that he would transition easily if I needed to be away.
Therefore, I built bottle-feeding into our morning routine. Each morning, my little one gets a bottle to practice drinking from, to grow comfortable with, and to learn to hold.
For the Mama who is primarily breastfeeding, here are a few tips on how (and when) to give baby his first bottle.
4 Tips for a Breastfed Baby’s First Bottle
Tip 1: Timing
Introducing a bottle to your breastfed baby is time-sensitive. Introducing too early can lead to nipple confusion for baby. Waiting too long can lead to a baby who is nipple-preferenced.
Before the birth of our first baby, lactation consultants recommended introducing baby to a bottle between four and six weeks of age. We dutifully waited until week four to introduce a bottle and, with some convincing, our firstborn accepted it.
When our next baby came along, we asked our pediatrician her recommendations for when to start a bottle. She said that bottles could be introduced as soon as baby is consistently latching well, getting full feedings, and gaining weight. We’ve followed this advice for each subsequent baby and have been pleasantly surprised the bottle is immediately accepted at about two weeks of age.
Time of day is also something to consider for baby’s first bottle. Early in the day, when baby has just woken from a solid sleep and is hungry works well. The increased hunger will help baby persevere with this new, strange, method for getting mom’s milk.
Tip 2: Temperature
Breastfed babies are used to milk at body temperature and his first bottle will need to be warmed as well. To easily (and safely) warm breast milk, microwave a mug of water for about a minute then let the bottle rest in it for about five minutes, or until warm.
Remember: Breast milk should never be microwaved, as doing so may cause the antibodies to break down and can lead to uneven heating.
Tip 3: Technique
Much like breastfeeding, there are some techniques with bottle feeding. It’s important to use a bottle with a slow-flow nipple. This will make baby suck a bit harder to get milk and will discourage developing a lazy suck during future nursing.
You’ll also want to avoid shoving the bottle nipple right into baby’s mouth. Instead gently tickle baby’s lip, like you would when you’re breastfeeding, and encourage him to latch on and start sucking.
While breastfed babies don’t always have big burps, bottle fed ones will. Watch baby carefully during his first bottle for when he releases his latch or just seems squirmy. This is a tell-tale sign that baby needs to be burped.
Tip 4: Teamwork
You’ve been present for every milestone so far: her birthday, her first bath, and her first pictures. For baby’s first bottle though, this is a great time to let Dad take charge.
In order to avoid baby’s confusion of being with you but not nursing, having another person give the first bottle is key. It will ease the transition and make for a great moment of bonding with Dad.
Store up some breastmilk, grab a bottle, and get ready for baby to accomplish another big milestone right before your eyes!