Bottle Feeding Guide

Changing from Breast to Bottle Feeding

Changing a baby from breast to bottle feeding can be rather straightforward, or a little more complex.  It all comes down to the baby’s willingness to transition from sucking on the mother’s nipple to sucking on a bottle teat.

Some babies will happily suck on whatever is offered to them – the breast, a bottle, a dummy or even a sippy cup.  Others are more discriminatory about what they attach their mouth to and only associate feeding with the breast. This of course makes things more challenging for mothers who, for all sorts of reasons, want their baby to feed from a bottle.

When a baby has had early problems latching and sucking effectively at the breast, they may show the same behaviour when transitioning to a bottle. Sucking on the breast, in comparison with sucking on a bottle teat, requires different sucking actions. Like any new skill, it can take time and practice for a baby to learn what’s involved.

How Should I Change from Breast to Bottle Feeding?

Your baby will have problems changing from breast to bottle feeding. Lots of times mothers are surprised by the ease of which their baby becomes accustomed to bottle feeding. Conversely, don’t assume it will be an easy process.

When planning for a return to work and stopping breastfeeding, some mothers leave it to the week before to introduce their baby to a bottle. If their baby is less-than-willing, it can create stress for everyone involved.

  • Start early – up to a month before returning to work isn’t too premature to begin the process of offering a bottle.
  • Speak with your baby’s caregivers about your plans.
  • If you’re intending to express your breast milk at work, have a conversation with your manager about lactation breaks and private, clean places to express.

Ten Reasons for Changing from Breast to Bottle Feeding

  1. Some parents are just keen for their baby to drink from a bottle as well as breastfeed. They like the idea that if necessary, their baby will take a bottle.
  2. For time away from each other. When a mother and her baby are apart, bottle feeding is the only real alternative for babies who are too young to drink from a cup.
  3. When a mother needs to take medication which is contraindicated with breastfeeding. If medication is only short term, one option is to express, discard the breast milk, and when the medication is stopped, resume breastfeeding.
  4. When a mother and/or her baby are sick and breastfeeding is not possible.
  5. A mother’s return to work when expressing is not possible.
  6. When a baby self- weans and rejects the breast. This can be very disappointing for mothers who may be keen to continue to breastfeed for longer. If a baby has decided they don’t want to breastfeed, it can be very hard to persuade them to continue.
  7. When a mother decides she’s had enough of breastfeeding. There doesn’t need to be a clear reason, it’s enough to just decide they don’t want to do it anymore. For reasons of personal freedom, some mothers just want to stop.
  8. Planning for another baby. Whilst it’s possible to conceive and continue breastfeeding during pregnancy, some women don’t ovulate when they’re lactating.
  9. Inadequate milk supply. Sometimes, despite doing all she can, a mother’s breast milk supply isn’t enough to meet her baby’s needs.
  10. Painful breastfeeding. Some women experience cracked and painful nipples, recurrent mastitis, thrush and ongoing pain when breastfeeding. Pain is a strong motivator to quit.

What Can Help My Baby Accept a Bottle?

  • Offer expressed breast milk to start with in a bottle, rather than formula. Often it’s the taste of the formula which babies reject rather than the teat.
  • Offer your baby a bottle in their early months of life, once breastfeeding is well established. Some babies, if they’re already accustomed to sucking from a bottle, will be more receptive than babies who are first exposed to a bottle when older.
  • Ask another trusted adult to feed your baby the bottle. Breastfed babies strongly associate their mother with feeding and may accept the bottle more readily for someone else.
  • Offer bottle feeds when your baby is hungry and due for a breastfeed. Hunger is a powerful motivator for babies to feed.
  • Offer the bottle when your baby is calm, relaxed and receptive. Offer the bottle in a quiet room without distraction and noise.
  • If you’re offering formula, make sure it’s comfortably warm and made up correctly. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for preparation.
  • Position your baby in your arms as if you are going to breastfeed them. Hold your baby in a similar position and consider your own comfort as well.

If Your Baby Rejects the Bottle...

  • You could consider temporarily stopping all breastfeeds if you’re offering both breast and bottle. For 24 hours or longer, express your breasts to maintain lactation. Then, when your baby is accepting the bottle, you could reintroduce breastfeeds, but only if you’re planning on combined feeding.
  • Keep trying, be patient and calm as your baby transitions to their new way of feeding.
  • Start a feed by breastfeeding and when your baby’s initial hunger has been satisfied, take the nipple from their mouth and offer them the bottle.
  • Offer your baby their pacifier (dummy), when they’re calm, remove the pacifier and replace it with the teat.
  • Try a different formula to see if your baby prefers one taste over another. Avoid spending too much money and buying every formula on the market; one or two will be enough for a trial.
  • Stop offering the bottle for a few days and then try again. Sometimes babies get into the habit of rejecting the bottle and need some time to forget.

What Shouldn't I Do When Changing From Breast to Bottle Feeding?

  • Force your baby to feed. Be sensitive to your baby’s feeding cues and follow their lead when it comes to feeding. If they’re pushing the bottle away, crying, closing their mouth firmly and turning their head from the bottle, these are all clear signs of rejection.
  • Offer your baby the bottle too frequently. Aim for around 3-4 hours between bottle offerings so your baby is more likely to be hungry and willing to drink.
  • Mix expressed breast milk and formula in the same bottle. Expressed breast milk is more nutritionally complete and wastage best avoided.
  • Spend a lot of money on different bottles and teats in the hope that one may work better than the other. Stick with one bottle and one teat and look for your baby’s hunger signs to encourage them to feed.
  • Put honey, sugar or any other sweet product on the teat or in the milk.
  • Put rice cereal or any other solid food in the milk. Keep solids and milk separate.