Starting a breast-fed baby on the bottle

We are going to go back and talk about the first thing we teach our babies; how to feed.

As mothers, we decide very early on whether we want to breast feed or bottle feed, and then we are off!

However, for those who have chosen to breast feed, at some point in time you might need to introduce a bottle, especially if you would like to enjoy a date night or are returning to work.

No doubt you have plenty of advice and words of wisdom from friends, but I'm going to add a little more to the mix based on stories I have heard from clever mums and what I have seen.

Breast-fed babies do not handle a teat with a wide base well as they are not used to opening their mouths that wide and cheeky little bits of air can get in and make the baby a bit windy.

There is not one way that is going to work for every baby so try a varied approach to positioning.

Some babies will take the bottle from the breast feeding position, others might need to be held in front of you with their legs to your stomach, either with one hand under their head or lying on a pillow where they can still have eye contact with you. 

When placing the teat in the baby’s mouth make sure the lips are flanged just like when breast feeding.

With the hand that is holding the bottle you can use your middle finger under their chin to support the chin and mouth to hold the teat in place.

It's a tricky thing to do, but if you can, you can also use your fingers to gently push forward the cheeks to support the teat in the baby’s mouth while they get used to the unfamiliar teat that is not quite as flexible as a nipple. 

You can also tilt the bottle down so that the teat gently hits the roof of the baby’s mouth and gently stroke the roof to stimulate the baby to suck.

A different set of cheek muscles are used in sucking a bottle as opposed to suckling a breast, so, like any new experience, the baby may take some time to learn this new technique.

It can be frustrating if the baby does not want it, but please take it gently and it will happen.

First thing in the morning is a good time to practice because the baby will be at its brightest self and most likely hungry from having a few long stretches throughout the night.

If you are breast feeding, make sure you take your time to have a jolly good pump. There are thousands of bottles on the market. Find the right one for you and your baby.

I have had many recent positive experiences with the Minbie brand of bottle and teat that, to me, most resembles the curved shape of the nipple when in the mouth and is very flexible. Absolutely love this innovation! You can only buy them online.

Talk to your baby. I know that sounds a bit funny, but talk to him/her about the changes you are making and why and talk to them while introducing the bottle and give them beautiful words of reassurance that this is an okay change and they could learn to love it.

Sounds strange, but the sweet loving tone of your voice gives a baby reassurance. Besides, it's good practice when it comes to our children trying any new things, that we support them through it. 

Don't beat yourself up. If it doesn't work the first time, try, try again. Don't go out buying a million bottles yet.
Stick to the one bottle, try every day at the same time.

Like a lot of new things, consistency and persistence is the key.  Enjoy seeing the love your partner or someone else has in giving your baby a bottle, and know that you've given them that gift of intimacy. It's a beautiful moment. 

As our babies become less physically dependent on us for nutrition, you may experience funny feelings of grief that they don't need you as much anymore, or that you are a little redundant.

Please trust me, you're not! Your mothering role will change and evolve and as the physical dependency changes, so does the emotional aspect.

They will begin to reach for you for emotional security, safety, warmth, love, wisdom and strength. To see them reach for you and not just your boob is another of the pure bliss moments of mothering where nothing else feels nearly as important as raising a baby created from the best version of yourself.

For more information or assistance, please contact Summer Gwynne at Summer Breeze Consultancy  on 0408 842 046, email summer_breeze78@hotmail.com or visit www.sbconsultancy.com.au

- Summer Gwynne
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