How and when to introduce the bottle

How and when to introduce the bottle?

Whether you stop breastfeeding your baby in six months or a year or even later, you will have to choose a time to introduce your baby to a bottle and solid foods. So, what is the right time to introduce the bottle?

The Indian Pediatrics Academy, Infant and Young Child Feeding Guidelines formulated by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (Food and Nutrition Board) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months since birth, followed by continued breastfeeding up to two years of the baby's age complemented by additional nutritious foods.

Breastfeeding can be a wonderful experience for young mothers. However, it is not always possible or preferable for all women. But depending on certain situations and the baby's temperament, introducing a bottle can be challenging at times. Some babies accept the change readily while others need convincing and loving guidance.

Why is it important to introduce your baby to bottle feeding?

Before we go into how to introduce a bottle of milk to a baby, it is important to know why this is essential. When it comes to comparing breast milk and bottle milk, no doubt the mother’s milk is better and healthier for the baby. But there are also many advantages of bottle feeding. The biggest advantage of bottle feeding is that a mother can closely monitor her baby’s nutrition intake. It has been seen that bottle-fed babies eat other foods less. This is because milk powder is enriched with protein, which keeps the baby full and satiated longer.

It can also be advantageous for mothers who are unable to breastfeed due to various reasons including paucity of time, ill health, insufficient milk production, etc. Breastfeeding mothers also have to restrict their diet and refrain from consuming things like caffeine, alcohol, and spices. However, a bottle can be a convenient solution to overcome all these hurdles.

Lactating mothers also experience hormonal changes and other discomforts like sore nipples and leaky breasts. Bottle feeding will certainly take care of these issues.

A stepwise guide to introduce bottle milk to breastfeeding babies

A breastfed baby refusing the bottle is a very common. Do not be discouraged. Here is an easy guide for lactating mothers.

  1. Deciding on the right time to switch: For many, it might be just a cakewalk. Sometimes, it has been found that introducing a bottle at 2 weeks has also worked out well. However, this might be difficult when a mother is forced by circumstances and the baby is not ready. Many mothers switch to bottle feed before they join back work or go back to resuming their career. In any case, it is always better to consult a doctor before you take the plunge.
  2. Have a plan: Transition is rarely as easy as it may sound. For many mothers, stopping breastfeeding can irritate their breasts and even cause sickness as the milk is no longer used and the ducts get clogged. Such a situation can lead to a bacterial breast infection called mastitis. It should be noted that a baby gets all their nutrients from the mother's milk and, therefore, parents need to ensure that the bottle milk supplies the required nutrients. Six months is considered the right time to slowly introduce bottle feeding.
  3. The transition: The change to bottle feeding is not always easy and hence you need to plan well. The best way forward is starting early but intermittently. Try introducing a bottle to a breastfed baby at 4 weeks and do it slowly. Do it by initially giving them bottle two or three times a week. The baby will take a few sessions to get introduced to the change.
  4. Adjust conveniently: Many mothers, even after introducing a bottle, choose to breastfeed occasionally and especially during bedtime. Experts say that it is a good move as it enhances closeness, relaxes the body, and continues the mother-baby bond which was established with complete breastfeeding in the early stages.

Remember that not all babies are the same; some are fussy and might take more time to accept the change. The main purpose of transition is to introduce your baby to solid foods gently, without harming their health or nutrition. Make the change as smooth as possible and keep breastfeeding until they accept the bottle without any fuss. After that, you can decide when to completely stop breastfeeding.