Breastfeeding is truly a force of nature. It can deepen the bond between baby + mama for years to come; it can cut the risk of SIDS in half; it even has its own emoji and its own Sesame Street episode.
But mamas, listen up—we'd be lying if we told you that breastfeeding isn't also hard. It can be stressful, and when it doesn't go as planned, it can make you feel like a total failure, even though so many moms struggle with breastfeeding.
Getting a breastfed baby to take a bottle is one of the most prevalent breastfeeding issues among new moms according to Jamie Owens, RN and Board Certified Lactation Consultant. If your baby is refusing the bottle, don't panic, mamas—you're not alone. And we can help.
From breast to bottle: what's the deal?
As a breastfeeding mom, you may want to incorporate bottles for a variety of reasons. Maybe you need to be away from baby for a while, or want your partner to get more involved with feedings, or baby is struggling a bit on the breast. Whatever the reason, incorporating bottles into baby's feeding routine is totally healthy and, when done correctly, according to Owens, won't undermine your baby's ability to breastfeed effectively.
Sounds easy, right? [Insert the sound of the universe laughing here ??]
Unfortunately, getting a breastfed baby to take a bottle can be one heck of a feat for lots of mamas, and it's not all that surprising as to why, says Owens. Bottle nipples are not mama's nipples, and babies can sense and feel the obvious difference.
The way a baby takes in milk also differs; in order to get milk out of a breast, a baby needs to suck in a completely different way than if she were taking milk from a bottle. And then there's flow, which, according to Owens, is the most important difference of all. Milk from a bottle flows faster and more easily than it does from a breast, and once a baby gets used to the faster flow of a bottle, it's often frustrating to then switch back and forth.
So what's a mama to do?
Timing is everything: find the sweet spot to introduce the bottle
According to many lactation consultants, timing is key when it comes to introducing a bottle to a breastfed baby. If breastfeeding is going well and baby (and mama) are thriving, Owens recommends waiting two weeks before beginning to pump. (It usually takes about this time to establish your supply and get baby back to her birth weight.)
Between two and four weeks is the ideal time to introduce a breastfed baby to a bottle.
Start too soon and it can interfere with production; but, wait too long and baby is much more likely to reject the bottle. Start with no more than a few ounces of lukewarm-to-warm breast milk—you don't want to waste that liquid gold!—and make sure baby is calm (and hungry) when you try.
Use a bottle with a slow flow nipple, and be sure to burp baby a few times throughout the feeding. And be consistent; aim for at least one bottle a week at minimum, if not more.
Sounds great, but my baby is still refusing the bottle...now what do I do?
Relax, take a few deep breaths, and try some of these tips below from our lactation consultant:
- Make sure you're using a slow flow nipple and a breastfeeding-friendly bottle. (Lots more on that below.)
- Have your partner give the bottle. Newborns may be new, but they're smarter than we think, and they're more likely to accept a bottle from your partner rather than from mom.
- Trigger the rooting reflex. Place the bottle in baby's mouth and use your finger to lightly touch her cheek; this will stimulate her rooting reflex, making it more likely that she'll latch on.
- Try a bait-and-switch. If baby likes a pacifier, let her suck for a bit then pop it out and quickly replace it with the bottle; she may be none the wiser.
- Experiment with a dream feed. Baby may be more likely to accept the bottle if they're hungry + not fully awake.
- Don't push it. A screaming baby is tough to feed whether from the breast or bottle. If everyone's getting frustrated, take a break and come back in five minutes to try again.
Which bottle do I choose?
Decisions, decisions. Not to worry, mama—we did the research so you don't have to. There are lots of factors to consider when choosing a bottle: price; material; ease of cleaning (or lack thereof); nipple options and anti-colic features, just to name a few.
Keeping all of these in mind, here are our picks for the top eight bottles for breastfed babies. And remember, finding the right bottle for you + baby often involves a lot of trial and error, so we don't recommend buying in bulk until you learn what you like!
Philips Avent Natural
The Philips Avent Natural bottle got the top pick from our lactation consultant because of the specially designed slow flow nipple. The unique petal design is soft and flexible, but won't collapse, and the bottle features a built-in anti-colic venting system that's easy to clean and reduces air intake. The Natural bottle is available in both BPA-free plastic and glass.
There are so many things to love about the Comotomo bottle. It's made from silicone so it's soft and squishy, mimicking mom's breast and making it easy for little ones to grab and hold. The super wide neck design means it's simple and easy to clean—no bottle brush needed, you can just stick your hand right in there!
It's microwave, dishwasher, and sterilizer-safe, and it's got two built-in anti-colic vents with no extra parts. (Another win in the "easy to clean" department.) Win, win, and win.
The most realistic looking bottle on the market, the Mimijumi features a large flesh-colored nipple that very closely mimics the real thing and helps to ease the transition between bottle and breast.
The standout here is the nipple color—it's available in lighter and darker skin tones, which we think is pure genius. (Not to mention longgg overdue.) We also love the no flow nipple, which means baby gets to completely control the flow of milk.
Dr. Brown's Options
Dr. Brown's wide-neck design has long been a favorite of breastfed babies, but the multi-part venting system—although super effective in aiding digestion and preventing colic + gas—was less than a dream to clean. (So. Many. Parts.)
Enter the new Options series, the first convertible bottle that can be used with or without the vent. Use the vent during the newborn months when baby's digestive system isn't as mature, then remove it as baby gets older and his feeding is more developed.
If there were awards for the most beautiful bottle, this one might take the cake—but the best part is that it's beautiful and functional. The GentleBottle is fairly similar to the Comotomo in terms of look, feel, and material, but also boasts an off-centered nipple that mimics the breast and some claim offers a better + easier angle for feeding. And have we mentioned the gorgeous colors? Love.
Designed exclusively for breastfed baby, the Calma has several great features that make it an ideal choice for a baby who is both breast and bottle-fed. Similar to the Mimijumi and the Philips Avent, you can flip the Calma upside-down and the milk won't drip out—meaning that your baby needs to apply a certain level of vacuum suction in order to get milk out, just like during breastfeeding. This allows baby to feed, pause, and breathe, as well as to better self-regulate milk intake, which are all also part of the breastfeeding experience.
NUK Simply Natural
One of the most affordable bottles on our list, the NUK Simply Natural's claim to fame is the multiple nipple holes that disperse milk similarly to a mother's breast. Depending on flow speed, nipples come with between three to nine holes, but you'll want to use the three-hole choice for most breastfed little ones.
The wide neck and flexible nipple both promote a good latch, and there aren't a ton of parts to clean here so bottle washing isn't too tedious.
Joovy Boob PPSU
The Joovy Boob rounds out our list of the best bottles for all those breastfed babes giving their parents a run for their money in the feeding department ?
PPSU refers to polyphenylsulfone, a super tough material that can withstand over 1,000 cycles of steam sterilization. PPSU doesn't stain and doesn't absorb odors, and the idea is that these bottles will last twice as long so you'll have to purchase fewer bottles in the long run—which is an idea we can definitely get behind. We love the ease of cleaning here, as well as the venting system and breastfeeding-friendly nipple design
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