How Can I Best Introduce a Bottle of Expressed Milk to My Breastfed Baby

Many women come home from the hospital wanting to exclusively breastfeed and do what is best for their baby. They eagerly start breastfeeding and getting used to the routine.

Many breastfeeding mums have been looking forward to this experience and want to continue breastfeeding exclusively as long as possible...

However, when mums get a few months into life with their baby, perhaps they would like the option of going out for a few hours and leaving baby with their partner.

Alternatively, they might be experiencing sore nipples, exhaustion or other challenges with breastfeeding and want the option of expressing and feeding their baby expressed breastmilk.

Or, life being as unpredictable as it is, might require a mum to go back to work, where full-time exclusive feeding at breast is no longer an option. Things just happen.

If you are in this situation, first you may want to think about purchasing a pump. There are several breastpumps on the market and you can use this guide to choose the best breastpump for your lifestyle. No matter how much or how little you want to pump, there are Medela options to make it easy and convenient.

Learning about breast pumping takes some time, but it’s not too hard once you get used to it – and if you get an electric breastpump, the machine does most of the work for you.

There are many reasons why a mum might want to breastpump after wanting to breastfeed exclusively. It’s important to give yourself permission to embrace this part of the journey as a mother, and not to feel guilty about introducing a bottle!

It All Sounds Easy – But... What if a Baby Just Won’t Take a Bottle?

Ironically enough, many mums get to the point of deciding that they want to have the baby do part-time bottle feeding, only to realise that the baby refuses to take a bottle! This is a common problem, so we asked our Medela Community mums for their ideas.

Getting a baby to accept the bottle sometimes takes a lot of patience – so do not give up! Since this question does come up quite often, we decided to ask Christa, a Medela lactation consultant, for her advice.

Advice from a Medela Lactation Consultant

Make sure the baby is not “starving” when you first try to feed from a bottle. Being hungry is ok, being very hungry is counterproductive.

Sit your baby in a baby rocker or baby seat.

It would be much better if somebody else could feed the baby from a bottle instead of yourself. This is because your baby is used to being breastfed by you and it can be confusing for the baby to be held in your arms and not be allowed to breastfeed.

Talk to your baby and tell them about the new way of drinking mums milk. Your calm voice will keep baby relaxed at this new task. Encourage your baby to taste the bottle’s teat by touching his lips with it.

When your baby opens his mouth, lay the bottle’s teat on his tongue and wait. Give the baby time to get familiar with this new taste. Don’t rush.

Be patient.

Be aware of the fact that everybody needs time to learn something new. Patience will help ensure that the baby will get back to the breast once he has learned to feed from a bottle.

We suggest that you use Medela Calma. This special feeding system was developed based on research which showed that babies use vacuum to draw the milk out from the breast. When you feed baby with Calma your baby uses the same tongue movements and sucking action that is learned at the breast.

Calma may not look like the breast, but it uses the same principle for milk extraction which is really important when switching between breast and bottle feeding. Using traditional bottle teats means your baby needs to learn a completely new way to feed. 

Once your baby is used to feeding from a bottle, you can begin to bottle feed the baby by yourself, but just make sure your baby is sitting in your arms in a different position from breastfeeding.

Remember, learning something new takes some time! That applies to both you and the baby. Practice makes perfect.

Advice from Medela Community Moms

The truth is that many mums find the transition to bottle-feeding to be very hard. If you try to introduce bottle-feeding when your baby is used to breastfeeding, finding the right feeding solution is the secret.

Although Calma is the Medela offering, mums report they have used “everything under the sun.” 

Joslyn and Megan both said that they went through at least 7 different types of bottles. They tried different teats, tried other people feeding him, but nothing worked. Samantha said that she had the same problem with her two week old, but bought the Calma which worked like a charm. We love to hear that! Here’s a video on how Calma works if you are interested.

Kristen admitted that she tried a zillion different bottles until they found one her baby would take occasionally. She adds that he did not really take a bottle until he was 11 months old and it started with a straw sippy.

Patty said that she and her husband tried every teat, every temperature and position. She finally found that what worked was for her mother to feed the baby. Alyssa agrees, suggesting that mums “just leave the house!” Her daughter never took a bottle from her, but took it from everyone else!

Courtney said, “My baby refused to take a bottle and he's 9 months now. He sucks and will take drinks in a sippy cup, but as far as milk feeding, will only take my boob. For sure it makes it hard to have any freedom.”

Jenn suggests trying to go an entire day only bottle-feeding but even still, she says she had to try four teats before finding one her baby would take.

So, the good news is that you are not alone. Every baby is different and, hopefully, if you are exclusively breastfeeding now, you have some suggestions on how to introduce a bottle feed, if that is what you want in the future.

Have you struggled to get a baby to accept bottle-feeding after exclusively breastfeeding? What tips or advice would you offer to other mums? Join the discussion on the Medela Australia Facebook page!