OK, so we all know ‘breast is best’. We hear it everywhere and it is drummed into every new parent.
Unfortunately for some, breastfeeding is just not possible and for some others, just not the preferred way of feeding. When new mums ask me for my opinion on feeding and what I think is best, my answer is always the same. It is your decision. To help you make your decision, be mindful of what is best for your baby, for you, your family and your relationship with your baby. In my experience ‘a happy baby=a happy mother’ and so on…
Even when breastfeeding is your preferred choice and is working for you, have you thought about the future in regards to feeding your baby? Is there a chance that you will want or need to bottle feed your baby at times in the future? If your answer is yes, did you know that if you don’t introduce a bottle within the early weeks and continue offering a bottle as part of your routine, the chances of your baby accepting a bottle later on are reduced significantly?
You CAN introduce the odd bottle early without it affecting, in a negative way, your breastfeeding. There are just a few things you need to remember:
- You must be breastfeeding successfully. If you are still experiencing breastfeeding difficulties after the first few weeks I would suggest you get some help and support. Your hospital or clinic should be able to help you out with this.
- Only introduce a bottle after 3 weeks. You would have established a supply and determined if you were having difficulties by then.
- Only offer a bottle feed every 2 days and don’t leave it longer than once every 3 days if it is something you would like to continue. Babies use a different sucking motion when bottle feeding, so if left too long between bottle feeds, as your baby gets older and more used to breastfeeding, he/she will have no idea what to do when offered a bottle. They are creatures of habit!
- Offer the bottle in the evening. This is when you are lower on supply and your baby may also be a little hungrier.
- ALWAYS EXPRESS: When giving your baby a bottle you need to express milk from both breasts so your body still registers you need to produce milk. You can express just before bottle feeding, during (if someone else is feeding) or just after the feed .Remember, you are offering the bottle so you will have the option, not because you are weaning.
- Try to use expressed breast milk but if you can’t, formula is a great option and will not hurt your baby or affect breastfeeding.
- Within the first 6 weeks offer your baby approximately 80mls in a bottle. Remember your baby is having lots of other breastfeeds in the day and you don’t want to overfeed so that he/she will not feed as well at the next breastfeed.
Offering too many bottles, too early can cause your baby some confusion and you run the risk of things such as breast refusal, nipple confusion and mastitis but if you follow the above rules and take things slowly you can introduce a bottle early and successfully breast and bottle feed your baby. This way you will always have the option and will have access to all of the advantages involved.
Advantages to introducing a bottle early are:
- You will avoid bottle refusal as your baby grows older. Most babies will, in most cases, refuse to take a bottle from as early as 8 weeks of age (some even earlier)
- Your partner can be involved with feeding from early on. Partners can find it difficult to bond with their new baby when most of the time is spent breastfeeding. Bottle feeding is a great way for your partner to feel involved and it will help the bonding process for everyone.
- You will always have an option. Spending lots of time feeding your new baby may seem wonderful and something you will be happy to do long term but trust me, as the weeks go on you will want to have some time back for yourself.
- In a lot of cases, these days, mum needs to go back to work within the first 12 months and it makes it easier on everyone if your baby can feed from both the breast and the bottle.
- If you decide (or are forced) to stop breastfeeding at any stage, the process of weaning will be a lot less stressful for everyone concerned.
- If you get sick and cannot breastfeed you will be more relaxed knowing your baby is feeding.
I really hope this helps you with all of your feeding decisions and I wish you ‘Happy breast, bottle, and breast and bottle feeding’.