Its 2 a.m. and your baby is hungry, again. If you're a sleep deprived mom, whose partner is peacefully passed out while you're breastfeeding, this is probably the time of night when you start Googling how to get your baby to take a bottle if they've so far only taken milk straight from your breast or rejected a bottle in the past. Or perhaps you're weaning your baby from nursing, running low on supply, or simply want the option to bottle-feed— whatever the reason to get your baby comfortable taking a bottle, it can be done. But it may require some patience.
It's well known that babies love routines, and that includes feeding routines, but every baby is different. "Some babies take to bottle easily, but others need a lot of practice," pediatrician Whitney Casares, M.D., M.P.H, tells Romper via email. Because of this, start getting your baby used to a bottle early. "At about 1 month, start offering a bottle to your baby consistently (at least once a week) so it's part of her normal routine," she advises.
It's not just the routine of how they get their food that may throw your baby off, switching up who is feeding them can also do it. In an email to Romper, Dr. Sara DuMond, M.D., F.A.A.P., a pediatrician and medical expert with Dr. Brown's explains, "Babies are creatures of habit and desire the comfort and familiarity that comes from feedings, as much as the nourishment," which means that if they're used to mom feeding them, another caregiver may not give them that same comfort. "Sometimes, mom will need to leave the room or even leave the house, when bottle feeding is first being introduced," she says, "[because] even the smell and sense that mom is near can interfere with baby’s willingness to bottle-feed."
Also, be mindful of your timing:
Create a comfortable environment for Baby, surrounding them with familiar sounds and smells to keep them calm and relaxed, advises Dr. DuMond. "Don’t wait until baby is excessively hungry," which will cause them to be fussy impatient. Start slow with just a couple of ounces so that your baby can practice the actual "technique" of drinking out of the bottle before graduating to full bottles.
If it's still not going well, try a slower-flow nipple "which will mimic the 'effort' required with breastfeeding," per Dr. DuMond, or even try dipping the bottle nipple in breastmilk or formula and bringing it to Baby's lips.
And don't discount positioning. "Caregivers can help by holding the baby while bottle feeding in a similar position as mom would when breastfeeding and by giving lots of attention and snuggles during non-feeding times throughout the day," says Dr. Casares. Or your baby might prefer a different position bottle-feeding than they do breastfeeding, says Dr. DuMond, so experiment to find out what works for your baby.
Both doctors agree: Patience is key. It may take longer than you like to get your baby comfortable taking a bottle, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Be persistent with the transition, and soon enough, you will be the one sleeping soundly while your partner takes over.
Whitney Casares, M.D., M.P.H., author of The New Baby Blueprint: Caring for You and Your Little One and founder of www.modernmommydoc.com