Feeding your baby is very individual and no two experiences look the same. Some moms decide to do a combination of bottle and breast, while some choose to exclusively do one or the other. There are a myriad of reasons why you might choose to bottle feed your baby for any period of time after nursing, but there's equally as many reasons why you might want to start breastfeeding again. If you do, you'll want to know how to relatch your baby to the breast. (Yes, it's totally possible.)
Whether it was a time problem, a preference, an anatomical reason, or even postpartum depression that led you to bottle feeding, the decision to return to the breast is a complicated one. I spoke with board-certified lactation consultant Mary Hintz to find out the best strategies for getting your baby back on the breast after a protracted period of bottle feeding.
Hintz tells Romper that there are a few tricks she's found that can help getting your baby to breastfeed again. First is that throughout this whole process, you want to make sure your baby is still eating enough — at least six wet diapers per day is standard. You'll also need to note their mood and their sleeping habits, as relatching can affect both.
Once you've determined you want to relatch, Hintz says to make sure you have plenty of skin-to-skin contact — even when you're not feeding. "The skin-to-skin contact helps bond your baby to you, and makes them aware of your breasts in a nursing capacity. It allows your baby to become accustomed to the experience of breastfeeding."
The "how" of "how to get your baby to relatch to the breast" can be the trickiest part, according to Hintz. She says that babies who are used to the easy feeding of the bottle may get pretty irritated that you're trying out this new-fangled boob feeding thing. She suggests gently flicking a finger at your baby's bottom lip after they've latched to encourage them to purse their bottom lip properly and allow good suction.
Hintz adds that your baby might be more apt to take to the breast when they're on the sleepy side, too, so you might want to try it pre-nap or just waking from a car seat ride. "I've found that the sleepy little buggers care less about how the milk gets to them, and instead tend to be comforted by any food." (Much like me on Ambien. I've eaten ice cream with a fork after taking it. Don't ask how I know this.)
You'll also want to start eliminating bottles at meal times. Keep your baby well fed, but try only feeding from the breast. If you have to squeeze some milk out onto their tongue to get started, do it. No one will judge you if you accidentally end up spraying their hair. That's what baths (or wipes, let's be honest) are for.
You might also need to try several positions. According to Hintz, "you may find that your baby likes eating from the breast in a different position than they like eating from the bottle. Try several positions until you find one they seem comfortable in. Eventually, they'll have more flexibility, but this is all about getting them back on the breast."
As in many things, getting your baby to relatch to the breast is as much about confidence and consistency as it is about anything else. Your baby will hopefully begin to attach feelings of satiety and comfort to the notion of your breasts and nipples as you keep trying and offering them. However, Hintz cautions that any mom who wants to relatch successfully can and will benefit from the assistance of a lactation consultant. They're a great resource and someone who can help guide you through the sometimes sticky (literally and figuratively) period between bottles and breast. If you're worried about your baby's eating habits, though, it's best to talk to your pediatrician and get them involved.