Q. I’ve been breastfeeding my baby but now want to introduce bottle feeding. The only issue – my baby refuses to take it! At all. We’ve tried everything. Any tips?!
A. Every now and then I get a phone call requesting me to do a home visit and my heart sinks. One of these calls is when someone asks me to visit to give a breast fed baby a bottle. From the many visits for this purpose I have done in the past I know my success rate is only about 30% and I feel so bad for charging people for nothing other than confirming that, I too, am unable to get their baby take the bottle..
One Dad once called me in desperation on a Saturday afternoon. I could hear a screaming baby in the background and he pleaded with me to come around to help. His wife was at the hairdressers and she had left him with a fridge full of expressed breast milk and he hadn’t even managed to get the bottle in her mouth, let alone feed her. He was the first (and only) person who asked me if “satisfaction was guaranteed” with my visit and I’m ashamed to say, it wasn’t. I once spent 4 hours with another baby (alone, I had insisted the poor mother go out) only to get 2 ounces into her. What should be so easy can be the most frustrating, heart wrenching, exhausting task.
Below are a few hints of how to get the baby to take the bottle. They don’t always work and as I say, I have no magic. Often the only thing which will truly work is for the Mum to disappear for 24 hours (and pump to keep up the supply) and eventually the baby will take the bottle. However, this is drastic, so try all else first.
Yvonne’s tips and tricks:
*If you know you will eventually want to bottle feed, introduce a bottle around 3-4 weeks and give it regularly.
*Give breast milk in the bottle, not formula which breast fed babies often hate.
*If you have no breast milk and the baby refuses the formula then as a last resort and only for 2 feeds add a good amount of sugar to the formula to make the milk taste sweeter (like breast milk, which is naturally sweet).
*Heat the milk up.
*Try lots of different teats. I have had the best success with Dr Brown bottles but other people say Pigeon teats have worked well for them. I don’t generally find so called nipple shaped teats effective.
*Get someone else to give the feed. The baby will associate the mother with breast feeding and will refuse to bottle feed.
*Stay well out of the room and don’t talk if someone else is feeding.
*Hold the baby away from you, supporting the head on an outstretched arm.
*Be calm and talk quietly to the baby.
*Some babies like to be walked around and /or rocked whilst feeding.
*Try feeding when the baby is still sleepy, especially if making sucking movements whilst asleep.
*Try placing the baby in a car seat or chair and feeding.
*If they finally start sucking don’t stop to wind, just keep going.
*Moving the teat in and out of the mouth and stroking under the chin sometimes helps to stimulate sucking movements.
*Sometimes squeezing a little milk manually from the teat into the mouth will help.
*Try making sucking noises yourself and imitate sucking movements.
And finally….good luck!
Yvonne Heavyside is a British trained Health Visitor, lactation consultant and community nurse who has 32 years working experience in obstetrics, health visiting, lactation consultation, family planning and maternal and child health nursing. She started The Family Zone in 2005 which offers a range of services for mums and families. See the full scope of their offerings here.