Physician-Approved Tips to Choosing Bottles for Breastfed Babies

Dr. Rebecca Berens is a board-certified Family Medicine Physician with expertise in Women's Health and Breastfeeding Medicine. Her holistic approach serves patients from newborns to elderly, focusing on the physical and mental well-being of each family member. She is the practitioner at Vida Family Medicine in Houston, TX, and is an Expert on the SocialMama app!


Many breastfeeding parents need to feed their babies with bottles at times. However, many have concerns about choosing a bottle that the baby will accept but that will not interfere with their breastfeeding relationship. Whether you are bottle feeding to supplement breastmilk feeds or due to separation of the baby from the breastfeeding parent, there are several things to consider that can help make the transition smoother.


When to Introduce Baby to Bottle Feeding


If you are exclusively breastfeeding, it is recommended to avoid offering a bottle in the first couple of weeks until breastfeeding is well-established to help the baby learn how to breastfeed. However, if you know that you plan to introduce bottles at some point, it is recommended that you do so at around at around 3-4 weeks of age. This can help prevent bottle refusal at an older age. Some babies become so accustomed to feeding directly at the breast that they are not willing to feed from a bottle when it is introduced later. It is best if someone other than the breastfeeding parent offers the bottle initially, and it may be easiest if the breastfeeding parent leaves the room or the home while this is attempted to prevent refusal.



Choosing the Right Bottle for Your Baby


When choosing a bottle for the baby, look for a bottle that will closely mimic breastfeeding. This allows for a smoother transition between the two and can help the baby accept the bottle while preventing preference for bottles over breastfeeding. Bottles that mimic breastfeeding have nipples with a wide base and a long, straight nipple. This allows the baby to latch on to the bottle similar to how they would latch to the breast. A slow-flow nipple (usually labeled as the newborn size) is preferred to a faster flow nipple, as this more closely resembles the flow of milk that a baby would expect from the breast. Babies who drink from a faster flow nipple are more likely to consume more milk more quickly, which can lead to bottle preference and over-feeding. Breastfeeding parents whose babies are overfed often have trouble producing the amount of milk that the baby is fed while they are separated and are forced to supplement unnecessarily to keep up. Paced bottle feeding can also help prevent over-feeding. Consider how many different pieces a bottle has - this is important to help avoid having to clean multiple complex parts every day!


There are many bottles on the market that are designed to more closely mimic breastfeeding. You do not necessarily have to buy the newest or most expensive bottle to find a good fit, there are many affordable options that are a good match. Try buying only one of a bottle to start off with to make sure it works well for your baby rather than buying a full stock only to find out that your baby does not like it. If you are struggling with bottle refusal, this handout from the Institute for the Advancement of Breastfeeding and Lactation Education has some excellent trouble-shooting tips. Your doctor or lactation professional can also help with your specific situation.


At my practice, Vida Family Medicine, our Back to Work consultations are perfect for helping new parents navigate this transition! If you are interested, you can schedule a home, in-office, or virtual consult here or contact us with any questions you may have.


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About the Contributor:

Dr. Rebecca Berens is a board-certified Family Medicine Physician with expertise in Women's Health and Breastfeeding Medicine. Her holistic approach serves patients from newborns to elderly, focusing on the physical and mental well-being of each family member. She is the practitioner at Vida Family Medicine in Houston, TX, and is an Expert on the SocialMama app!

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