My first daughter, Munchkin, did not take a bottle. Even at daycare, even when I was back to work full-time. It was stressful at first, but it all worked out for us in the end. She reverse cycled and I nursed her on my lunch break. Her daycare teachers offered her bottles daily, though she never did take one.
A friend of mine had the opposite problem – her baby would only take a bottle and wouldn’t latch to the breast. She ended up exclusively pumping, but hated it and wished that her baby could nurse.
My pediatrician told me that “nipple confusion is a myth” but my experience is to the contrary. Obviously, many babies can and do switch between bottle and breast with no problem, but some have a strong preference. And you can’t know if your baby is one who will have a preference until it is too late!
When Sweets was born, I knew that I would be going back to work when she was 4 months old, and I hoped that she would take a bottle while I worked. Here is what I did do to introduce a bottle until I went back to work, with the intention of avoiding preference for the bottle:
- I waited until breastfeeding was well-established, about 4-6 weeks, to introduce the bottle for the first time. The breast and the bottle require a different type of mouth/tongue position, and I didn’t want her to develop a poor latch due to confusion with the bottle nipple. Some people suggested that I should start giving her a bottle from day 1 just to be sure she would take it, but I was afraid of nipple confusion/preference, and chose to wait. I felt that if my baby was going to have a preference, I would rather she take only the breast than only the bottle.
- I always used a slow-flow bottle nipple. My breasts didn’t come with fast/slow options. I didn’t want my baby to become accustomed to a fast flow bottle and then be frustrated at the slower flow of my breasts.
- I used a small amount of milk in the bottle, 1-2 oz at home. My goal was not for her to have a full feeding from the bottle at that time – she just needed enough to become accustomed to the bottle. I know that it is easier for a baby to take a larger feeding from a bottle, and I didn’t want to stretch her stomach so that she needed that larger feeding to feel full. Then she might feel unsatisfied from a feeding at the breast. I continued to keep her portions small in daycare too, and never sent bottles with more than 3 oz.
- I always had someone else, usually my husband, feed her the bottle. I stayed out of the room and used that opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with Munchkin. I never fed her the bottle myself – I wanted her to know that the only option from Mama is nursing.
- We did not use a bottle every day, but aimed for 2-3 times per week so that she didn’t forget. I think that was the main mistake we made with Munchkin – she took a bottle a few times early on and we thought everything was fine. We went 2 weeks without giving her a bottle, and then she never took one again.We wanted to give Sweets a bottle often enough that she didn’t forget, but not so often that she expected it while at home.
I didn’t enjoy pumping at home, and my husband didn’t enjoy having to feed bottles either. We both found the bottle routine to be very cumbersome, and if I wasn’t going to be going back to work we would not have bothered with the bottle at all. As soon as I went back to work, the one upside was that we never had to give bottles at home anymore!
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