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When to Introduce Your Baby to a Bottle | 3 Part Series

Updated: May 8

When to Introduce Your Baby to a Bottle | Newborn Jax FL

When to Introduce Your Baby to a Bottle Are you wondering when to introduce your baby to a bottle? Quick! Bookmark this page and start by reading the first blog in this three-part series, "Introducing Your Baby to a Bottle", then this blog that covers "When to Introduce Your Baby to a Bottle", followed by the last blog, "How to Introduce and Feed Your Baby from a Bottle".

Your personal "when" could be dictated by why for everyone else there are options for when! For those who know us at First Coast Doulas you know, we rarely ever draw hard fast lines. We rarely use the term "best" or "worst" or "right" or "wrong".  We are big believers that what is best or right for one family or one child is rarely best for every family or child. While we acknowledge that breastfeeding is the biological norm for mammals we do believe wholeheartedly that each family must do what works for them and no judgment should be passed on someone for how they feed their baby.

I am sure many of you are thinking does "when" we introduce a bottle really matter that much? It can, but it may not! Ask the mom who is certain the bottle was the reason her baby didn't nurse as long as she'd hoped to. Ask the parent who didn't introduce a bottle until their baby was 3 months old and the nanny would drive the baby to mom's workplace for feedings. There is no way to know or to test this out with each individual baby. This is why I decided to write this series.

Planning to exclusively breastfeed? Exclusively breastfeeding your baby can be done! Like childbirth though, there are almost always curveballs. Your “when” could come up unexpected and be very emotional for you. Hope for the best and plan for the worst they say! Babies who visit the NICU might need to bottle feed. Babies with low blood sugar, jaundice, and who aren't making weight checks may need to bottle feed in the early days and weeks. If you need to take certain medications short or long term, introducing your baby to a bottle may be necessary as well. Another thing to consider is that at some point you may want or need to leave your baby with someone for sleep, some self-care or for work.

Many people go on to be successful (by their own definition) at breastfeeding their babies after these hiccups. Some get started and exclusively breastfeeding goes well from day one!

There are very few hard and fast rules of parenting so what works for one baby and breastfeeding mom isn't always the rule for another (or even same mom different baby) and vice versa! Try not stress too much about nipple preference that we covered in the last blog and focus more on enjoying your baby. Don't let situational bumps in the road rob you of enjoying this precious, irreplaceable time in your life! If you're able to push past those bumps in the road and establish an exclusively breastfeeding relationship for 3-4 weeks, first congratulations, it's not easy! Next, you're ready to move onto the "how" to (re)introduce your baby to a bottle covered in the next blog.

Are you planning to do both; breast and bottle feed your baby? If you answered yes and your (personal) "when to introduce your baby to a bottle" is not dictated by necessity, but rather choice I recommend that you wait on introducing your baby to a bottle until three consistent weeks of exclusively breastfeeding and breastfeeding has been well established. Well established meaning you've fed your baby directly from your breasts without the use of a breast shield or supplemental nursing system (SNS) and your baby has been meeting all of their weight checks, etc. for three consecutive weeks.

If you start sooner unnecessarily you could run into some troubles. If you start later you could run into troubles. When to introduce your baby to a bottle matters, but if your "why" is dictated out of necessity do not waste your time and energy worrying! If you started sooner your baby may show nipple preference and start refusing the breast because the "bottle suck" is done with less effort. Start any later than recommended and your baby may protest or refuse the bottle because he prefers breastfeeding because babies are smart and know what they want! We get calls and emails a few times a month asking if we work with babies to get them to take a bottle, we do!

On the other hand, you may not have any trouble at all. There is no way to know how your baby will respond or to test this with the individual baby, but this three-week marker is the time frame I see most beneficial. For those planning to bottle feed only, whether breastmilk, formula, or both your “when” will start within a few hours after birth granted your baby is not staying in the NICU. NICU life is a different ballgame entirely. In the first few weeks, your baby will need to be fed about every 1.5-2 hours if giving breastmilk and every 2.5-3 hours if giving formula. That will change as your baby grows and will depend on your parenting style and your baby's individual temperament and needs. When all is said and done your personal "when" will depend on a number of factors some of which are:

  1. Your initial plans on feeding method(s)

  2. Your baby's needs at the time of birth and as they grow

  3. Whether or not you want to continue to breast or bottle feed or both.

Be sure to join Jacksonville Pregnancy and Parenting on Facebook. We will go live to demonstrate bottle feeding introduction and more! Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest for updates when new blogs are posted!


Happy Birth and Parenting!

~Elizabeth

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