Breastfeeding is the best way to feed a newborn and its many benefits for babies and mothers are well known. However, along the way, you may need to supplement breastfeeding with baby bottles. There are a lot of different reasons why this might happen: from work issues to health problems or just to take a break - a break to take a nap, shower, or go for a walk. So, your desire to bottle-feed your baby is completely understandable, but because breastfeeding is very valuable, the end goal is to have a baby switching between them without any problem or fuss. That shouldn’t be that difficult right?
Well, potentially it could be difficult and frustrating, not to mention incredibly time and money-consuming.
Issues related to the combination of breastfeeding and baby bottle are quite common and they go by the name of baby bottle refusal or nipple confusion. Have you ever heard about them? They sound pretty scary, isn’t it? Is there any way to minimize the risk of these issues? Possibly yes and it’s just a matter of timing because choosing the right time to introduce a bottle to your baby can make a big difference. Carry on reading if you want to know more!
What is Nipple Confusion?
First of all, let’s explain again what is the problem we want to avoid.
Nipple confusion, also known as baby bottle refusal, can occur in two forms. The first type occurs when a breastfed baby doesn’t adjust to the bottle and refuses it. The second type of nipple confusion occurs when a baby struggles with breastfeeding after being introduced to the bottle.
Baby bottle refusal can leave new moms frustrated. How, you might ask? If your baby refuses the bottle, you may need to breastfeed exclusively. And that means limited time to rest, work, and do other important activities.
On the other hand, a baby struggling with breastfeeding can miss out on the benefits of it, leaving the mother anxious and full of regrets.
Besides, nipple confused babies can learn wrong sucking patterns, causing issues like sore nipples for the mother.
In this sort of scenario timing is important because if you give the bottle too early, you might generate confusion and have a baby struggling to breastfeed. Conversely, if you wait too long, the baby might never get used to baby bottles.
When to Introduce Bottle Feeding
The technique of breastfeeding is pretty different from bottle feeding, and this is what causes baby bottle refusal. It isn't just the latch-on process that is different; the milk expression is unique as well. In bottle feeding, milk comes out faster, in larger quantities, and with less suction than breastfeeding.
Some babies can easily adjust to both types of feeding, but some don't. Therefore, mothers need to introduce the bottle only after establishing a proper breastfeeding technique. Ok, but when does this happen exactly?
Although you might see timelines that state anywhere between the second and fifth week, the real answer to this question is a bit more articulated.
Lactating consultants would tell you that it depends on when proper breastfeeding and milk supply are established. And this usually happens anywhere between four and six weeks. But once again, the exact timing is dependent on you and your baby specifically.
What does it mean to have established proper breastfeeding? Three crucial milestones define well-established breastfeeding.
● The baby properly latches onto the breast with no fuss
● Breastfeeding is comfortable for both mother and child
● The baby is feeding well and adding weight appropriately.
The most important part of established breastfeeding and preventing nipple confusion is the latching process. It makes all the difference between the baby feeding well and not. If latching is good, then both mother and child would enjoy breastfeeding, and the baby would feed well.
What Does the Right Latching Process Look Like?
● When the nipple and part of the areola are inside the baby's mouth.
● Your baby's stomach and chest rest on yours, and the head is straight.
● When the baby's lips spread outwards to cover the nipple and part of the areola. Inward-turned lips don't indicate a good latching form.
● When the baby's chin is pressed on the breast and the jaw moves with each sucking motion.
● The baby doesn't slip off the nipple or struggle to stay attached to the nipple while feeding.
● The latch isn't painful or uncomfortable.
● When you can see milk at the edges of the baby's mouth as they feed or hear or see the baby swallow milk.
Proper latching is different with each child and takes a while to master. So, don't fret if your baby hasn't gotten the hang of it yet. It takes constant practice to master proper latching for both of you. If you're struggling with latching, here are some tips that might help.
● Don't wait until your baby is ravenous to feed
● Go to a quiet place without distractions
● Try skin-to-skin contact while breastfeeding.
● Place your baby in the right position and offer your breast.
To see an infographic for the step-by-step process of a good latch, check out The REALATCH™ technology and the “good mouthful” post.
Signs of Established Breastfeeding
The question now is, how do you know when you have established proper breastfeeding with your child?
Here are a few signs that indicate when it's time to introduce bottles to avoid nipple confusion.
● Your baby is content or in a milk haze after feeding.
● Your baby is feeding regularly
● Your baby's poo is a golden yellow color
● Your breast feels softer after a feed
● Your baby is gaining weight accordingly
● You can feel the milk come down during feedings
● Your baby latches on well and has a rhythmic sucking and swallowing pattern.
When you notice these signs, you can safely introduce your baby to a feeding bottle.
Just remember that breastfeeding or bottle-feeding doesn't need to be forced and there is no perfect recipe for success. Every case, every baby, and every story is different and what works for someone, doesn't work for somebody else. Just try your best and always do what you feel is right! So, carry on breastfeeding until you and your baby feel comfortable doing so, but if you need a bottle now you know what to do!
STRUGGLING TO DECIDE WHERE TO START WITH BABY BOTTLES?
We may have given you some good general advice but you are still left with another decision to make. Which baby bottle shall I go for?
If breastfeeding is the best thing for the baby, then the closest thing to breastfeeding should be what to look for. With this idea in mind, we built the Teatle, the only baby bottle which looks, feels and works like a natural breast! The Teatle will help your breastfeed baby to transition to baby bottles in a seamless and safe way and it will avoid the problem of nipple confusion or baby bottle refusal.
Check our website to learn more!