How to Bottle Feed A Breastfed Baby to Return to Work

As you prepare to return to work as a new mom, we know you have questions, like how to get a baby to take a bottle, at top of mind. We’re here to solve them.

To ease your transition back to the work commute, we’re breaking down how to bottle feed a breastfed baby, the best baby bottles for breastfed babies and newborns, the baby feeding chart, and more techniques for a future of successful bottle feeds.

From Breastfeeding to Bottle Feeding: Why is My Baby Refusing Bottle Feeding?

We know that switching from breastfeeding to bottle feeding can feel like an uphill climb. If you’re a mom who has exclusively breastfed, this task can feel even more stressful if your baby is refusing the bottle completely. But the National Institute of Health says you're not alone: 25% of parents share your feeding struggles at different developmental stages. Common reasons why a baby refuses bottles include:

Fortunately, our bottle feeding methods allow you to nourish your little one when breastfeeding at the office just isn’t realistic.

Paced Bottle Feeding: How to Bottle Feed a Breastfed Baby 

Like breastfeeding, the key to how to get baby to bottle feed is using a process that feels natural to them. So what's a better bottle feeding technique than mimicking the way breastfed babies feed naturally? This is where paced bottle feeding comes in to save the (work) day.

So what is paced feeding? Paced feeding is a slow-feed method to introduce a bottle to a breastfed baby by imitating the feel, flow, and positioning of breastfeeding that places your infant in control. Follow these step-by-step instructions for successful paced feeding:

  1. Hold baby in a slightly reclined, upright position instead of laying them down. This allows them to control the milk flow as opposed to it coming out in a downward stream.
  2. Place the bottle horizontally on your baby's mouth and allow them to latch like a breast. The nipple should point upwards so it only fills halfway, and baby stops suctioning when they’re full.
  3. Pause and take breaks like babies naturally do when breastfeeding. Drain milk from the nipple completely by leaning baby forward, especially if you see signs of gulping or tensing.
  4. Switch the sides your baby is feeding on as you would if you were switching between breasts.
  5. End feeding when you see signs of overfeeding. If your baby's suckle slows, their eyes wander, or they fall asleep, gently remove the nipple. Reoffer the bottle and if baby accepts, allow about 10 more sucks. Repeat until baby refuses the bottle.

Unlike the stream of milk during traditional feeding methods, paced feeding helps to prevent your infant from swallowing too much too fast and contributes to your breastfeeding baby learning to nurse more independently.

To allow sufficient time to adjust, we recommend beginning this process at least two weeks before you're back in the office. Also, have your partner or caregiver practice paced feeding when you're away.

The Best Bottles for Breastfed Babies

For the same reason paced feeds mimic breastfeeding, the best baby bottles for breastfed babies are, well, breastfeeding bottles. Because these baby feeding bottles have wide bases and medium to slow flow nipples, they create slower feeds that let your baby control their milk flow rate as they would naturally.

There are a range of natural bottles on the market, but the best breastlike bottles have the following:

  • Soft, naturally shaped baby bottle nipple sizes that make it easy to latch
  • Wide bases similar to breast widths
  • Slow flow to medium flow nipples with multiple holes like nursing nipples
  • Milk flow that reacts to baby's suction so they control feeding pace

The Simply Natural® Bottle line is the only baby bottle collection with all of these features and up to 9 nipple holes—just like mom's nursing nipple! Not only does this bottle collection have the slow flow nipples of signature breastfeeding bottles, but they also have medium and fast flow nipples that transition with your little bundle as they grow. Take your pick between sets of silicone baby bottles or glass baby bottles sets and say goodbye to guessing bottle temperatures thanks to the built-in bottle thermometer.

Slow flow bottles are also the best newborn bottles, so it's a great place to start while learning how to bottle feed a newborn. If you're asking yourself how many baby bottles do I need if breastfeeding, we recommend beginning with a full bottle set for maximum coverage.

Establishing a Baby Feeding Schedule

For many moms, establishing a baby feeding schedule for their partner or caregiver to maintain while back in the office is a giant question mark. But the truth is your baby should simply feed when they’re hungry—and a set schedule doesn’t decide this. Instead, what’s important is for you to recognize the baby hunger cues your little one gives you, such as:

  • Crying and other fussiness 
  • Rooting or searching for breasts with their head and mouth
  • Suckling things, including their hands
  • Sticking out their tongue frequently

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that babies typically need to eat every 2 to 3 hours, or 8 to 12 times every 24 hours. At the beginning of their lives, they may drink 1 to 2 ounces at each feeding and 2 to 3 ounces at week 2. As your little one gets older, they will eat more within the range of traditional baby feeding charts. The AAP feeding guidelines advise the following: 

  • At 2 to 4 months, they will usually drink 4 to 6 ounces every 3 to 4 hours
  • At 4 to 6 months, they will usually drink 4 to 8 ounces every feeding
  • At 6 months or more, they will usually drink 8 ounces every 4 to 5 hours

At first, you may find it hard to tell the difference between a hungry baby and one that needs comfort. Babies also fuss when they’re uncomfortable, so your baby’s cries could mean it’s time for a change or even just cuddles—and there’s always time for cuddles.

Tips for Proper Breast Milk Storage

Once you have your feeding cues down, it's important to know how to store breast milk for these feeds—especially when in the office. Some key tips for proper breast milk storage include: 

  • Using clean baby bottles and nipples before feeding
  • Tightening the caps or seals on your breast milk bags
  • Labeling milk with the dates you pumped to know when they’re still safe for use 

Privacy, time, and finding the right way to pump at work are worries that many moms share post-partum. However, keeping your milk cold and safe shouldn’t be one of them. Your baby’s milk is food, so you can safely store it in a refrigerator or cooler with ice packs.

If keeping your breast milk in an employee fridge raises concern for you or your colleagues, speak to your boss or HR department about more personal refrigeration alternatives to help you feel more comfortable.

Breast Milk Shelf Life: How Long Is Breast Milk Good For?

When it comes to storing breastmilk, your milk maintains its nutrient quality for a set time depending on where you store it: 

  • How long can breast milk stay out? For up to 4 hours at a temperature of 77 degrees F or less
  • How long is breast milk good in the fridge? For up to 4 days 
  • How long does breast milk last in the freezer? For up to 6 months 

Breast Milk vs. Formula

The most important thing about breastmilk is that it is biologically designed to nourish your baby for free. Because breast milk changes as your little one grows, they get the nutrition they need at different stages of development. Plus, breast milk nutrition has antibodies that pass from you to your baby to help protect them from illness and disease.

On the other hand, powdered formula is a nutritious alternative that attempts to duplicate the vitamins, proteins, fats, and more found in breast milk. Because they’re regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, baby formulas are produced in extremely sterile environments and some even contain nutrients breastfed babies don't get from breastmilk alone. 

Deciding which nutrition sources work for you and your little one is about finding the best way to keep your baby fed and protected. For example, if your baby won't take formula, listen to the cues they are giving and adapt accordingly.

Getting A Baby to Take A Bottle: The Takeaway

You can nourish your baby with the benefits of breastfeeding or formula by transitioning them to bottle feeds when you're away. With these techniques you’ll ensure your bundle gets the nutrition they need to grow big and strong, so you can focus on your return to work—this time with an extra little one to love.