How to Introduce a Bottle (So Your Partner Can Help with the 3am Feed!)

 

If you’ve been breastfeeding from birth, no doubt you and your baby have both enjoyed its benefits. But it’s normal if the 3am feeding and the interruption it causes to your sleep is starting to wear on you. If so, it may be time to enlist some help from your partner. But to do that successfully, you’ll need to get your baby comfortable with using a bottle first.

To help make the transition from breast to bottle (and back again) easier for everyone, we’ve put together a few tips that have worked well for other families.

1. Be patient
Just like everything else with your baby, when you’re trying to teach her to accept a bottle, it’s important to pack your patience. While some awesome advancements have been made in nipple design to mimic the shape and feel of a breast when baby is nursing, drinking from a bottle is still different than breastfeeding. As such, your little one may take some time to learn this new skill.

2. Start slow
It’s unrealistic to expect your kiddo to accept a full bottle right away if the only thing she’s ever known is breastfeeding (especially if you’re trying to do it in the middle of the night). You’ll probably have an easier time if you start slow. Try offering her a bottle after a regular feeding during the day or evening to get her familiar with the nipple, and start with just half an ounce of breast milk.

3. Mimic breastfeeding as best you can
The more bottle feeding feels like the experience of breastfeeding, the easier time your baby will have adapting to it. So, try to keep doing a lot of the same things you do while breastfeeding: pause frequently, switch the side you’re holding baby, and stop feeding when she shows signs of being full.

There are also products available that can help you mimic breastfeeding more closely, like the NUK Simply Natural Bottle. It has an extra-soft nipple that’s shaped just like a breast when baby is latched on and nursing, plus multiple nipple holes that release milk the same way your breast does. It all adds up to a bottle feeding experience that’s so similar to breastfeeding that it’s been proven to prevent nipple confusion—a super important thing to consider if you plan to switch back and forth between breast and bottle feeding.

4. Don’t be the first person to bottle feed your baby
You’ll likely have an easier time getting your baby on board with a bottle if you let someone else give her the first one. May we suggest the person you plan on sharing 3am feeding responsibilities with? If mom tries to give baby her first bottle, it may confuse your baby as to why she isn’t getting your breast. Better to take yourself (and your breasts) out of the equation for the first bottle or two. And by that, we mean get yourself out of the house if you can, as your little one can smell her mommy even from a distance.

With the right patience, products, and help from your partner, adding a bottle to breastfeeding (or making the full transition to bottle) can be a relatively smooth experience for your family. And with your partner being able to take turns doing the 3am feed, they can look forward to more bonding time with baby, and you can look forward to more quality time with your pillow.