How to feed a baby….with a bottle

There come those times when a baby needs to eat and mom is not around. Whether you want to be sure baby can take a bottle or a bottle will be a regular part of your baby’s life, there are some tricks to improve her experience.

Babies’ instincts are all wired for feeding at mom’s breast: reflexes drive a baby to turn toward a touch on the cheek or chin, open her mouth when touched on the lips, and drop her tongue and suckle. Compression and suction in a coordinated rhythm move milk from mom’s breast to the back of baby’s mouth, and baby’s airway closes while she swallows comfortably. She can stop and breathe and rest as she needs to.

Skill at breastfeeding is different than feeding from a bottle. While most babies will eventually feed well from both breast and bottle, letting baby get to be a pro at one before starting the other is ideal.

Making the bottle feeding experience as similar to feeding at the breast as possible will help baby make the transition more easily. Here are some things about feeding at the breast that can be mimicked with a bottle:

Wait for baby to open her mouth

Touch or tickle baby’s lips so she opens her mouth on her own. Touch her lower lip to the base of the bottle nipple as she opens her mouth wide so she can take the nipple deeply into her mouth…just like at mom’s breast.

Slow the flow

A slow flow nipple is a start, but milk still flows faster downhill. Raise baby’s head to more of a sitting position which will allow her to drink more purposefully.

Feel the nipple without the flow:

At the breast, a baby can pause and rest, but still has mom’s nipple in her mouth. There’s no sense that if she doesn’t keep sucking non-stop the milk will be gone. Tip the bottle back so baby can still feel the nipple in her mouth, but the milk does not even fill the nipple. She can relax and start sucking again when she is ready.

Watch baby’s cues:

Listen for her swallow, but a baby guzzling milk may be gulping because she can’t stop the flow of milk. A furrowed brow or fingers splayed may mean, “Whoa, slow down!”

How much is enough? 

Baby’s body language will tell you when she is finished. She’ll turn her head to the side or fuss when she needs a burp. Falling asleep tells you she has had enough. Baby doesn’t have to finish the bottle.

Statistically, breastfed babies grow to have lower rates of obesity as compared to bottle fed. One theory is that babies are in control of how much they take at a meal when at the breast. They learn to stop when they are satisfied. Pacing the feeding from the bottle gives control of the feeding back to the baby. You’ll have a happier, healthier baby.

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