Thursday, July 16, 2009

5 tips for weaning your baby to the bottle.

There are many different perspectives and philosophies about breastfeeding, and how long a mother should continue it if she is able. These tips are not meant to encourage or pressure anyone to extend or shorten the time that they feel it is appropriate to breastfeed. That is a personal choice, one which I think should be made after educating yourself thoroughly about any benefits or potential risks that might result from weaning your baby at various ages. These tips are designed to help parents who, for any reason, need to encourage their baby to switch to the bottle for sustenance. I wholly support breast feeding and breast milk as the first choice for babies health, but I recognise that some parents also have very valid reasons for needing to wean their babies to a bottle, and I know it can be a very difficult task sometimes. These are a few things I know that can help you and your baby get through the transition from breast to bottle more smoothly.

1. Warm the milk & nipple.
Though warming baby bottles has fallen out of fashion, if your little honey-suckle is turning her nose up at the bottle it may well help to try warming it a bit. The milk in your baby's bottle is closest to the temperature of your own breast milk when you drip some on your wrist and you cannot feel a temperature change. If you drip some breast milk or formula on your wrist and it feels cool, you should warm it a bit longer, if the fluid feels warm or hot on your wrist, do not feed it to your baby until it has cooled down. Also, the rubber of the nipple may feel cool and unappetizing to your little one, so I recommend that you cover the tip of the bottle with a finger tip or cap, then turn the bottle upside-down. The warm breast milk or formula in the bottle will warm the nipple to a comfortable level after about a minute.

2. Introduce a nipple shield first.
If you have the luxury of time, try introducing a nipple shield during breast feeding about a week before trying the bottle. The soft, but smooth texture of the nipple shield will be easy to adjust to while everything else in your baby's feeding remains the same. Then, when you try the bottle, if you use a silicone nipple, the texture will be the same as that of the shield, so there will be less for your baby to adjust to all at once.

3. Serve breast milk to start.
Another way to reduce the number of things that your baby has to adjust to is to while weaning is to try to offer fresh (opposed to frozen or refrigerated) breast milk rather than formula in the bottle for as long as you can. If you are able to continue to offer breast milk in the bottle for a long period, this is of course the most healthful type of weaning you could do for your baby, but if you must supplement or transition fully to formula, try to introduce the bottle filled with breast milk before making the switch. Then, using a gradual approach, mix a little more formula with the milk at each feeding, until you run out of breast milk.

4. Try different nipple shapes and flows.
For some babies it is easier to maintain a good bottle-latch on a broad based nipple. For other babies the slender based nipples are easier to adjust to. There are many different shapes and styles of nipple and bottle on the market, if your baby consistently rejects one, try another. For babies that are particularly difficult to wean, you might want to try the Adiri bottle. It's design is unique in it's similarity to the breast. The only real drawback is that it can be a bit pricey. Sometimes the only thing that is keeping a baby from accepting a bottle is a design that she finds uncomfortable. To save money, try borrowing different bottle types from other mothers to try for a feeding or two. If your baby likes a certain design, you can invest in just that one kind of bottle, rather than having 5 or 6 different kinds of rejected bottles sitting around gathering dust.

5. Have a non-lactating support person provide feeds for a while.
When your baby smells you, he will associate your smell almost exclusively with food for the first 2 months. After that, though there will be many other things your little chick associates with you, food will always be a major one as long as you continue lactating. Part of the reason for this is that babies can smell breast milk, and have a very strong mental attachment to it, much stronger than with formula. So, trying to get your baby to take breast milk or formula from a bottle can be very difficult for a lactating mother, because your baby will expect to nurse when he smells your milk. That is why if you can get your spouse, or a good friend to take over a few feedings for you while your baby adjusts to the bottle it will go much more smoothly. By the time you return to feeding your baby, he will be less surprised by the bottle, and your chances of having success will be greatly increased.

Easing your baby through this transition is unquestionably going to be easier on everyone if you take your time and try to let each step along the way gently fall into place as your baby adjusts. However, whether you have all the time in the world or just a few days, I hope these tips will give you a few more ideas to try when you are looking for ways to transition your sweet little jelly belly to the bottle from the breast. If you have found these tips helpful, please forward them to any new or expecting parents you might know. Questions comments and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!

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