If your intention is to breastfeed your baby, deciding when is best to add in bottle feeding can feel daunting. The most important thing is to establish breastfeeding first before introducing a bottle, if you can.
There are some scenarios where bottle feeding is important in the early weeks with a newborn. For example, if your baby is born early or has a physical abnormality that may interfere with breastfeeding, such as a cleft or a tongue tie.
If you are required to bottle feed your baby in the very early days or weeks, then teat selection becomes vital. Babies that are born too early to latch onto the nipple are usually given a NUK soother in NICU to learn this correct technique and then are able to go on and breastfeed.
If you and baby are well and healthy, then we advise that you focus on breastfeeding for the first four to six weeks. Developing a successful breastfeeding relationship with your baby can take time and practice; and professional support is often accessible through your midwife or local plunket nurse should you require it.
When babies are very young, they are still learning to breastfeed – the technique that is involved and how to use their tongue and jaw muscles.
This is why it is important to establish breastfeeding where you can first, so that using the wrong bottle teat doesn't affect how they feed from your body, commonly called nipple confusion.
Once baby has developed the correct technique of feeding from your body, they can sometimes be resistant to accepting a teat that requires a different latch. The specific shape of the NUK Teat or Soother encourages baby to develop the sucking patterns required to breastfeed.
If you have a need to express your milk during the early weeks of breastfeeding, due to over-supply or mastitis, then this milk can be frozen in small amounts to be fed later.
Otherwise, once feeding from your body is going well, then you may want to start to express a little milk. There’s no need to express a large amount initially, especially if the intention is to feed primarily from your body. A good time to express is in between chest-feeds for around 15–20 minutes.
Introducing the bottle
When you introduce the bottle to your baby for the first time, firstly ensure that baby is calm and comfortable, and try to do it before such a time when you need to. This will allow you to be more relaxed, which in turn, should encourage your baby to relax and adapt to the change with more ease.
It can be helpful to warm the teat up by running it under warm water. Hold your baby in an upright position and gently stroke their lips from the top down. This encourages them to naturally latch on to the bottle and draw the teat into their mouth themselves.
If you tilt the bottle back a little so the milk isn't sitting into the teat while you offer the teat to baby, this allows them to suckle a little first, which can encourage a similar flutter suck that stimulates a let down when feeding from your body.
Something that may be worth considering is, if you know you will require your baby to bottle feed, you may want to begin to offer the bottle to your baby a few times a week from when they are quite young, so that you are confident in bottle feeding and confident in baby’s ability to switch between bottle and breast.
If you have left it until later, that doesn’t mean that baby won’t accept the teat, but it does mean your teat selection is very important. An orthodontic shaped latex teat that can be soaked in your breast milk to absorb the flavour can be very helpful for resistant babies. It may also be helpful for another confident person to offer the baby its first bottle feeds.
If you would like more support around bottle feeding, you can contact the helpful team at Belly Beyond for further advice.
Guest Blog Contributor: Danella from NUK New Zealand - Your Bottle-feeding experts
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