Regardless of when you plan to introduce a bottle into your breastfeeding journey, a common question in the clinic (and all over the internet!) is which are the best bottles for breastfed babies, and how to introduce it. Fears of nipple confusion, bottle preference, or complete bottle rejection are common, and with marketing and advertisements all claiming to be the best for your baby, making the choice is an understandable challenge. Of course, all babies are different – that’s why we are here to help – but there are some key points to get you started.
How to Start Using Bottles for Your Breastfed Baby
Firstly, you’ll need to decide when you’d like to introduce a bottle. This includes a variety of variables – birth history, jaundice levels, need for supplementation for medical reasons (with formula or breastmilk), return to work scheduling, a family member wanting to bond with baby, etc. While it is typically recommended to wait to introduce a bottle until your nursing relationship has been established, this is going to be an independent decision for your specific family, and one that our lactation consultant can help you with. There is no shame in wanting your child to take a bottle so that you can go to an appointment alone. It should not be a fear that this will ultimately damage your long term nursing relationship. Likewise, there are many infants who go their entire infancy without a bottle, and that’s a great decision too!
Now, which bottle do I choose!? Looking online, there are a multitude of advertisements for bottles that “look” or “feel” like real breasts. Often they claim that they work best to mimic the feeding relationship you have started. However, this isn’t necessarily true. Let’s look at the science of it real quick:
When your nursing infant latches to your breast, they are pulling in breast tissue as well as the nipple. This allows an appropriate seal, and the tongue to effectively and efficiently express milk. After all, it is breastfeeding, and not nipple feeding. Take a look:
Images courtesy of Babycentre UK
So, how do we mimic this latching process in a bottle? Look for a bottle with a wide nipple base and a slow flow rate. Many breastfed babies maintain a level “zero” or “one” nipple size for the duration of their bottle feeding journeys. This is because the rate of milk from your breast does not change over time. Some great choices are Dr. Brown’s Natural Flow Anti-Colic Baby Bottles, Evenflo Wide-Neck Anti-Colic Baby Bottles, or Lansinoh Momma Feeding Bottles with Natural Wave Nipple, however, there are lots of options. Here’s what to look for when you’re starting out:
Graphic adapted from Legendary Milk
Are you seeing a theme here? What works for one baby may not work for another. So if you have already started and are seeing success with a “not ideal” nipple shape, carry on without worry! If you still can’t get baby to take a bottle, consider chatting with our lactation consultant to see how we can support starting the process of using bottles for your breastfed baby. Along with the question of bottles for breastfed babies, pacifiers can also be a source of stress and confusion. To learn more about pacifier use, check out Pacifier Facts – A Speech Therapist’s Perspective.