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Choosing a bottle & paced bottle feeding for a breastfed baby

Updated: Nov 14, 2023

by Alissa Pemberton – Midwife, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant & Holistic Sleep Coach

Many parents worry about transitioning their breastfed baby to a bottle, and back to the breast. It can be a difficult and stressful experience if we don't make the transition in the right way, to limit the impact of bottle feeding on breastfeeding. Firstly, it's important to consider why you're giving a bottle. If your baby is less than 6 weeks old and requiring supplementation due to feeding issues or slow weight gain it is advisable to try other methods of supplementation which will help support baby's tongue function and breastfeeding skills. See our post here for a step by step guide to finger, cup and at breast supplementation. Choosing a Bottle When selecting a bottle for your breastfeed baby there a few key things to be aware of. 1) Ignore all the claims that say the teat is shaped like a breast. Many companies have taken the shape of what a breast looks like and translated this into the shape of their teat but this isn't what it looks like in baby's mouth.

When a baby feeds they actually draw the nipple all the way to the back of their mouth near their soft palate. Teats which are short, on a wide neck bottle only allow baby to take a very shallow latch and open a small mouth - both of which are the opposite of what we want in a breastfed baby. When babies feed at bottles like this, they will take mostly the end of the teat into their mouth, encouraging a small mouth and shallow latch. This will mean they'll be more likely to have difficulty re latching to the breast, and it also cause a poor seal at the bottle and means they will take in more air whilst feeding. 2) Look for a long teat, with a gradual flange.

There are two distinct types of teats on the market. Some have a very short nipple and the teat then flanges out widely to a flat and wide neck bottle. The other is a longer teat with a more gradual flange and narrower neck bottle. These are the better option for breastfed babies.

Using a bottle with a longer teat, and encouraging baby to take the nipple and the wider part into their mouth will allow them to take a deeper latch, seal well with their lips and transition easier back to the breast.

Teats to try: Medela standard teat (below left), Spectra Baby (top left), Phillips Avent Airflex Teats to avoid:

Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature, Medela

Calma, Nuk First Choice, Phillips Avent Natural

3) Anti-Colic bottles aren't the solution Good feeding technique, encouraging a deep latch at the bottle and optimal tongue function will have much more of an impact on your baby's wind and colic like symptoms after a bottle feed than a fancy expensive bottle. Feeding Technique Even more important than the type of bottle used is the technique that you use when feeding your baby. By positioning baby correctly and using paced feeding techniques you can make the bottle feeding experience as similar to breastfeeding as possible to ensure baby makes a smooth transition between breast and bottle and doesn't become accustomed to a quicker, easier flow at the bottle and fuss when returning to the breast.

In this image you can see a baby who is opening their mouth widely at the bottle. They are flanging their lips out around the widest part of the bottle and taking most of the teat into their mouth.

Here the baby is taking a very shallow latching, only taking the end of the teat into their mouth and making a small, narrow mouth. This is what we DON'T want your baby to do at a bottle. Babies who become accustomed to feeding like this are more likely to struggle to return to the breast. Paced Bottle Feeding How we feed our baby with a bottle is even more important than the type of bottle we use. 1) Start by sitting baby upright on your lap, supporting behind their neck with your hand.

2) Rest the bottle teat against their lips, or stroke gentle down their mouth to encourage them to open their mouth and allow them to latch onto the bottle themselves, rather than pushing it into their mouth. 3) Once they have taken the bottle into their mouth, keep the bottle horizontal. Allow a small amount of milk to enter the teat (enough to cover the opening at the end) but not tilting the bottle open to fill the teat and allow milk to drip out via gravity. We want to encourage your baby to actively feed, and draw the milk out rather than allowing the milk to drip via gravity into their mouth. The difference here is ACTIVE feeding vs. PASSIVE swallowing. 4) Take regular breaks during the feed, and then allow your baby to relatch to the bottle themselves.

A baby who is laid back like this while feeding will be passively swallowing as the milk drips out of the bottle. They are more likely to struggle with the flow of milk, and have milk dribbling out of their mouth. Over time they will be accustomed to the quick flow of milk, and just gulping it down rather than actively using their tongue and jaw to draw milk from the bottle. These babies are more likely to have difficulty returning from the breast.

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