• Bottle Preference

    Posted on September 7, 2017 by Megan Mignot in bottle feeding, breastfeeding, milk expression.

    Have you introduced bottles recently only to find that your baby now takes the bottle easily and has been fussier at the breast, even getting to the point of refusing the breast?

    It is possible for a breastfed baby to develop a preference for bottles. This usually happens because the baby realizes the bottle is quicker or faster. Don’t take it personally; your baby is just looking for the easier way to eat.  The breast works a certain way. It isn’t constantly “on” and steadily free-flowing or you would be a leaking mess all day. Instead, the breast needs to be told to turn “on” for the milk to flow steadily. The baby has a special kind of suckle that stimulates the letdown, which is when the milk-making cells release the milk. It usually takes about a minute or so for this to happen; before the letdown, it’s just drops of milk or a slow flow. After the letdown, it’s a steady, faster flow. Most babies learn that this is the norm and accept it but if a new, fast way is offered, they might go for it. The bottle offers instant food. Babies also need to suck a certain way to get milk from the breast.  When you hold a bottle upside-down, gravity causes the milk to drip out, making it very easy to get the milk out. A combination of these factors can cause a baby to develop a bottle preference. Babies are smart; they are going to go for what is easier!

    It is possible to avoid this! First, we recommend paced bottle-feeding  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UH4T70OSzGs) to slow the feeding and to make it a similar pace to that of breastfeeding.  If your baby has already shown signs of bottle preference, add in some skin-to-skin! Take off your shirt, undress your baby, and spend some cuddle time together!  Other strategies that might work include:

    • Achieving a letdown (via hand expression or pumping) before trying to breastfeed your baby
    • Offering the breast before your baby is fully hungry – they might be more accepting to take the breast when slightly hungry rather than “hangry”
    • Try using breast compressions during feedings at the breast. Place your free hand around the breast like you are hand-expressing and try expressing while your baby is nursing.
    • Waiting until about 3-4 weeks before you introduce a bottle. You baby is still learning what to expect during those early weeks.3-4 weeks of practice at the breast allows your baby knows what is normal with breastfeeding.

    Working closely with a lactation consultant can help pinpoint what is going on and personalize strategies to help get your baby back to the breast.

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