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Making the switch

How to transition from breastfeeding to bottlefeeding

Dear Suzi and Paolo,

How can I teach my breastfed baby to take a bottle? I have been breastfeeding for almost 11 months now. But I have to go back to work soon. What do I do if she refuses to drink from the bottle?

Christi Marie Pereira

 

SUZI SAYS

Hello mommy Christi! First of all, congratulations for being able to breastfeed your baby that long!  You’ve given your daughter the gift of a good immune system, plus major mother-daughter bonding.

Illustration by EUGENE CUBILLO

Illustration by EUGENE CUBILLO

Going back to work means a lot of adjustments, for both of you. There will be a bit of separation anxiety so try to prepare yourself for that. I’d guarantee this: You will miss your baby a lot!

Now, onto the topic at hand. Practice makes perfect, I must say. Weeks before you go back to work, start giving your child the bottle so she can practice drinking from it.

I suggest you get the one who would likely feed her when you’re away to get her to drink from the bottle. This will make things less confusing for her. If you are going to give the bottle to her, she might not take it because she knows that every time she is hungry and sees you, you will give her your breast. You giving her the bottle will only confuse her.

This will also be less stressful for you because it is so difficult to hear our babies cry. You might find yourself giving your breast when she refuses to drink because you feel sorry for her and do not want to see her crying.

If you plan to stop breastfeeding completely, let meal times be your new bonding moment with your baby. At 11 months, she is more interactive and will enjoy meal times with you. After a while—depending on how quickly your daughter can adjust to it—she will learn to be comfortable with her bottle. When that time comes, you can give her the bottle yourself once in a while.

Good luck mommy! Remember, when your daughter is desperate for milk, she will learn to drink from the bottle. She’ll do it, no matter what. Some kids would, however, go straight to drinking milk from a glass if they’re really adamant about just taking milk from the breast. Either way, the important thing is they will still get the calcium they need from milk.

PAOLO SAYS

Hello Christi. First off, congratulations on your commitment to breastfeeding. Keeping your baby fed solely on direct breastfeeding is no mean feat and it speaks volumes on how committed you are to giving your baby the best. At 11 months, your baby will have already been making forays into semi-solids. Obviously, her nutrition is now not just solely based on breastfeeding. Just as she was able to transition to semi-solids and eventually solids, she will also be able to transition from breast to bottle. A mother and child share a special bond during breastfeeding. The baby is held close thus giving her the feeling of security while the mom develops a sense of fulfillment for being able to provide for her baby.

Try to recreate those same feelings of contentment and security with bottle feeding, hold your baby close to your body as she drinks from the bottle, the same way you would do when you breastfeed her. Be conscious of her habits now when she breastfeeds because you can use those observations to help your baby transition. For instance, babies would often suck, rest, and then suck again. Sometimes they would let go for a while and then relatch. There’s a tendency for parents to force the nipple of the bottle onto a baby and to force him or her to finish all of its contents in one go. I’m sure as a mom who has formed a connection with her baby, you are very much aware of how much she consumes in one feeding. Don’t expect her to consume the same amounts when she switches to bottle. Let her find her own pace.

Also, as I mentioned, don’t discount your own emotions when you switch to bottle feeding. You may not think it’s possible but you may experience separation anxiety and such. Try to stay in touch with your own feelings and make sure you acknowledge them. When you know what you are feeling, it will be easier for you to cope with it. Good luck!

 

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