I’m expecting my first baby and I’ve heard a lot about the benefits of breastfeeding. I would definitely like to breastfeed but I also want my partner to be able to feed our baby sometimes, so he can have that bonding time and also to give me a break! Is it possible to combine breastfeeding with bottlefeeding, or does it always lead to “nipple confusion”?
This is a question I get asked a lot. Many of the mums I work with want to combine breast and bottle feeding, for all sorts of reasons, and it is definitely possible. Some of the babies I’ve worked with were breastfed during the day and had bottles at night, without any problems.
It is important to establish breastfeeding first so I would avoid giving your baby a bottle until you and your baby are becoming experts at latching on, your milk supply has settled down and baby is gaining weight nicely.
Next, choose a feed where your baby is usually quite relaxed. You don’t want them to be too hungry or they won’t have the patience to explore this new way of feeding, just hungry enough to be interested is perfect. If you can, have your partner or someone else offer the bottle since your baby will associate you with breastfeeding and might be a bit confused if you suddenly do something different. It can help to have the bottle a little warmer than usual too.
“Nipple confusion” is when a breastfeeding baby is having trouble latching on, or simply nurses ineffectively at the breast after being fed with a bottle.
Waiting until they are an expert at latching on will help to reduce this possibility, as will introducing bottles gradually so that most feeds are from the breast.
Another possible problem is when a baby starts to prefer feeding from a bottle, which can happen because bottle feeding is often easier and quicker. Some babies just don’t want to put in the effort needed to breastfeed in comparison! To avoid this you need to make bottle feeding as similar to breastfeeding as possible. Use a slow-flow teat even as baby gets bigger and keep the bottle horizontal so that they have to actively suckle to get the milk. Make sure the baby is controlling the flow of milk, it isn’t just pouring into their mouth with no effort. It can also help to allow, or even encourage, pauses during the feed. You can find out more about “paced feeding”, a great technique for bottle feeding a breastfed baby, here.
Good luck, and happy feeding!