by Julie Trotter, Newborn Care Specialist and Birth Doula at The Happiest Doulas
So you've been a champion breastfeeder for months, your baby has a great sleep routine, and now it's time for you to go back to work. No problem, right? You've got the perfect daycare lined up and you're excited for this new change. You drop your baby off at daycare on your first day back and with a somewhat heavy heart, full of mixed feelings, you head off to work. After a successful work day, you go to pick up your little bundle of joy. The daycare teacher said he was very good, except that he wouldn't drink more than a few ounces from his bottle the whole day. What now? Your baby begs to nurse and acts ravenous the rest of the evening and into the night, waking every couple of hours to nurse. You're exhausted and have to function at your job the next day. Sound familiar?
Follow these tips to transition your baby from the breast to the bottle when you've encountered your baby refusing to feed from a bottle.
- Establish an early bedtime for your baby. Being around other babies at daycare can cause shorter naps, which leads to an overtired baby by the end of the day. Putting your baby down to sleep between 7pm and 8pm is best. Be sure any feedings throughout the rest of the night are done with the least amount of stimulation and in as much darkness as possible to keep your little one in sleep mode.
- If your baby is 6 months or older, try feeding your baby breastmilk from a sippy cup. Sometimes this option appeals more to a baby. Try a few different kinds of sippy cups with various types of nipples.
- Try sneaking in some extra nursing sessions throughout the day. Try to nurse as soon as your baby wakes up in the morning and before arriving at daycare. If your job allows you some extra time during your lunch break, visit your baby and nurse, or if possible, have someone bring your baby to you during your lunch break. When you get home from work in the evening, try cluster feeding until bedtime. Cluster feeding means to hold several feeding sessions close together within just a few hours.
- Use loud white noise throughout the night to help keep your baby calm and in a deeper sleep. Conair Sound Therapy is a great one.
- Feed your baby a bottle in a quiet, non-distracting place. Take your baby to a quiet area for a few minutes and rock or sing softly to get your baby comfortable with the area. Then gently offer the bottle.
- Don't try to offer a bottle when your baby is starving. You would think offering a bottle when your baby is very hungry would cause him to eat out of desperation, but this sometimes backfires on you. Experiment with trying to find your baby's midpoint between acting not too interested in feeding and being quite hungry. It will take some trial and error.
- When bottle feeding, hold baby in a different position than when you breastfeed. Babies often do better with a bottle if they are not cradled similar to when breastfeeding. Face your baby away from your body, somewhat reclined, with their back to your stomach.
- Experiment with the nipple flow. Some babies like a slow flow and others like a faster flowing nipple. If you choose a faster flow, be aware some babies can't handle it and may choke easily.
- Try different bottle types. Some babies prefer a wider mouthed nipple that resembles the breast, while others prefer a smaller size. Don't go out and spend a fortune on different types, though. Two or three different kinds should be enough with which to experiment.
During this time, be sure to have your daycare keep track of wet diapers. To avoid dehydration, you want to make sure your baby has 6-7 wet diapers per day.
This can be a very frustrating time for parents. Between sleep deprivation and the transition to working again, it can seem like your world is upside down. Have patience. All babies are very different and many take time to get used to a new routine. Stick with it and he'll soon accept the new feeding routine.