Getting your baby used to bottles

make-it-more-like-momWhether you are bottle feeding with expressed breast milk or formula, not all breast fed babies switch to bottles easily in the beginning. If your baby is not taking to the bottle, try:

      • Warming your baby's milk before feeding.
      • Letting someone else feed your baby (leave the room so your baby can't see you or smell your breast milk).
      • Try holding them in a different position, such as propped up against your front and facing away from you.
      • Experiment using different types of teats or warming the teat first.
      • Allow your baby time to "play" with the teat - to chew and lick it. This is part of their way of familiarizing themselves with the new teat and often occurs prior to learning how to suck from it.

Choosing the right time to introduce a bottle

      • You're advised to wait until breast feeding is firmly established before introducing a bottle of expressed breast milk or formula - as a guide, that's around six to eight weeks. This is because it takes this long to encourage a good supply of milk and introducing bottle feeding before this time may make it difficult to establish a good supply.
      • Because the mechanics of sucking milk from a bottle are different than from a breast, it may take your baby some time to get used to the change.
      • If you are returning to work, give yourself at least two to three weeks prior to your start date to work through any new challenges you may face, such as how to sterilise bottles, baby accepting milk from a bottle, and how to bottle feed.

Be prepared

Make sure you have all the equipment you need: bottles, teats, sterilisers etc, and carefully read the instructions for making up your feeds.

Helping your baby adjust to bottle feeding

Some babies take longer to adjust to bottle feeding than others but there are things you can try, such as:

      • Try offering the bottle a bit earlier than regular feeding time so baby is hungry but not so hungry that they will become frustrated with the change of nipple.
      • Try feeding your baby milk (expressed breast milk or formula) at different temperatures - some babies prefer body temperature (like breast milk) while others prefer it cooler.
      • Experiment with different teats.
      • Ask someone else to feed your baby and leave the room so they can't see or smell you. Your baby may be less confused if someone else is feeding them instead - just for the introduction phase.
      • Use a toy or music to distract them while they feed.
      • Try feeding your baby using a sipper cup if they are over six months old and finding a bottle difficult to get used to.
      • Express some breast milk to bottle feed with - the familiar taste may help your baby get used to feeding from a bottle.
      • Let your baby play with the teat to get familiar with it. They may lick or chew on it which is their way of understanding it. The sucking may start after that.
      • If your baby has a dummy, then try using a teat that is similar. Sometimes warming the teat first may make it more easily accepted.
      • Try feeding your baby in a different position until they are used to taking a bottle and then you can hold your baby as you usually would for a feed.
      • Stay relaxed - if you're relaxed it will help them settle down too.
      • Be patient. It may take time, but your baby should get used to feeding from a bottle eventually. It's normal for many babies to push a bottle away and protest initially. With comfort and perseverance babies adjust in time, but the last thing you want is a battle or negative associations with a bottle. If after a few attempts baby refuses, leave it for a day and then try again.
      • Don't breastfeed immediately after but delay it around 10 minutes or so and do something else before giving the breast so your baby doesn't associate bottle refusal with breast gain.

Bonding with a bottle fed baby

Be sure your baby gets the same amount of one-to-one, nurturing and cuddly time with you and a bottle as they did with you and the breast. Babies love the closeness of breast feeding. So if you're bottle feeding, you can encourage bonding by giving your baby lots of skin contact when feeding. Talk to them, sing to them and make plenty of eye contact with them too.

It can take time to work out a mixed feeding routine that both you and your baby are comfortable with, so try to be patient. If you'd like some advice on combination feeding or have questions on introducing a bottle we are here to help and have a range of support options available eg. Email support Have a look at for more information on what type of support would suit you best.


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