When I was pregnant with Bear I prepared myself to express and bottle feed like I did with Lamb. Breastfeeding wasn’t straightforward the first time round and Lamb just couldn’t latch on. After a couple of weeks of trying I got the pump out.
When I look back on my first feeding experience I’m shocked at how naturally breastfeeding came to me. Whether it was by feeding myself or expressing, I wanted him to have my milk and formula feeding didn’t cross my mind (apart from to top him up when I couldn’t keep up with expressing to his demands).
This isn’t because I’m against formula feeding, breastfeeding was just what my brain and heart told me to do.
When Bear was born I remember the midwife asking how I’d be feeding him and me reply was “I’m going to try and breastfeed, but my first son couldn’t latch so I’m not getting my hopes up”. I was already setting myself up for failure.
Once I latched him on she looked over and confirmed he was a clearly a breastfeeding pro and insisted he was well and truly latched. Hallelujah!
After a few teething issues (not literally) our breastfeeding journey went from strength to strength and we had 8 and a half months of exclusive feeding. Much longer than I ever imagined.
During our journey I tried multiple times to get Bear to take a bottle and had absolutely no success. We first tried when he was around 8 weeks old but I think he was too hooked on the boob to accept a teat. We had no luck with dummies either.
Until around 4 months Bear started sleeping more and some nights I was only feeding him once in the night, so getting him to take a bottle wasn’t that important to me, so I didn’t push it on him.
Once the 4 month sleep regression hit (if that even exists) he was back to waking like a newborn. Some nights he was waking every half an hour.
I soon became a zombie. I gave up on Weight Watchers, stopped wearing make up and brushing my hair. Some days I didn’t even get dressed. The sleep deprivation was killing me.
I had to get him on the bottle!
The problem was, I loved breastfeeding. More than I imagined I would. That closeness and stillness we had during feeds was priceless. The madness stopped for a short period of time and I was able to soak up the bond I had with Bear.
But in the end the sleepless nights were just too much. Not just for me, but my other half too.
I spent weeks offering Bear a bottle. Some days he’d drink a couple of ounces, some days he’s simply push it away. My other half was useless. His patience was thin and he would give up and tell me to breastfeed after literally 5 minutes of trying Bear with a bottle. Not very helpful, but I understood how he was feeling.
In the end I made it my responsibility to get Bear to take a bottle. I didn’t ask anyone else to try. To be fair, over the months family and friends had tried and that made it worse. He was only used to seeing mummy when he fed.
I read a lot of advice online and most of it tells you to let daddy feed and you leave the room. The baby might be able to smell you and become stressed that someone else is feeding them.
Well it was the complete opposite for us. Bear was much calmer when I was trying him with a bottle.
The Nuk latex teat was definitely one of his favoured bottles. The shape of the teat as well as the fact it was latex meant it was more similar to a nipple than a standard baby bottle. This was definitely one of our most used bottles in the early days of bottle feeding and I definitely recommend this brand, specifically the latex teat.
The Mam bottles came highly recommended and I had a little stash of them from goodie bags over the years. This was the first bottle he ever drank from when he was 1 day old. My nipples hurt so much I couldn’t bare the pain so I expressed a little milk with my Medela manual pump and gave him a feed with the bottle. He took it perfectly. The problem was, I didn’t try him with the bottle again until he was 8 weeks and he refused
If you’re desperate for your baby to take a bottle you’ll probably be aware of the Minbie bottle. All you have to do is look anther Facebook page to see how successful the bottle is. Unfortunately, after spending £15 (or however how much it was) this wasn’t the miracle bottle for us. He was definitely more accepting of this bottle compared to others, and did take it eventually.
So how did I get bear to take a bottle?
Well, after a lot of trial and error, this is what worked for us.
- Choose 1 bottle and stick to it. (I would recommend one of the above).
- Offer the bottle before every feed.
- Try not to offer the bottle when baby is due a feed and very hungry as this will distress them. Offer the bottle around 2 hours after a feed so they are hungry enough to drink, but nit starving so they cry for the boob.
- Turn the lights down and switch off the TV to avoid any distractions. Make the environment relaxing.
- Don’t hold them in the same position you do when you breastfeed. They will simply look for a nipple. The position that worked for us was to lay Bear on his back against my front.
- Feel free to try Daddy offering the bottle away from you. This didn’t work for us, but it may work for you.
- Make sure the milk is slightly warmer than room temperature so it is a similar temp to breastmilk.
- If you can express and offer breastmilk so they are familiar with the taste.
- Cover the teat with milk so baby can taste it as soon as you give them the bottle.
- DO NOT FORCE. If they are refusing to open their mouth, try dripping a little milk onto their lips to allow them to understand what you are giving them.
- DO NOT STRESS. Your baby will pick up on this and become stressed themselves. Keep calm and relaxed. If you can tell they really don’t want it, then stop and try again for the next feed.
After following the above tips I would say it took me 2 weeks to get Bear to take a full bottle of milk. I actually ended up giving him formula as I was pouring so much breastmilk away, the stress of expressing and trying to feed, then it going to waste was really getting to me. Introducing formula was just something I needed to do to make the whole situation a little easier.
From the age of 8 weeks I had tried and tried and got nowhere. I definitely believe this was because in my heart I didn’t want him to take a bottle. If I’m honest, I’ve been struggling with the fact I’m not breastfeeding anymore. I’ve shed a few (million) tears recently. I genuinely didn’t expect to miss it so much.
Having said that, it was the right time for me to stop. It wasn’t forced, it was a natural progression. I combi-fed for around 2 months and gradually reduced breastfeeding to night time only. Then just before Lambs 4th birthday, I gave Bear his last breastfeed.
Wow, I’m welling up just typing that. Jeez woman.
Getting Bear on the bottle was really difficult, and a highly stressful thing for us to go through as a family.
The key is not to force, to stay calm and just remember, persistence is key.
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