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A situation has come up where I need to feed my baby from a bottle. Can you help?

Ideally, babies feed from the breast. However, for mothers who must spend time away from their babies, and for mothers who must occasionally miss a feeding, it is important that the baby will take mother's milk by another method. These tips assume that the baby is being fed his mother's expressed milk. If this is not available, ask the baby's health care provider for advice.

Here are some helpful tips, adapted from an article by Janet Jendron.

1. Have someone else give the bottle. Many breastfeeding babies won't take a bottle from mother, since her smell and presence remind the baby of breastfeeding. One of the best people to give a bottle to a reluctant baby is an experienced bottle feeder. Someone with experience has confidence, and conveys that to the baby.

2. Gently stimulate the mouth with the artificial nipple, as is done for the first nursing at the breast. Let the baby "mouth" it and become familiar with it.

3. Try different kinds of nipples. Some babies like a nipple designed for premature infants, because it is so soft. Consult a health care provider for ideas about artificial nipples to try.

4. Try varying the nipple temperature. Put it in the refrigerator (teething babies like this) or run warm (not hot) water over it.

5. Use lots of cuddling by the person feeding the baby.

6. Some babies take a bottle better in their favorite breastfeeding position; others do better in a totally different position. Try propping the baby in your lap with the baby's back to your chest. The baby will see the room while drinking from the bottle (don't forget eye contact later). Or prop the baby on your slanted forelegs, like in an infant seat, and give the bottle while looking at him.

7. It may be best not to try to give a reluctant baby a bottle when he's gone a long time between feedings and very hungry. Anticipate.

8. Try to feed while moving rhythmically, calming the baby and distracting him from the different nipple.

9. If all else fails, try doing without a rubber or silicone nipple. For a tiny infant, alternative choices include an eyedropper, spoon, periodontal syringe, medicine spoon, special cup for infant feeding, tiny paper cup (the kind given out to hold condiments in fast-food restaurants), training cup or a regular cup.

To cup feed, place the rim of the cup on baby's lower lip and tilt the cup until the milk approaches the baby's lip. The baby's tongue will explore and find the liquid. On the first few attempts, this may take a few minutes. He will then lap or sip the milk. Do NOT pour the milk into the baby's mouth. Keep the level constantly by his lower lip and allow the baby to rest and pause while drinking, but do not remove the cup. When the baby has finished, he will let you know by turning his head away, or by other obvious cues.

Babies who can sit up may prefer to feed themselves (well supervised) from a regular cup or a covered "sippy cup."

When the baby is fed by one of these methods, be sure to breastfeed often when mother and baby are together, to satisfy the baby's sucking need.

Some material in this FAQ was adapted from Rental Roundup, Summer 1990, Volume 7, Number 3.

Recommended Reading: The articles When Baby Refuses a Bottle and Refusing a Bottle from our "Making It Work" column, a regular feature of our member magazine NEW BEGINNINGS.

Our FAQs present information from La Leche League International on topics of interest to parents of breastfed children. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's lifestyle. This information is general in nature and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise. If you have a serious breastfeeding problem or concern, you are strongly encouraged to talk directly to a La Leche League Leader. Please consult health care professionals on any medical issue, as La Leche League Leaders are not medical practitioners.

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