reintroducing breastfeeding after bottle

The Ultimate Guide to Reintroducing Breastfeeding After Bottle [It Is Doable!]

So you’re a breastfeeding momma who would love a break from the constant feeding, but have heard all the horror stories about nipple confusion.Let me be the one to tell you that reintroducing breastfeeding after a bottle can be difficult, but it’s certainly not impossible. And there are ways to make it a smooth transition. 

I mean, let’s face it. There are going to be times when you aren’t around your baby. Whether you have to work, run some quick errands, or just get some time to yourself. Your baby is going to have to learn how to take a bottle eventually, and it honestly doesn’t have to be a struggle. There are a few things that once you understand, can prepare you to make the switch from breast to bottle back to breast easier.

Why Babies Sometimes Prefer Bottle to Breast

Understanding the reasons behind the preference can help you better reverse it. Bottles are not the enemy here, as some may have it seem. Going from bottle to breastfeeding or vice versus, can give a momma some much needed relief. When handled correctly. 

First it’s important to understand that when baby refuses breast but takes bottle it does not have to mean you will be pumping for the rest of your breastfeeding journey. Or that you will have to end it all together.  

Bottles are just easier, period. And that’s for everyone involved. Mother gets a break and baby often doesn’t have to work as hard to get milk. Which is what can cause a bottle preference. Three tips to curve a bottle preference: 

  1. If you can, purchase bottles that are shaped similar to a breast. This will ensure that your baby still has to open their mouth (and activate the same muscles) they would when breastfeeding. 
  1. The slower the flow the better. Breastmilk does not just freely flow out of the breast. Your baby has to actively work to get milk. This includes sucking, squeezing your breast, adjusting their head, among other things. When the nipple flow on the bottle is too fast babies can get used to a faster flow and then end up getting frustrated when they are reintroduced to breastfeeding. 
  1. Hold the baby as upright as comfortable for them when they use a bottle. Almost as if they are sitting straight up in your arms. It’s okay to have a little lean, but the point is to have the bottle working against gravity not with it. Again, mimicking breastfeeding in the flow of the milk. 
transitioning to breastmilk from bottle

How to Reintroduce Breastfeeding After a Period of Bottle Feeding 

If it’s been a while since you’ve put baby to breast and you’re worried about your supply, or maybe missing that bonding that comes with breastfeeding, don’t worry. I know you may be wondering  how to breastfeed a bottle fed baby or even how to get baby back to breast, I’m here to tell you it’s doable. With a little bit of consistency and some tips you can be back to breastfeeding in no time. 

Start by Switching to a Slower Flow Nipple

As I mentioned above in my tips, a slower flow on the nipple is going to be key when going back to breastfeeding after bottle feeding. Having a slower flow nipple will more closely match that of your breast, decreasing the likelihood of frustration for your baby during feedings. 

Avoid Using a Pacifier During the Transition Back to Breast

When switching from bottle to breast it is important to avoid a pacifier if you can. Artificial nipples can cause a lot of confusion especially since the way a baby sucks / uses them is completely different from when they are at the breast. Additionally, if baby uses your breast as a pacifier it will help build and maintain your milk supply more effectively. Remember breastfeeding based on supply and demand. The more baby demands, the more the body supplies. Putting baby to breast as much as possible can also prevent mastitis. So take advantage of every opportunity to put baby to breast, if you can.  

Offer the Breast First Thing in the Morning (Not the Bottle)

If your baby seems lazy on the breast after a bottle try breastfeeding first thing in the morning. After sleeping for a longer stretch your baby will be very hungry, use that to your advantage. Offering your breast when they are hungrier could make them want to work harder for the milk. Also, mornings are when milk supply is most abundant, and your breasts are probably fuller. This will give your baby instant gratification at the breast. As an added bonus, if you have a teething baby they will be less likely to bite while nursing if latched while still sleepy. 

Nurse Baby Skin to Skin

The transition from bottle to breast can be hard for the both of you, so utilizing every option you have is vital. Skin to skin not only promotes milk production, because it stimulates the milk hormones prolactin and oxytocin. It also strengthens the bond between you and your baby. Creating calm moments just for the two of you can help when reintroducing breastfeeding after a bottle.  

Nurse in a Distraction-Free Zone

We all get distracted, right. That includes babies. And throw in something that isn’t giving the instant gratification we’re used to and anything is going to be better than trying to figure things out. Making time to nurse in a calm, quiet and even dark room to alleviate distractions will help your baby focus on the goal at hand. Breastfeeding! Remember calm and steady wins the race. 

Try nursing in a calm, quiet space whenever possible to avoid distractions. If baby consistently fails to empty the breast, it could result in engorgement or mastitis

Breastfeed When Baby Is Sleepy (There Will Be Less Resistance)

Sucking is a natural born reflex, something babies can do in their sleep. When your baby is in a light sleep try bringing them skin to skin next to a full breast and see if they latch. You can also try holding your baby for their entire nap and nurse at the earliest hunger cues. Sometimes initiating the let-down (using hand massages to get milk release) before putting baby to breast helps as well. This gives an instant reward, similar to the bottle. 

Consistency Is Key!

I know trying to figure out how to breastfeed again after stopping can be frustrating. But it is important to remember your why. Even if you aren’t getting much success. Just like it took time for baby to get adjusted to the bottle, it is going to take time for them to get back adjusted to breastfeeding. It will definitely take some patience and perseverance, but it is not impossible. 

reintroducing breast after bottle

Common Issues & Questions When Baby Refuses the Breast After Bottle Feeding

If your baby is not taking breast after a bottle and you are wanting to reintroduce breastfeeding rest assured it can be done. Returning to breastfeeding after bottle using the tips and tricks mentioned above will definitely make it easier. If you’ve tried and still have concerns, here are a few of the most common issues and some advice from a breastfeeding momma of five. 

Can I reintroduce breastfeeding after exclusively pumping? 

Yes you most certainly can. It would actually probably help your milk supply too. Our breasts are stimulated to produce not only how much milk baby drinks but also on their saliva. 

When going from exclusively pumping to breastfeeding, start to omit pumping sessions with feeding sessions. The goal here is to slowly get rid of the pump. No, I don’t mean throw it out. I know how much those things cost. And plus, you can still pump for days when you’ll be out more or may be want to use your breastmilk for some of its amazing uses. 

 What I am saying is, the more you put baby to breast, the more likely you will have success with switching to breastfeeding from exclusively pumping. Remember supply and demand. 

Why does my baby pull away and cry while breastfeeding?

This can happen if baby associates breastfeeding with something negative. Maybe baby has spent hours crying at the breast frustrated due to an inability to latch correctly. Or maybe they’ve had their face slammed into the breast one too many times by a well meaning consultant trying to “help” teach your baby to latch. 

I remember with my second born the lactation consultant grabbed her by the back of her neck and very forcibly put her face to my breast. I was so upset, I took my baby off of my breast and gently guided her to it. While she was well meaning, that lactation consultant could have caused issues for me later on had I not corrected that in the moment. 

The best way to fix this? Take a break. I know it sounds counter productive, but hear me out. Your baby currently associates breastfeeding with something negative. Continuing to force them will only exacerbate that. And increase your frustrations. 

Give yourself some grace and take a break. A few more days of bottle feeding is not going to be the end of your breastfeeding journey. Come back relaxed and ready to give it a go again. You and baby will thank you for it. 

How do I get my baby to like the breast over a bottle?

While ultimately this comes down to perseverance and consistency, there are a few things you can do to boost their love for the breast over the bottle. First, try different positions. The football hold, cradle hold or even the side hold. Try as many as you can until you find one that works for you and baby. Being held by mommy in a comfy position all snuggled up will definitely help win them over to the breast. 

Try nipple shields. These are usually pretty inexpensive and can help baby with any nipple confusions. Easy to attach to your breast, you can have baby breastfeeding in minutes. Made of silicon they feel and taste similar to the nipple of a bottle these may make the transition easier. Expressing some milk in the end may help peek your babies interest. 

Make sure to also rule out a nursing strike. Nursing strikes are when baby flat out refuses to breastfeed or only feeds for short periods. These can be causes by ear infections (they make it comfortable to suck), infant acid reflux, too fast (or too slow)  of a let down, breastfeeding in a not so calm environment, or pain due to injury or surgery. 

Your Mental Health Is Important!

Finally, do your best, but remember not to stress. One of the best things about babies is how adaptable they are. While these things can take time, and eventually some babies get it, do not let breastfeeding take over your life. If you are determined to breastfeed after bottle, even if your baby is as stubborn as my fourth child, keep on pushing. But if you notice you are starting to feel shame or guilt around this transition, remember that fed is best. And sometimes that can look like putting your mental health first and pivoting from the original game plan. Whatever the outcome, you got this momma!

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