Bottle feeding is a common practice among many parents, whether out of necessity or convenience. However, some parents may struggle with getting their baby to switch back to breastfeeding or to latch on properly after bottle feeding. This can be frustrating and worrying for parents, but there are steps you can take to encourage your baby to latch on after bottle feeding.
Understanding the challenges
One of the biggest challenges parents face when trying to get their baby to latch on after bottle feeding is nipple confusion. When babies are introduced to bottle nipples, they may develop a preference for the faster and easier flow of milk. This can make it difficult for them to adjust to the slower and more controlled flow of milk from the breast. However, nipple confusion is not the only challenge parents face. Some babies may also have difficulty latching on due to a variety of other reasons, such as teething, reflux or a tongue-tie.
Preparing your baby for breastfeeding
Wait for the right time
It is important to introduce your baby to breastfeeding when they are alert and not too hungry or tired. This will make it easier for them to focus on latching and feeding. Try to feed your baby before they become too hungry or fussy, as this may make them more resistant to breastfeeding.
Before attempting to breastfeed, hold your baby skin-to-skin against your bare chest. This will help your baby feel calm and secure, and may even trigger their natural feeding reflexes. Position your baby so that their head is near your breast and their feet are tucked under your arm.
Massage your breasts
Gently massaging your breasts before breastfeeding can stimulate milk flow and help your baby latch on more easily. Use your fingertips to massage your breast in a circular motion, starting from the outside and working your way towards the nipple.
Express some milk
If your baby is struggling to latch on, you can express a small amount of milk by hand or with a breast pump. This will make it easier for your baby to latch on and start feeding. You can also try offering the expressed milk in a cup or spoon, rather than a bottle, to avoid further nipple confusion.
Encouraging your baby to latch on
Find a comfortable position
One of the keys to successful breastfeeding is finding a comfortable position for both you and your baby. Experiment with different positions, such as the cradle hold, football hold or side-lying position, to find the one that works best for you. Make sure you are sitting or lying in a comfortable position and that your baby is positioned with their head and body in a straight line.
Support your baby’s head and neck
When helping your baby latch on, use one hand to support their head and neck and the other hand to hold your breast. Position your baby’s mouth so that their lips are flanged out and their chin is touching your breast. As soon as your baby opens their mouth wide, bring them in close to your breast, aiming their nose toward your nipple.
Be patient and persistent
Getting your baby to latch on after bottle feeding may take some time and patience. Don’t give up if your baby doesn’t latch on right away. Keep trying and be persistent. Encourage your baby to open their mouth wide by gently stroking their lips with your nipple. You can also try expressing a bit of milk onto your nipple to entice them to latch on.
Dealing with challenges
Seek help if you are experiencing pain
Breastfeeding should not be painful. If you are experiencing pain or discomfort, it may be a sign that your baby is not latching on properly. Seek help from a lactation consultant or healthcare provider who can assess your baby’s latch and offer advice on how to improve it.
Consider using a nipple shield
If your baby is having difficulty latching on, you may want to consider using a nipple shield. A nipple shield is a flexible silicone nipple that fits over your own nipple and can help your baby to latch on more easily. However, it is important to use a nipple shield under the guidance of a lactation consultant or healthcare provider, as it can sometimes cause further complications.
Use breast compression
Breast compression can help your baby get more milk while breastfeeding and can also help improve their latch. To do breast compression, use your hand to gently squeeze and compress the breast while your baby is feeding. This will increase the flow of milk and encourage your baby to keep sucking.
If you are feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, it is important to take breaks and give yourself time to rest and recharge. You can ask someone else to feed your baby with a bottle while you take a break or express your milk for later use. Remember that it is okay to ask for help and support when you need it.
Getting your baby to latch on after bottle feeding may take time and patience, but it is definitely achievable with the right strategies and support. By preparing your baby for breastfeeding, finding a comfortable position and being patient and persistent, you can help your baby transition back to breastfeeding successfully. If you are experiencing challenges or pain, don’t hesitate to reach out for help from a healthcare provider or lactation consultant.
- Q: How soon can I start breastfeeding my baby after bottle feeding?
- Q: How do I know if my baby is latching on properly?
- Q: Should I wake my baby to breastfeed after bottle feeding?
A: It is recommended to wait until your baby is at least 4-6 weeks old before introducing a bottle or pacifier to avoid nipple confusion.
A: A good latch should feel comfortable and pain-free. Your baby’s lips should be flanged out, and their mouth should cover most of the areola. Your baby’s chin should be touching your breast, and you should be able to hear a rhythmic sucking sound.
A: It depends on your baby’s feeding schedule and needs. If your baby is sleeping well and gaining weight, it may not be necessary to wake them up for a feeding. However, if your baby is not gaining weight or seems hungry, you may need to wake them up for a feeding.
- La Leche League International. (2021). The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. Pinter & Martin Ltd.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. (2012). Breastfeeding Handbook for Physicians. American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. (2017). Clinical Protocol #8: Human Milk Storage Information for Home Use for Full-Term Infants, Revised 2017.