Transitioning from Bottle to Breast

As a lactation consultant, one of the most common enquiries I am receiving through lockdown is about transitioning from formula/ bottle feeding to breast feeding. So here are some of the things we would discuss during a consultation.

How old is baby? Are there any medical concerns? Is baby back to birth weight? Does baby have plenty of wet and dirty nappies? Is now the best time to introduce a change?

What does a normal day of feeding look like- does baby have any time at the breast? Do you have issues- eg pain/ milk supply? Why did you stop breastfeeding? How long have they been formula feeding, what sort of volumes, how is it given (cup/ bottle?)

Do your breasts have any milk stimulation (eg from baby/ pump)? What type of pump are you using- is it effective for you?

How much skin to skin are you having with your baby? Are you well yourself- have you recovered from the birth? Who is looking after you?

A plan with an IBCLC could look something like this:

  1. Lots of skin to skin contact with baby. This reminds you both that breasts are a happy, comforting place.  However you feed your baby, this is a great part of your parenting tool kit.
  2. Introducing a regular expressing pattern will stimulate milk production until baby can feed from the breast comfortably with guaranteed milk rewards. Approx 8-10 times over 24 hours is the aim. This need only be 10 mins of pumping using a double electric pump. Some mums find it helpful to cover up the pump (eg with a muslin cloth) and spend those 10 mins relaxing, rather than obsessing over milk volumes.
  3. Putting baby to the breast regularly, even a few sucks is progress. In our consultation we can look at certain tricks and positions which really encourage a baby’s instinct to breastfeed, such as “laid back”, “koala” and “flipple”. They have silly names, but really work!
  4. Breast compressions are an easy way to get milk when a baby is latched on. If they have been used to bottle feeding, many babies expect a fast flow, so this simple trick encourages that milk to flow faster.
  5. Sometimes a supplementary nursing system (SNS) can be helpful with a transition- this is basically a thin tube which attaches to your breast to enable milk (eg from a container) which baby can obtain whilst suckling at your breast. This stimulates your breasts and helps baby learn the connection between breasts and milk.
  6. Consider paced bottle feeding, or alternative methods of giving their formula (such as a cup). This can be messy, but I can show you how to do it! Trying to “mimic” breastfeeding whilst formula feeding also helps with the transition, eg holding baby close to your breasts as you feed.
  7. Be patient. Depending on many factors the transition can take time introducing a new skill without compromising on weight gain or overall health. Breastfeeding is natural, but also a hard skill, and we can discuss realistic expectations, such as combi feeding/ giving expressed milk in a bottle, etc. In my experience, it takes approx. 2-4 weeks, but every situation is different so needs to needs to be assessed.

Please get in touch if you would like an individual lactation consultation.

About deb

Mum of 4, midwife, hypnobirthing teacher

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