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When can you introduce a bottle alongside breastfeeding?

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Emily Stormonth Darling
Midwife

If you’re wondering when you can introduce a bottle because you’re desperate for some sleep, firstly take comfort in the fact your baby is doing what is natural and normal. Regular wake-ups to feed help establish your milk supply, as well as helping to prevent engorgement and mastitis. On top of that, growth spurts and brain development lead to your baby wanting to feed what feels like constantly!

But if you do want to introduce a bottle, consider waiting for your breastfeeding to become ‘established’, which can take up to six weeks. If you do it earlier, you may affect your supply of milk or cause nipple confusion (the latch for your baby to breastfeed differs from the one for a bottle feed).

Once you are ready to introduce a bottle, my advice would be to get your partner to give your baby a bottle at around 9-10pm, allowing you to go to bed early and hopefully catch a bit of rest. You can either express milk just before, or in little bits throughout the day and pour them into the same bottle. You can also mix expressed milk with formula to top-up the volume if you haven’t had a chance to pump much during the day.

As well as introducing a bottle, know that there are other ways to get that little bit more sleep. I would also recommend stepping up your self-care.

As babies who are having a growth spurt or development leap tend to cluster their feeds in the afternoon/evening, consider cancelling any morning or early afternoon plans and put your pyjamas back on. Or ask friends and family to come over to help – someone else picking up the to-do list or taking the baby for a short walk could be just what you need.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a step backwards or a sign of you ‘not coping’ with parenthood. It means you need to take a few days to rest, grab a nap whenever you can AND THIS IS OK. Research shows that short power naps can be just as beneficial as longer sleeps, so take a nap whenever you can. The hoovering can wait.

If you’re just not sure if you and your baby are ready to introduce a bottle, reassure yourself that your experience is normal, and this phase will pass.