Over the past few weeks I have been to a few jobs where the mother has needed to give their breastfeeding baby, a bottle for various reasons i.e. Mum is going back to work, or is having an operation, so the move to bottle feeding is necessary.

The babies have been varying ages from 3-9mths. The process is never easy and can be distressing for the mum and baby, as it means mum can’t breastfeed until the baby has taken a bottle.

So my No1 top tip is to give baby one bottle a day as soon as breastfeeding is established so at about 4-6 weeks. This ensures that if the baby is breastfeeding and anything does happen to the mum, then the baby will be happy feeding from a bottle.

There are many other benefits of bottle feeding:-

  • Partner/Grandparents can give baby a bottle and increase bonding
  • Mum can get some sleep if someone else can do a night feed
  • You know how much food baby has had
  • If you give a bottle early evening it can fill the baby and stop the baby cluster feeding
  • More flexibility for Mum if she’s not keen on breastfeeding in public

New Parents are often told that giving bottles can cause nipple confusion for the baby, meaning the baby won’t feed properly from the breast after having a bottle, but I can honestly say that in over 30 years I have never seen this happen from just giving baby ONE bottle per day.

I know that breastfeeding correctly is important, but I believe flexibility is a prime factor in mothers lives nowadays and knowing they can take some time for themselves, now and again or get a solid chunk of sleep and their partner can be more involved is invaluable.

Using the correct bottle is definitely key to making the switch easier and some bottles are better than others for the baby to accept, like Dr Brown’s/ Mam bottles. Some can help with the babies sucking if they’re having trouble breastfeeding like the Haberman feeder which doesn’t release the milk until the baby sucks so it replicates breastfeeding.

Also if mums choose to pump and give the expressed milk by bottle it can be useful to see how much milk is being produced.

Some mums take this chance to introduce a formula feed by bottle to help the transition from breast milk easier if they are not planning on breastfeeding long term.

The earlier you start baby on a bottle the better they take it, mum can get some sleep… and sleep makes breastmilk!

“My daughter Rose is 9mths old and when she was born I was advised from several different people not to give a bottle as she might not take the breast again. This has meant that I have been with her constantly to ensure she was never without food and as a result she has refused to take the bottle.

With Jackie’s help however she is now taking a bottle happily and my life has changed overnight! It was daunting at first as I thought it might lessen the bond between us but I have found it really hasn’t made any difference…and the fact that my husband and mum can now feed her allowing me to have some time to myself is AMAZING. I really wish I had done it sooner and tell all my friends to start giving a bottle as soon as possible”

Sophie, London

 

This is a controversial subject I know and opinions vary so much. However, over the past few weeks I have worked with a few families who have been struggling with this topic, which has led to problems in other areas, mainly sleeping.

Yes, the NHS guidelines tell you not to introduce solids until 6mths, but in my experience of working with over 200 babies, this just isn’t realistic and weaning is not a thing that can be done with such a blanket approach. Other factors need be taken into account, like baby’s weight, daily activity and sleeping habits… a baby that weighed 6lb at birth probably isn’t going to be weaned at the same time as a baby that weighed 10lb!

Around 4/5mths your baby will be moving around more and using a lot more energy, so more often their appetite will increase now too, therefore it could be time to start down the weaning path now, instead of waiting until 6mths.

Another major factor is changes in sleep patterns, if your baby has been a great sleeper in the night or was only waking just once and it suddenly changes to waking more often or taking longer to settle, then it may be time to add some baby rice to the menu.

Yes, there is such a thing as sleep regression at around 4mths when the babies sleep cycles start to change but if the waking is prolonged, then try giving some solids just to see if it makes a difference.

I have been in more than one job when the baby was aged 19/20 weeks and was waking once in the night and that then started waking more or was getting more difficult to settle and once we introduced baby rice at around 5pm the baby then slept through the night, from then onwards and only really woke due to teething or illness.

The signs that baby is ready to be weaned are:

  • They can hold their head upright and move it from side to side
  • Good hand, eye and mouth coordination, can they put objects in their mouth?
  • Interest in your food, do they avidly watch you eating?
  • Ability to swallow food. If you try them with solids and they just consistently push it out, then they may not be ready
  • Seem hungry after milk feeds
  • Change in sleep patterns, waking more in the night and seeming hungry

Babies can be different ages when these signs are evident, but I would say around 20 weeks, most babies are ready for the addition of baby rice in the evening,

Waiting until 6mths can bring its own set of challenges, as some babies aren’t keen on the introduction of a spoon and prefer to feed themselves, which is fine but some mothers find it difficult to know how much the baby has had to eat. Ideally, what l find works best is if you can give them the pureed version of the finger food and give that by spoon then mum and baby get the best of both worlds.

The main problem I see more and more of, is that around 7mths old the babies sleep has become so bad due to hunger and parents get into bad habits like rocking, holding or staying with the baby until they fall asleep, that they think sleep training is the answer, when most of the time once the baby is having more food the sleep patterns correct themselves, or become much easier to help with.

With 30 years of experience the best advice I can give, is to read your babies signs, don’t just go by their age… and don’t let a man in a Government office tell you when to wean your baby!!