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Is Nipple Confusion a Myth?

The breast advice

Of course, introducing a bottle will be different with every baby: Some will instantly accept it, others may be fussy, but most can learn to switch between breast and bottle. Here are some tips to ease the transition.

  • Wait until nursing is well established, usually when a baby is two- to three-weeks old, before introducing a bottle. (Ideally, the same goes for a pacifier.) "You need to wait until breastfeeding is easy for both Mom and her baby," says Alan Greene, M.D., a pediatrician at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, and author of From First Kicks to First Steps. "By two to three weeks, neither will want to give up nursing; and it's before the big crying period, usually at four to six weeks, when introducing a bottle might be harder."
  • Let someone else give the bottle, because your baby associates you (and your smell) with breastfeeding.
  • Give expressed breast milk in the first bottle, if possible, since your baby is familiar with its smell and taste. If you use formula, remember that breast milk follows the law of supply and demand. Keep pumping if you want to maintain your supply.
  • Choose the right time. Don't wait until your baby is starving before offering her a bottle for the first time  -- aim for an hour or two after her last feeding.
  • Try skin contact. If Dad is feeding, your baby may find it comforting to rest her head on his bare chest.
  • Stay calm. Your baby can pick up on parental anxiety, so try to stay positive. "Don't force the bottle on your baby; try to give the impression that drinking from one is a pleasant experience," says Barbara Wilson-Clay, a lactation consultant in Austin, Texas. "If she only wants to take a few sips the first time, that's fine."
  • Get help. If you find that your baby begins to prefer the bottle to the breast, seek help immediately from an understanding lactation consultant. "Your baby may be rejecting your breast because she's not getting what she needs from it and is hungry," says Wilson-Clay. Again, be sure to keep pumping to maintain your supply.
  • Don't fret over your preemie's bottle. If a premature baby isn't able to nurse  -- the sucking mechanism might not be fully developed  -- he may end up being fed from a tube or bottle first. But this hardly means he'll never breastfeed, says Wilson-Clay. "Once premature babies reach their due date, they often turn into different babies. Just because all they've known is bottles doesn't mean it's all they'll ever know."

I smile now when I think of my walk around the neighborhood as Amelia drank her first bottle. I had sweaty palms and a heavy, guilty heart. It didn't take me long, however, to realize I wasn't compromising her health or our relationship; in fact, bottle-feeding gave her a chance to become even closer to her dad. The next day, he fed her a bottle, and the following day she took one from me  -- and finished it like a pro. What a smart, smart baby.