This one is for the mamas out there who are either still pregnant or currently on maternity leave. Today’s tip is both simple and important.
If you are exclusively breastfeeding, introduce your baby to a bottle early in the game – possibly even a bit earlier than your pediatrician tells you that you should. I love and trust my pediatrician, but his recommendation is to wait four weeks. In sheer practical terms I disagree with him on this one. Four weeks can be too long to wait for some babies, and there’s a developmental period around 4-6 weeks that involves a lot of crying. Trying to introduce a bottle to a mad 5-week-old can be deeply frustrating and disheartening.
Having done some research, conducting a straw poll of many, many of my friends, and talking extensively to a professional baby/night nurse, I suggest giving baby her first bottle around the 2 or 3 week mark. By 2 or 3 weeks, your baby is probably starting to get reasonably good at breastfeeding (you’re still in the super challenging phase – I don’t want downplay that at all – but it should be on the upswing!). Giving her one bottle every day or every other day is really, really unlikely to derail at this point.*
Yes, I hear the lactation consultants all crying, “Nipple confusion! Nipple confusion!” But I have two solid counterpoints to that argument.
First, the risk of nipple confusion is vastly overstated in the media. There is not a single solid study demonstrating that using pacifiers or bottles actually causes nipple confusion; at best the studies conclude that the “jury is still out.” This is one of those parenting topics that’s gotten a ton of press coverage and might turn out to be a complete myth. If anecdotal evidence helps you at all, I can tell you none of my three babies ever struggled with nipple confusion, and neither did any of my friends’ kids.
Second, if you’re planning on going back to work, it is critical that your baby learns how to drink from a bottle. It is a learned skill, and if you wait too long, your baby is going to be much more cranky about learning it. Transitioning back to work after maternity leave is a challenge in and of itself (a completely doable challenge, but a challenge!), and you don’t want to make it any harder by realizing that your gorgeous exclusively breastfed baby wants absolutely nothing to do with a bottle when she’s 12 weeks old.
I am part of a large local mommy group on Facebook, and at least twice a week, I see moms post about needing to go back to work in a week, but baby absolutely refuses a bottle, and they’ve tried seven different kinds of bottles…and these moms are panicked. I want to give them giant hugs. Their babies will not starve – babies are smart and they’ll figure out how to use the bottle in short order. But again, they’re going to be cranky about it for a few days or a week. It’s so much easier to spare yourself and your baby this frustration.
So there’s your working mom pro tip for the day. Introduce a bottle around 2 or 3 weeks of age, and keep it up one a day or every other day. The side bonus to this plan is that while someone else feeds the baby, you can maybe sneak out of the house for a little bit and do something nice for yourself! Take a walk, get a pedicure, maybe even go out to dinner! Oh, the luxury!
*To maintain milk supply, it’s recommended that you pump around the time your baby is given the bottle. Breastfeeding, by and large, is a supply-and-demand situation. It’s smart to use the pump so your body understands there’s still a “demand” for milk at that time. Please talk to your pediatrician or a lactation consultant if you have questions!