Breastfeeding is the most fulfilling thing a mother can experience. But not every nursing mum can continue to exclusively latch if she's planning to head back to work.
Just as it is hard for Mummy to separate from her infant after maternity leave ends, her little one may also suffer some withdrawal symptoms when having the bottle introduced as the breastfeeding alternative.
To help Mummies with this next milestone, here are some ways to help ease the transition from nursing to bottle-feeding your expressed breastmilk.
Get your equipment sorted
If you have decided to express your breastmilk, do ensure that you have an effective pump as well as a feeding and storage solution that works for you.
Choosing the right teat is important, especially if baby is still young or if you have been latching directly all this while. A good teat will mimic the natural flow of breast milk as much as possible. Check that the shape and design of the teat does not increase the risk of milk backflow, which may cause mid-ear complications and colic.
For instance, Hegen’s feeding system allows for interchangeable teat sizes with a variety of different flow types to suit your baby and minimise nipple confusion. Experts note that most babies have no problem switching from breast to bottle and back again; so don’t be afraid to combine breast and bottle feeding from the get-go if that works well for you.
Remember body contact
One of the most touted payoffs of direct latching is the sense of bonding and comfort that occurs between mother and child. Perhaps you’ve experienced this yourself and your baby has grown accustomed to having skin-to-skin contact with you. So don’t be too quick to deny this when you make the transition to a bottle of breastmilk. Even if your reason was to have baby be more independent during feeding time, don’t immediately hand over the bottle – not even if your tot is already capable of holding it.
Continuing to have body contact while switching from breast to bottle will certainly help both of you ease into the changes.
Get someone else to give the bottle
Having said that, it may also be the case that baby responds better to the bottle if it comes from some other caregiver. This could be because your relationship with each other is so closely associated with nursing that baby simply refuses to take the bottle when your boobs are also present.
Every Mom and baby relationship is different so take the journey one step at a time. If you’ve done the first few weeks of direct contact, but baby is still refusing the bottle, it may be time to hand it over to someone else.
Choose a good time for the switcheroo
If baby is teething or is suffering from a bout of eczema, it may not be a good time to work on transitioning. Don’t wait too long to make the switch either, i.e. if you have a looming deadline such as having to go back to work. Give yourself a month or at least a few weeks to do both bottle and breast (if necessary).
TIP: Pick a neutral time when baby is in a good mood and not too hungry. Start with a small feed so that you can try a few times and ease into the changes.
Establish a rhythm to feeding and pumping
For mothers who are moving from direct latching to expressing, make sure that you follow a routine of pumping as baby is feeding on your expressed milk from a bottle.
Because you’re direct latching less, be prepared that your supply might slow down: a baby is always better than a pump so you must work extra hard if you want to keep things flowing!
Try to build up an excess of supply so that you don’t have to play catch up to your baby, who might hit a growth spurt and start drinking more for instance.
The good news is that once baby begins on solids at around six months, milk feedings will no longer be exclusive. Of course there are many benefits to continue giving breastmilk to baby for up to two years -- as recommended by the World Health Organisation. But beyond that, it will likely take a backseat to other types of food and will soon become a supplement rather than the main course.
If you're interested to learn how you can transition from breast to bottle feeding, come join our Back-To-Work Breastfeeding Class at Hegen Lactation Centre with our Senior Lactation Consultant, Chen Liqin. You will pick up personalised tips on establishing a pump time table based on your own work schedule and lifestyle, managing "nursing strike" and "nipple confusion" and how to sterilise and store expressed breast milk on-the-go. Find out more and sign up at https://www.hegen.com/lactation-centre-services