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How to Transition from Bottle Back to Breast

Often, when new mothers reach out to our lactation consultants at MamaNatal with questions on how to transition from breast to bottle, they’re focused solely on the hardship of getting their little one to accept a bottle in the first place.

What many nursing mothers don’t realize, however, is that getting a baby back on their mother’s breast can be just as challenging.

Thankfully, one of MamaNatal’s experts, Sarah Whitehouse, an IBCLC-certified lactation specialist and RN, will provide us with the insight required to streamline your experience when you’re trying to figure out bottle and breastfeeding together.

From tips on what time of day is best for your bottle to breast transition to suggestions on what to do when you or your baby are getting frustrated – here’s the breastfeeding support you need to make your journey a success.

Going Back to Breastfeeding 101: Important Info You Should Know

When you’re trying to navigate the rough waters of bottle and breastfeeding together, getting your baby to accept a bottle is a major win.

However, you might be surprised to learn that once your baby stops refusing a bottle, they might decide they like it more than breastfeeding.

Why, you might be wondering?

Because drinking from a baby bottle isn’t as much work as nursing!

No worries, though; there are several things you can do to encourage your baby to take your breast again.

How Long Will Transition from Bottle to Breast Take?

Is it something you can do in just a few hours?

Not exactly.

Many registered lactation specialists recommend taking a few quiet days at home (approximately 2 – 4 days) where you and your baby can focus on rebuilding your nursing relationship.

By staying home, you can minimize distractions and make your top priority the transition from bottle to breastfeeding.

Create a Reliable Breastfeeding Schedule

If you want to be successful when reintroducing your little one to breastfeeding, consistency is key. Create a new breastfeeding schedule around the times when your baby needs to take a bottle; for example, while you’re at work.

This helps let your little one know that drinking from a bottle isn’t an option during certain times.

At the beginning of your journey back from bottle to breast, it can also be helpful to wait for times when your baby is feeling sleepy. Your little one may be more willing to nurse right before naps or at the end of the day than when they’re wide awake.

Relearning the Importance of Baby’s Latch

Look in any guide to breastfeeding, and you’re bound to find a plethora of information on the importance of your little one’s latch. Whether they’re a seasoned nurser or a brand-new newborn, this doesn’t go away.

When you’re trying to reconnect with your baby and convince them to continue nursing, having a good latch is vital.

Not only will a quality latch prevent lots of pain for mom, but it will also make it easier for your little one to get milk during feeds.

Common Problems When You’re Bottle and Breastfeeding Together

Aside from recreating a breastfeeding schedule and maintaining a good latch, there are plenty of problems that can come with the bottle to breast transition, including: 

Mom & Baby Getting Frustrated

There’s no guarantee that your switch back to nursing will be a streamlined, hassle-free experience. In fact, it’s more likely to cause a few headaches along the way. If you can feel yourself or your baby getting frustrated with the process, it’s time to take a break.

The last thing you want to do is create a negative image of nursing for your baby, so it’s crucial to provide the space for both of you to calm down and relax before continuing.

Low Milk Supply

Without a good breastfeeding or pumping schedule in place, there’s a good chance your milk supply might take a hit during the transition back to nursing.

Aside from increasing the amount of time you spend pumping and breastfeeding, there are some other reliable ways to increase your milk supply, if needed.

These include:

7 Breastfeeding After Bottle Feeding Tips

Once you’ve created a new plan to start bottle and breastfeeding together, it can be helpful to make the experience as comfortable as possible for you and your baby.

If your little one still doesn’t seem interested in continuing to feed from your breast, consider using some or all of these seven great tips to ease them into the process.

1. Practice Skin-to-Skin

As with a good breastfeeding latch, practicing skin-to-skin with your little one never loses its benefits. Not only is skin-to-skin a great way to encourage connectedness between mom and baby, but it also allows easy access to your breasts for nursing. Even if your baby hasn’t been interested in breastfeeding lately, skin-to-skin may increase their curiosity and give them the space to try again.

2. Find Ways to Relax

Your baby feeds off of your emotions. This means that while you might think you’re putting on a good face regarding your bottle to breastfeeding frustrations, they’re probably more aware of how you feel than you think.

When it comes to rebuilding a nursing relationship, it’s crucial to provide babies with a positive impression of the experience. If they can feel your stress, worries, and anger, they will associate those sensations with nursing and be less interested in the process.

Plus, did you know that stress and anxiety are one of the biggest contributing factors in decreased milk supply?

No matter how you’re feeling about your nursing journey, try to find ways to relax. Look for quality breastfeeding support, and don’t be afraid to take a break and try again later, if needed.

3. Find Comfortable Breastfeeding Positions

Speaking of relaxing while breastfeeding, one of the best tips the MamaNatal team can offer is to find the most comfortable breastfeeding position for you and your baby. Whether it’s lying down on your side or cradling your little one in your arms, if you feel satisfied with your position, this will help you relax throughout your nursing session.

4. Avoid Using Pacifiers

While there seem to be some mixed feelings among experts on whether pacifiers are good or bad for breastfeeding babies, studies have shown that they can lead to nipple confusion.

If you’re interested in re-establishing a successful breastfeeding relationship, it might be in your best interest to do away with your little one’s pacifier.

5. Use One of the Best Bottles for Breastfed Babies

Whether you want to get your baby back on your breast or not, the fact of the matter is, you started using bottles for a reason. Maybe you were going back to work, needed some time away from the baby, or are preparing for a date night with your spouse. Either way, eliminating bottles altogether probably isn’t an optimal solution for your baby.

That’s why it’s crucial to find easy ways of bottle and breastfeeding together.

One way of doing this is to find a bottle nipple that’s closest to the breast. If you’re interested in using one of the best bottles for breastfed babies, Sarah and the team at MamaNatal prefer Comotomo bottles.

If you’re interested in trying a Comotomo bottle, check out our MamaNatal and Comotomo Premium Products Bundle – you’ll receive a 15% discount on two MamaNatal vitamin bottles and two 8oz Comotomo baby bottles!

6. Start With a Bottle First

So, you’ve tried some of these tips and your little one is still acting frustrated at your breast. Why not try offering them a little bit of breastmilk in the bottle first? This is especially helpful if they’re really hungry and upset at the beginning of your feed.

Give them around a ½ oz of milk in one of your favorite bottles for breastfeeding. This will satiate their appetite just enough to calm them down and help them relax at your breast.

7. Express Some Milk

One of the reasons babies love bottles is because they’re easier to use. Breastfeeding, on the other hand, takes some effort. If you feel like your baby is missing that instant gratification they get with a bottle, try expressing a little milk for them before the feed. This way, they get something right away with little work.

You can also massage your breast during your feeds to help your breast milk flow more quickly for your little one.

Breast to Bottle Feeding Tips: Make the Most of Your Feeds

Ahh, you’ve done it!

You’ve successfully gotten your baby from bottle to breast – what comes next?

Well, getting your baby to start nursing again is just the beginning. It’s essential to do what you can to create a positive and successful breastfeeding experience every time you nurse.

If you want to make the most of every session, consider these tips:

  • Help your baby relax every time you nurse them
  • Make sure your little one is emptying your breast each time they nurse
  • Pump after each session if your baby cannot empty your breasts
  • Wait for your little one’s hunger cues to ensure they’re ready to eat

Create a Positive Bottle to Breastfeeding Nursing Experience

No matter how tough the process might seem, there’s no reason you can’t successfully bottle and breastfeed together. Be gentle with yourself and your baby throughout your bottle to breast experience. With time and a little effort, you’ll be back to nursing like normal soon.

If you’d like to watch Sarah’s free comprehensive webinar on transitioning from breast to bottle (and back again), click here.