I am a stay-at-home mum and am nursing my 5-month-old baby. When my husband and I leave him with my mother for an evening, he refuses to take a bottle from her. We have practiced at home with the bottle filled with breast milk, and have been successful. What can I do to help my son take a bottle from others? He sees my mother often—several times a week—and we have only gone out for an extended evening (four-five hours) twice; both times he was with my mother.
It’s wonderful that you’re still breastfeeding your 5-month-old baby. Breast milk provides your baby excellent nutrition, immune protection against illnesses, and reduces the chance of food allergies. It also facilitates a special closeness between you and your baby.
However, your baby needs to be able to eat and drink when you’re away. Some breastfed babies don’t have difficulty switching between the breast and bottle, but many breastfed babies prefer the breast and need to be eased into taking a bottle.
Most experts recommend you start your baby trying a bottle once breastfeeding has become well-established, when he’s a few weeks old. If you start early with your husband or mother giving the bottle, it’s easier for him to get used to it. If your baby is older when he starts with a bottle, it can be more difficult to help him feel comfortable. Start trying the bottle for the mid-day feeding rather than the morning or evening, since he might not need as much comfort then. If he complains about taking the bottle, it can be a process of trial and error—and ultimately, time—before he accepts it. He might be uncomfortable with the taste—try breast milk instead of formula, or try a different brand of formula. He might be uncomfortable with the shape of the nipple or the speed at which the milk flows into his mouth—try different nipples with different shapes and hole sizes. Maybe he misses the feel and scent of your skin—try loaning your mother one of your blouses after you’ve worn it, to see whether that’ll help him take the bottle.
Give him several weeks to get used to the bottle. If he still won’t take the bottle, there are still other good options. At 5 months of age, your baby can start getting more of his nutrition from solid foods such as cereals and pureed fruits and vegetables. A good hearty meal plus breastfeeding—and maybe another solid food snack—might hold him for a four-five hour stretch while you’re gone. Many 6-month-old babies can also start drinking from a sippy cup. If he takes milk well from the cup, you’ll have the advantage of never having to worry about how and when to wean him from the bottle.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.