Flexible Feeding: How to Successfully Breast and Bottle Feed Your New Baby

Breastfeeding Bottle feeding Pumping Paced Feeding

When your new baby is born, one of the biggest priorities you have is feeding that baby! Newborns require round-the-clock feedings to grow and thrive in the first few months, and it can sometimes feel quite demanding on new parents.

Many new moms have a high priority on being able to breastfeed their baby for at least the first few months or longer, and these are wonderful goals to have. A question that often comes up, then, is: 

How do I juggle the needs of my new baby, get some much needed sleep, oh, and, also prepare to go back to work in a few weeks or months?

Let's talk about flexible feeding. Breast or bottle, it doesn't have to be all-or-nothing, and many families are finding that a mix of both is a helpful balance. Here are a few tips for successfully introducing a bottle should you decide that is what works best for your family:

Introduce the Bottle Early

If you know that you will be returning to work at some point, and need your baby to be able to take a bottle, it is a good idea to introduce at least one bottle per day by the first 3-4 weeks of life. This is because feeding from a bottle and feeding from the breast are two different experiences for a baby, and you want to help them be able to adapt early on. Some families choose to have their partner give the bottle during one of the night feeds, giving mom a chance to get a little more sleep!

Consider Paced Bottle Feeding

Removing milk from the breast is hard work! It takes effort on the part of your baby, and often getting milk from a bottle is much easier. Paced bottle feeding is a method of feeding your baby with a bottle in a way that more closely mimics breastfeeding, whether you are feeding breastmilk in a bottle, or you are giving formula. Doing so helps to prevent your baby from developing a nipple preference one way or the other. It also helps to give the newborn's mind and stomach a chance to communicate fulness, and prevents the overfeeding that can sometimes occur with bottle feeding. If you don't know what this is, send us a message or give us a call! Our doulas will be happy to share resources with you on implementing paced bottle feeding. We also have a blog post dedicated to the topic.

Build Up Your Supply

When you are preparing to return to work, and want to feed your baby with breastmilk while you are at work, a lot of moms wonder when it is a good time to start pumping. Our suggestion is that a couple of weeks before your return to work, pick one time of day to pump. Ideally pumping will occur after your baby has been breastfed. You may not notice a lot of output at first, especially since you just fed your baby, but if you stay consistent on the timing, you should slowly start to see an increase in production as your body gets the message.

Keep Removing Milk

If you are hoping to continue breastfeeding, and your goal is to feed your baby exclusively breastmilk, remember that is important to keep removing milk while you are away from your baby for any stretch of time. Breastmilk production is a supply and demand system. The more is removed, the more your body is signaled to produce. If you stop removing milk at certain times, or for stretches of time, you will start to notice a decrease in supply. While you are away from baby, it is generally advised that you allow no more than 3 hours pass between feeding or pumping. It is perfectly fine for most moms to allow for one 4-5 hour stretch at night, however (hello, sweet sleep!).

If you have questions about your supply, figuring out a plan for pumping, breastfeeding, or formula, or you just plain feel overwhelmed with it all, let us know. Our postpartum + infant care doulas are here to chat with you, either via consultation, or, if you are in the Cincinnati, OH or Dayton, OH region, via in-person visit. You don't have to figure it out alone!