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How soon is too soon?

September 28, 2011

With so many new doula clients and friends having babies, the question has come up – when do you introduce the bottle? What about the pacifier? As a working mom, everyone knows I had to do it at some point. And I think a lot of moms are looking to me for the “okay” of when to do it (the first night? the first week?) .  And I answer, well, I was kind of a hard ass about it and didn’t allow her to have a bottle until 4wks. And that was only because I had to go somewhere and she was with a babysitter (which totally pissed off my husband who wanted to give her her first bottle. yea i felt like a jerk after that conversation).

The pacifier, however, came much earlier but it was one of those special green, less confusion, more like a nipple pacifiers. The ones where you can see the baby’s mouth open in a little “O”. Hilarious. But I digress.

Anyway, I made the rule that as long as I was around, she was to have no bottle. She was not allowed to see one, be near one, no mention if I was in the room. Literally, if she was going to get a bottle, I was well out of the way – ideally not in the house, or in a different room where she couldn’t see or hear me. I did not want her to associate bottle with mom in anyway. I never gave her a bottle myself. To me, I wanted her to know that mommy = boob, bottle = daddy time. And it totally worked for us. She never had nipple confusion, never had a problem being home all day with her dad, taking a bottle, and immediately latching on the minute I walked in the door. So whatever it was, our system worked.

And yes, it meant that I got up with her in the middle of the night, every night, multiple times, even though I had to work the next day. But I felt it was special and important enough that one day I would sleep well again, but with a newborn it was just not the time. I learned to drink  coffee and I got used to the lack of sleep.

But that isn’t for everyone. And it is OK to give the baby a bottle if you must – because honestly, a well-fed baby and a sane mommy are much more important than breastfeeding at all hours. I just hope that it’s pumped breastmilk. But most often the advice I give is, do what works – if your baby is latching and feeding well one week, two weeks after they’re born, then sure, it’s most likely safe to introduce the bottle. But if there is nipple confusion, or the baby likes the bottle better (b/c it IS easier), don’t be surprised. Everyone likes to be a little lazy, and drinking from a bottle is WAY easier. I’ve heard plenty of stories of getting a great latch the first couple days, then mom wants some sleep, the bottle is introduced, and the “learning to latch” has to start all over again.  It almost makes more work and that’s when moms tend to give up. Or convince themselves that they just can’t do it.

So introduce a bottle very cautiously and slowly, and the later the better.

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