Breast to bottle: tips for a smooth transition

Even if your baby is breast-feeding, at some point you may need to transition to or supplement with a bottle. The change from one feeding method to the other may not come as easily as most parents hope for.

Human nipples and manufactured ones feel and taste different. For your baby, this means a slightly different method of sucking is required, and some babies have a harder time adjusting.


Here are some things that can help ease the transition to bottle feeding:

Make the transition gradual.

This process may take several weeks or months and sometimes even longer. Start by substituting one feed. If that one feed goes well, substitute another feed and so on

Pick a receptive time.

You will want to attempt a bottle before your baby is frantically hungry for the next feeding. Try introducing a bottle an hour or so after a feeding. They may be better able to focus on the bottle and a little more patient in learning the new sucking method. No one wants to try something new when they are famished.

Find the right equipment.

There’s a huge array of bottles and nipples available. You will need to experiment a bit to find which ones work well for your baby. There’s no “right” or “best” nipple shape. Make sure its hole isn’t too big, as this can cause your baby to gag and sputter. On the other hand, if it is too small, they will have to work too hard to draw out the liquid. For more information on nipples or teats, check out our formula feeding shopping list.

Encourage with a sample.

When you first introduce a bottle filled with breast milk, try putting a little of the milk on your baby’s lips so they can determine that the taste is what they are used to. If your baby needs more milk than you can supply, you can also mix some of your pumped milk with formula. This will also help your baby transition to straight formula quicker.

Someone else may need to offer the bottle.

Your baby is used to your smell and feel and a certain process when feeding. They automatically associate you with being fed breast milk. With someone else presenting the milk in a bottle (especially a breast milk-formula mix) they can sense some familiarity with the milk and may be more willing to accept it.

Look for hints of frustration.

Is your baby being fussy with a bottle? Then don’t force the issue. Simply return to breastfeeding for the time being. An overly fussy baby may start to make negative associations with the bottle, so it is better to stop and try again later.

Watch your baby.

As they drink from a bottle, give your baby the opportunity to pause and restart, just as you did with breast-feeding. That will help them realize that the two feeding processes are similar. Watch for signs that they’ve had enough (such as turning away), since you won’t be able to tell from the feel of your breast.

Feel the love.

One way that bottle-feeding and breast-feeding are alike is that both provide an opportunity to snuggle and relax. Feed your baby just as you did from your breast—with lots of skin and eye contact and affection.