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Breastfeeding & Bottle Feeding | Feeding Tricks

Feeding Tricks

I hope you don’t need to read this article and that your baby drinks well either from the breast, bottle, or both. This article discusses the following tips we learned to help our baby drink more comfortably.


Burping with Pacifier in Mouth
From day one my son would get upset when it was time to burp him. He was upset because he wanted to keep drinking and or because he felt uncomfortable. At times we were discouraged from burping him since he got so upset when we removed the bottle; although not burping only helped in the short term since later he was more uncomfortable from lack of proper burping.

We would always put the pacifier in my son’s mouth as soon as we took out the bottle to burp him and this seemed to help. If we did not use the pacifier then he would get upset causing him to ingest more air and thus hinder the feeding process.

My son was diagnosed with acid reflux when he was six months. If your baby is a “fussy” eater, I would encourage you to read the reflux section and discuss with your healthcare professional to determine if your baby is possibly suffering from reflux. This article will provide tips that may work well for all babies including those suffering from reflux. For additional tips to help a baby with reflux, please refer here.
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Plastic Nipple Shield
A lot of women as some point in the breastfeeding process use plastic nipple shields, such as the ones made by Medela or Avent. Generally, they are meant to be used for a limited amount of time if a woman has severely cracked nipples. Breast cream, like Lansinoh, can also be used to help heal cracked nipples.

I wanted to breastfeed and I knew my baby liked the texture of the plastic nipples of bottles. Every time I tried to breastfeed, my son would make a funny face when he tasted the different texture of the plastic versus the breast nipple. So one day I thought he’s use to the plastic so I used a plastic nipple shield and he breastfed just fine. So the next feeding we used the plastic nipple shield again and it worked…and the next day…and the next day…and for six months I breastfed with a plastic nipple shield. I definitely never had a problem with cracked nipples.

Another trick I would do initially is to put some breast milk directly in the plastic nipple shield so he would immediately taste the milk and would start sucking. My son wanted immediate satisfaction or he would get upset. I don’t think it is generally recommended to use the nipple shield every time and some research I came across warns that you won’t be able to keep producing breast milk as I believe the baby’s saliva in addition to the sucking contributes to your production of milk. I never did produce a tremendous amount of milk, but I produced enough to feed my son for six months, while supplementing with some formula.

I wouldn’t recommend always using the plastic nipple shields, but for me it was the only thing that worked. If I have to use them again next time, I may try a little harder to try to break the baby from the nipple shields as it would be much less hassle and also more natural not to use them. Overall, I wanted to at least give my baby some of the benefits of breastfeeding and since this was the only way that worked for me that’s what I did. For more information please refer to the breastfeeding “Tips” article.
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Feeding Schedule
At two months my son was eating about 4 ounces every two hours. He seemed to consistently eat well each month and by 4 months he was eating 6 – 8 ounces at sittings every couple hours. Then shortly after his 4 month doctor’s visit he became very upset at feedings and would only drink 2 -3 ounces at a sitting; this is when I really became focused on how much he needed to eat for the day. Please refer to “How Much?” for more information about how much the baby should drink each day. Also, please refer to “Document” which explains why it is important to document your baby’s “normal” schedule so you can identify possible reasons for changes in that schedule.

When my son was eating well, I usually fed him in his room and I would play fun music such as nursery rhymes when doing the “day” feedings and play calming music around bed time. We followed the E.A.S.Y. (Eat, Activity, Sleep, You) advocated in Secrets of the Baby Whisperer so his day feedings were more geared to the activity side of things. Then when my son stopped eating well we transitioned to doing all feedings in a calm place (like his room) and played soothing music for all feedings and generally fed him after he fell asleep.
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Identify Feeding Problem
Around 4 months when my son went from easily eating 6 – 8 ounces at sittings to becoming very upset at feedings and only drinking 2 -3 ounces at a time I knew we needed to first identify what caused his change in behavior and then find ways to cope with it. I immediately scheduled a visit with my son’s doctor. I discussed with the doctor whether I should try different formulas in case my son was allergic to milk-based formula. For more information please refer to the “Formula” article.

Being new parents and not receiving any guidance from our son’s doctor, we assumed his feeding problem was related to his constipation problems. His constipation seemed to get worse at the same time he stopped wanting to eat. We figured he didn’t want to eat since he was so uncomfortable from the constipation and that there was no more room for his belly to store the breast milk or formula. In addition, when my son did not want to eat he was making his pain cry which we again were attributing to constipation.

Later, when my son was diagnosed with acid reflux when he was around 6 months old (after we switched to a new doctor) we were able to help resolve some of the physical conditions of the reflux by starting my son on medication, changing to a 100% whey based formula, and adding oatmeal cereal to his bottles. For more information on reflux, please refer here. When our new doctor did diagnose our son she was surprised that he was still at the 50 percentile in height and weight since he was eating such a small amount at each feeding. I think some of that had to do with the fact that I was diligent on trying to find new ways to help my baby eat easier to allow him to meet his nutritional needs.
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Feed After Asleep
The best trick we discovered to get our baby to eat was to feed him once he fell asleep. I know this sounds strange most people feed the baby to help him fall asleep while we first had to get our son to fall asleep in order to feed him. We would always try to give him something to drink before he fell asleep, sometimes he would drink one or two ounces and other times he wouldn’t drink anything just turn his head away or turn his head back and forth when he saw the bottle.

If my son refused to eat or only ate an ounce or two and he hadn’t eaten in awhile, then I would get him to fall asleep, or at least start to drift asleep with his eyes closed, and then I would pop out his pacifier and pop in the bottle. This worked 99% of the time. If he wouldn’t drink right away I would let him drift to sleep a little longer, probably about five minutes and try again. I would keep doing this two or three times and generally he would eventually drink. If he kept rejecting the bottle after the third or fourth time, I usually would wait and try again at the next feeding.

Generally, though he would drink the bottle once he started to fall asleep. He still wouldn’t finish the bottle probably only drink a total of three or four ounces but at least he was drinking more than one or two ounces which would be all he would drink when he was awake. We did not put my son down for a nap if it wasn’t his nap time so during non-nap feedings he usually did not drink as much as he did when we were able to feed him after he fell asleep. My son generally took the “average” number of naps most babies take. We did depend on the feedings before naps and at bed time to be the “bigger” feedings of the day since we were able to take advantage of feeding him after he fell asleep.

The one problem with feeding babies with reflux when they are sleeping is that ideally you will want to keep them upright for as long as possible after they eat to help with the reflux symptoms. We would try to keep our son on our shoulder after he ate but I’m sure we didn’t hold him upright long enough since we also wanted our son to be able to sleep in his crib and would thus only hold and burp him for about ten minutes. Once our son was old enough, we did raise his crib mattress to help keep his head slightly elevated and later when he was old enough to have a pillow in his crib this also helped keep his head elevated. In addition, once my son was old enough to sleep on his stomach, this also helped alleviate some of the reflux symptoms while he slept.
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Quiet Calm Place, No Distractions
Unlike when my son was little and he could eat anywhere and anyone could give him a bottle, when he was 4 months and started rejecting the bottle and breast, we had to make feeding as relaxing as possible. Ideally it was best to feed my baby once he fell asleep. Even if it wasn’t nap time, we would do the same soothing techniques to help our baby relax and eat better. We always fed him in his room (which we use to do anyway unless we were on an outing), we would play soft music (such as lullabies), and we would give our son a soft fuzzy blanket to cuddle with. We usually would also give him his pacifier and let him suck on it to relax and then we would quickly pop out the pacifier and pop in the bottle and hope he would continue sucking.

For some babies, feeding them is a great time to interact. For us, we could not make eye contact with our baby or usually he would stop drinking. I usually would close my eyes to encourage him to relax. We could not have any background noise such as someone talking in another room or he would immediately stop drinking. Once he stopped sucking it was almost impossible to get him to start drinking again. Now, the opposite applied when we were feeding baby food, in that case the more distractions the better, please refer to the “Feeding Infants and Toddlers” section which discusses how we helped our son learn to love to eat healthy, nutritious food.
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Continue Breastfeeding
Due to my son’s issues with not wanting to drink a bottle or breastfeed contributed to me not breastfeeding as much. At first I thought he didn’t want to breastfeed. Then I soon realized he didn’t want to drink anything whether it was from breast or bottle. I started bottle feeding more so I could monitor how much he was drinking. In a way, it may have helped him more if I had been able to breastfeed more since breast milk usually helps babies with reflux since usually they can digests breast milk easier than formula. In addition it is “more intestine friendly,” and also “breast milk is a natural antacid” (Sears 393). Since I wasn’t breastfeeding as much, I stopped producing as much breast milk and thus we had to supplement with more formula which probably contributed to making his reflux worse. Later, the one good thing with bottle feeding was that we were able to add oatmeal cereal to his bottles to help with the reflux.
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Ate Best with Mommy or Daddy
Once my baby didn’t want to breastfeed or bottle feed, he really did not want to drink a bottle from anyone other than Mommy or Daddy. When my son was eating well anyone could give him a bottle and he’d happily drink it. I would think if there was another main caregiver (other than Mommy or Daddy) then he would have learned to drink a bottle from her or him but during this phase generally either I or Daddy fed our son. If we tried to let other people such as the grandmas generally he became upset and then wouldn’t eat at all. We usually didn’t want to chance it since he barely was drinking enough for the day and if we missed a feeding it was hard to get him to make it up later.

My son was fine spending time and playing with other people, just not drinking his bottle from anyone other than Mommy or Daddy. I felt since drinking wasn’t an enjoyable process for him he needed the extra comfort from Mommy or Daddy. Due to the fact he didn’t eat well with other people, this led to problems when we put my son in daycare when we did a ski trip to Big Sky, MT. My son did fine in the daycare, they said he was all smiles and had a good time until it was time to feed him. He would not drink his bottle. We usually put him in for a half day so I would try to feed him as close as I could to dropping him off and then try to feed him as soon as we got back home. But two days when we were gone for a full day, he refused the bottle the entire time.

They say a baby will drink when he’s hungry but I do not believe it is normal to go an extended period of time without wanting to eat; thus this just supports my point that at times you do have to take additional measures to help the baby drink. The main problem with trying to feed him in the daycare situation was that there were too many distractions and he probably didn’t feel comfortable enough to drink a bottle which is not surprising since at this age he wouldn’t even drink a bottle from the grandmas.

This doesn’t mean that if your baby has issues drinking such as acid reflux that an outside caregiver won’t be able to get your baby to drink. I would hope if the baby is at the care situation for an extended amount of time (i.e. more than one week, and my son actually did drink a little bit the last day of daycare) then the baby would get use to that caregiver and the surroundings and would hopefully learn to eat well. In addition, acid reflux and other feeding issues seem to be fairly common, so I would expect the caregivers know other tricks to help the baby eat. On the other hand, if the baby still doesn’t seem to eat well, you could recommend some tips that work well for you to help the caregiver feed the baby such as mentioning the baby eats best after she falls asleep.
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Small Frequent Feedings
Many babies that have trouble eating do better eating a small amount more frequently than eating a large amount spaced throughout the day. For my son, he would only eat a couple ounces at a time whether I spaced the feedings two hours apart or six hours apart. On the other hand our friend’s baby did better when she drank several ounces 5 – 6 ounces rather than 3 – 4 ounces. So you have to do what’s best for your baby.

It was generally unsuccessful trying to feed my son anywhere else, especially in public once he was 4 months and older. I was envious of the other babies drinking so easily out in public. Thus, I always had to be aware of timing when we did outings for the day to make sure I wasn’t out too long or my son wouldn’t be able to eat enough that day. I always went out directly after he ate to give the maximum amount of time for the outing. I basically had to try to feed him every 2 ½ - 3 hours in order to get him to eat around 25 ounces a day (from 6 months – 12 months). Occasionally I would wait longer as I started to think maybe he isn’t drinking much since it is too close to his previous feeding but it didn’t matter if I waited two hours or six hours he still would only drank a couple of ounces. For more information please refer to the “How Much?” article which discusses the norm amounts most babies drink.
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Enjoy the Time While it Lasts
This article is to provide some tips of things that worked well for me as I would have appreciated knowing them before I had my baby but also you need to try things on your own and decide what works best for you.

Good luck!  The most important thing is to enjoy being with your baby. It goes so fast and soon they no longer are breastfeeding or drinking from a bottle. They may not want to sit and cuddle with you in a comfort chair and you’ll be thinking back to the days where you spent most of your time in a comfort chair watching your baby drift to sleep so peaceful and content.
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Works Cited

Sears, William M.D. , Martha Sears, R.N. , Robert Sears, M.D. and James Sears, M.D. The Baby Book:
Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby - From Birth to Age Two
. New York: Little, 2003.
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Last Updated:  November 2009