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How to Balance Breast Milk Bottles and Regular Nursing

Just because you're ready to go back to work or you require a break from breastfeeding once in a while doesn't mean you must give up nursing completely. You can supplement the milk your baby receives through breastfeeding with expressed milk stored in bottles. Find the right balance so that you and your baby get the best of both worlds.

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Start With Breast-Only Feedings

The International Breastfeeding Centre recommends that you avoid giving your baby artificial nipples too early. Artificial nipples offer much quicker rewards with a lot less work, which for some newborns becomes more satisfying. Infants may develop "nipple confusion," rejecting their mothers' breasts in favor of artificial nipples. Exclusively breastfeeding can help you avoid this dilemma. If you are concerned about whether your baby is getting enough to eat, consult a lactation expert. If necessary, discuss the option of lactation aids so that you can avoid artificial nipples.

Begin Pumping

Practice pumping before you plan to introduce bottles so you can keep up your supply and start a milk stash in the freezer. You can start as soon as your milk comes in, which is usually three or four days after delivery. Pump about an hour after your baby's morning feeding so you'll know that she's already gotten her fill. Put the expressed milk in a glass or plastic bottle, label it with the date and store it in the back of the freezer. Don't pump too much at first. Start with just a couple of ounces. You don't want to stimulate too much milk production. If you're engorged, over-pumping can make matters worse.

Introduce Bottles Gradually

After your baby becomes comfortable with nursing, it's time to introduce bottles. According to WebMD, your baby may be ready for bottles if she loses interest in nursing at times or ends some sessions early. This may happen by 6 weeks of age for some babies, while others may take a little longer. Introduce the bottle during one feeding each day. or — better yet — let her father or a grandparent offer it. Don't get discouraged if your baby rejects the bottle at first. Keep trying. Once your baby accepts the bottle for one feeding, introduce it consistently at that time of day. Every five to seven days, introduce another bottle to replace a nursing session until you've found the balance you desire.

Go With the Flow

When your baby begins taking supplemental bottles, pump more often to keep up your breast milk supply and replenish your stash in the freezer. Once you go back to work or your regular daily activities without your baby, take your breast pump with you. Arrange it so you can pump milk at the time you would otherwise be nursing. Keeping your body on a schedule like this will keep the milk steadily flowing. If you suffer from engorgement, express just enough milk to alleviate the pressure, then use cold compresses or tuck cabbage leaves into your bra for relief. Eventually your body will adjust to your nursing and pumping schedule.

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Enjoy Nursing Sessions

Set specific times, such as morning and evening, to nurse your baby directly. Make that time special. Don't watch television, read a book or talk on the phone while he nurses. Give him your attention. Talk or sing to him gently, smile at him and caress him. This will make you both look forward to those quiet moments together and you can continue to enjoy the bonding that nursing brings.

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