Bottle Feeding to Mimic Breastfeeding: Our Top Tips
Though bottle feeding and breastfeeding offer two different experiences, they are both perfectly healthy ways to feed your baby. But perhaps you’re moving your baby from breast to bottle, or just want to give your baby as natural of a bottle-feeding experience as possible.
Bottle-feeding will understandably look and feel different from breastfeeding, but there are certainly ways to go about giving your baby a bottle that can mimic the breastfeeding experience as much as possible. We’ve put together our top tips to make this happen.
Why You'll Want to Bottle Feed Like Breastfeeding
You may be wondering why you need to do the extra work to make bottle feeding look and feel more like breastfeeding.
If you are transitioning your baby from breast to bottle, whether you’re making the full switch or simply swapping some breastfeeding sessions for a bottle, you need to consider that this is a big change for your baby. Nipple confusion and bottle refusal are very real. Not every baby experiences this, so you just might get lucky! But there is a good chance that bottle-feeding will go much more smoothly if you follow our tips to mimic breastfeeding as best as you can.
Now if you’ve been bottle feeding from the very start, it will be less necessary to follow all of these tips. However, approaching bottle feeding using some of the techniques we suggest, even if your baby has never been breastfed, can make for a more comfortable experience for your baby that may also reduce reflux and colic.
Our 6 Top Tips for Bottle Feeding That Looks Like Breastfeeding
Within these 6 tips, we'll discuss the technique of paced bottle feeding which is how you can give your baby a bottle in a way that most closely mimics the breastfeeding experience. We'll also cover our other top tips to have your baby's bottle feed feel like the "real deal" as much as possible. This will make for a smoother breast to bottle transition as well as keep your baby comfortable and happy both during and after she drinks her bottle of breastmilk or formula.
1.) Warm Formula/Breastmilk to Breastmilk Temperature
It doesn’t matter if you’re bottle-feeding with formula or breastmilk, but you want to be sure you get it as close to breastmilk temperature as possible. Now you may be wondering how this is possible with warming a bottle under a faucet or in a bowl of warm water, and the truth is, doing it at that way will be harder to know if it’s the right temperature or not. You can always use trial and error to make it a little cooler or warmer until it’s just right for your baby. OR, you can do it the easy way with the Baby’s Brew.
The Baby’s Brew is the first-ever battery-operated portable bottle warmer that lets you pick the exact temperature that you need your baby’s milk to be. Since it’s breastfeeding temp. We’re after here, you’ll want to choose 98.6 degrees. There’s just no better way to mimic true breastmilk temperature than that.
Use the Baby's Brew Bottle Warmer to get your baby's bottle exactly to body temperature.
2.) Use a Bottle with the Shape and Feel of a Real Breast
Taking the time to find a bottle that looks and feels similar to a real breast can save you and your baby a lot of heartache in the end. Though it may not seem like what bottle you choose matters, when you’re trying to mimic breastfeeding as much as possible - it really does!
Here’s what to look for in a bottle that most aligns with breastfeeding:
- dome that’s larger and more rounded in order to look like a real breast
- made from a squishy-type material that feels similar to a breast
- a flexible nipple that improves latch
- nipple flow that replicates milk flow from a breast
Here are a few of the best bottles that mimic the breastfeeding experience:
- Coined as “breastfeeding in a bottle"
- Wide mound and naturally shaped nipple
- Soft and squeezy with a skin-like feel
Nanobebe Breastmilk Baby Bottle
- Entire bottle is shaped like a breast
- Non-collapsible, “perfect-latch” nipple
- Plus this bottle warms two times faster than other bottles because of its unique design
- Designed in conjunction by moms, doctors and lactation consultants
- Touted as the perfect companion to breastfeeding
- Skin-toned nipple comes in a lighter color and darker color
- Helps eliminate bottle refusal by giving a better latch and more flow control
RELATED: The Best Bottles for Breastfed Babies
3.) Use a Slow-Flow Nipple
According to “Mom Loves Best,” a slow-flow nipple (sometimes referred to as a newborn nipple) is best used when trying to mimic breastfeeding because breastfed babies have to work harder to pull their milk from the breast.
Choosing a faster flow nipple may release the milk way too fast for a typically breastfed baby making for an less than desirable feeding (think milk spilling everywhere.) It’s important to remember, however, that each bottle brand has their own “system” for determining flow rates. We recommend using slow flow nipples from the bottles specifically designed for breastfed babies (see our recommendations below) and then you should be set!
4.) Use a Paced-Feeding Approach
Paced-feeding is the practice of bottle-feeding to slow down the process to better mimic breastfeeding.
Here’s how to implement this bottle-feeding technique:
- Only feed on demand when your baby shows hunger cues.
- Hold your baby upright to feed them instead of having them lying flat.
- Run the nipple of the bottle (as said above, you’ll want to use a slow flow nipple) along your baby’s mouth and then let them suckle the nipple for a minute without getting any milk. This is what breastfed babies are used to as they generally have to wait for their mother’s letdown reflex.
- Give 20-30 seconds of continuous feeding and then tip the bottle back to give baby a break (while still letting the nipple touch your baby’s mouth.)
- Baby will start suckling again when they are ready - this is when you’ll tip the bottle forward again to give them more milk.
- You’ll continue this process until your baby begins to turn their head and showing other signs that they are full.
Taking this bottle-feeding approach with your baby will allow for an experience similar to breastfeeding. This also helps to ensure you are not overfilling your baby at feeding time, which can also reduce the possibility of reflux and gas.
For more about how to approach paced bottle-feeding as well as it’s benefits, read this article from those in the know at bökee.
5.) If Formula-Feeding, Use a Formula that’s Most Like Breastmilk
Formula will never be exactly like breastmilk, but these days, some are pretty darn close. We recently wrote about our favorite formulas, including our top two that have a nutritional profile most similar to breastmilk. You can find that article here, and we’ve included those same formulas here.
But first, here are some inclusions you want to look for when choosing a formula that is most similar to breastmilk:
- DHA/ARA - These are non-essential fatty acids found in breastmilk and are found in most formulas on the market today.
- Nucleotides - These are found in large quantities in breastmilk
- Lactoferrin and Milk Fat Globule Membrane (MFGM) - these are proteins found in breastmilk that contribute to the nutritional benefit of breastfeeding
As you do your research in this area, you’ll also want to note if a brand expresses that it has a similar taste and/or texture to breast milk as well. Because if the taste and texture are too far off, your baby will certainly know the difference.
The two brands we recommend to give your baby a formula bottle feeding experience that mimics breastfeeding are:
Enfamil Enspire Infant Formula - This formula was created after a collaboration of some of the most intensive breastmilk studies to date. Adjustments were made to include MFGM as well as Lactoferring (which is found in colostrum and supports a baby’s immune system).
Similac Pro-Advance Non-GMO Infant Formula with Iron - This formula includes 2' -FL HMO (Human Milk Oligosaccharide), which is a prebiotic naturally found in large quantities in breastmilk. It also has a unique blend of DHA, lutein and vitamin E as well valuable nucleotides.
We also want to recommend, however, that you don’t stress too much about finding the exact right formula. If you’re moving your baby breastmilk to formula, they’re likely going to go through an adjustment period with it no matter which one you choose.
RELATED: How to Transition from Breastmilk to Formula
6.) Bottle Feed on Both Sides
Almost all breastfed babies drink milk from both breasts. When doing so, you reposition your baby when they drain the milk on one side. You can do this while bottle feeding as well. Have your little one drink half of their bottle while holding them in one arm. Then take a few minutes to burp them (and snuggle them!) and then give them the second half of their bottle while holding them in the opposite arm. This will give them change of view, which is what they’ve been used to while bottle feeding!