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How to Switch Back & Forth From Breastfeeding to Bottle Feeding

by Sara Ipatenco, studioD

If you've chosen to nurse your infant, you probably know there could be times that you won't be able to offer your little one your breast. If you go back to work or if you have other responsibilities away from home, expressing breast milk and having a caregiver offer it to your baby in a bottle is a good way to continue your nursing goals. Alternating between nursing and offering a bottle of infant formula is another way many moms go back and forth.

Let your baby breastfeed for several days to establish your milk supply. Feed her as soon as she's hungry, recommends the AskDr.Sears website, to build up your supply. Feeding your infant on cue encourages your body to make more milk. Drinking plenty of fluids is also important in keeping your supply up, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Pump your breasts immediately following each feeding. This will allow you to store excess milk to feed your baby in a bottle, and it will help keep your milk supply well-established.

Store your breast milk properly. Put it into bags or plastic containers made specifically for storing breast milk. Keep the milk in the refrigerator for up to five days or in the back of your freezer for up to three moths.

Start introducing a bottle to your baby several days before you know you'll need to return to work or fulfill other obligations. Offer a bottle of expressed milk or formula once a day to begin. Once your baby has accepted the bottle, gradually increase the bottle feedings until she is taking a bottle at all the times she will bottle-feed once you're gone.

Continue breastfeeding during the mornings, evenings and night, or any time you will still be available to nurse, the AskDr.Sears website recommends. This helps build a routine so your baby comes to expect the breast at certain times and the bottle at other times.

Pump milk when you would normally have nursed your baby. The AskDr.Sears website notes that this will help you maintain a steady supply of breast milk, which is especially important if you're planning to only feed your baby expressed breast milk while you're apart.

Items you will need
  •  Breast pump
  •  Breast milk storage containers
  •  Bottles
  •  Formula


  • If your baby is having a hard time adjusting to the back and forth between the bottle and your breast, make an appointment with a lactation consultant who can give you hands-on instruction and tips for success.
  • Sucking breast milk or formula out of a bottle is different than nursing, according to the Family Education website. Experiment with different nipples until you find one that your baby is most comfortable with.
  • If you plan on pumping after you return to work, speak with your employer about finding a private, clean place to pump your milk while you're on the job.

About the Author

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images