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Bottles and Milk Production

Pediatrics Expert Advice from Henry Bernstein, M.D.

Q: I've just begun breast-feeding my new baby, but I don't think I'm going to be able to do it exclusively for a whole year. Will that hurt him? If I give him a bottle, will it affect my milk production? Will he develop "nipple confusion"?

A: Congratulations on the birth of your baby! It's wonderful that you've begun breastfeeding, as human milk is definitely superior for infant feeding. Mothers can enjoy the "special" bond that develops when breastfeeding. The American Academy of Pediatrics clearly emphasizes that breastfeeding is the ideal method that will help children achieve optimal health, growth, and development. Pediatricians promote and support your efforts to breastfeed. There are many resources available to help you maximize the experience and accomplish this at home or work.

In response to your questions, I don't routinely recommend using bottles in the first few weeks of life, so that everything is "just right" for breastfeeding. I feel "nipple confusion" is really more of a problem in the first few days or week of life as the baby is learning to suck and swallow. A different suck is needed for the baby to empty a bottle as opposed to a breast. Once he's mastered the technique with your guidance, it is much less of an issue, if at all. I also want to maximize the amount of milk you produce. The more often you put the baby to the breast, the more breast milk you'll make ("demand and supply"). This is related to the hormones in your body.

Most importantly, relax! Keep asking questions until you have all the answers you need to feel absolutely comfortable with your decisions. Your baby's doctor is there to help. It's OK if you're unable to continue breastfeeding for an entire year. Your baby should be fine--he'll grow and develop normally. Do what works best for you.

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Henry Bernstein, M.D., is currently the associate chief of the Division of General Pediatrics and director of Primary Care at Children's Hospital, Boston. He also has an academic appointment at Harvard Medical School.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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