We hear so much about the benefits of breastfeeding, the bonding, the immunity, the nutrients. It's a great thing and this post isn't to debate that at all. BUT can we talk about how great bottle feeding is too? Anyone can do it, mum can have a break! You still cuddle and bond, your baby still gains immunity and nutrients, you can visually see how much your baby is taking in, but most of all it gives the mother her body back. The one she has shared for 9 months is now her own once more. She can eat, drink & move more freely all with the confidence of knowing her baby is getting the next best thing.
I'm a huge bottle feeding advocate. You wont find many of us around as I guess most people often aren't as proud of it. But this way of life has gifted my family so much! I have successfully got two babies to take a bottle and although that doesn't make me an expert I have learned a few things along the way. So I'd love to share them in the hopes that another mum might find this helpful and learn to love her bottle feeding experience too, even though most times its the result of breastfeeding not working.
Things that helped:
Starting early - whether you are only wanting to occasionally bottle feed or exclusively bottle feed its important to start this process early. The optimum time for each of my babies was between 3-6 weeks old. At this age the baby has begun to establish a feeding rhythm but not much of a preference yet as to where the milk comes from. If you start earlier than 3 weeks and only want to occasionally bottle feed be aware that this can cause some confusion for your baby like nipple confusion so I'd suggest holding off a little while longer if possible.
Replicating the breast - babies are born knowing how to find the mothers breast with their eyes closed. It's called the rooting reflex and if you are bored one night google a baby doing the breast crawl, crazy stuff! Knowing this is really helpful for introducing a bottle. If you create an environment similar to that where the baby is breastfeeding they are more likely to accept and take the bottle.
Finding the right milk - for my newborns this was still breastmilk. I exclusively expressed my breastmilk and bottle fed them that until they were 3 months old. That being said it was really time consuming & my babies have now happily transitioned to formula. There are so many different kinds of formula on the market today that it can be overwhelming to pick the right one. This part is very much trial and error until you find one your baby is happy with. It's best to try your baby for a full week on each brand you try as it can take a few days for their systems to settle down and adapt. So don't freak out if you try one and your baby doesn't seem to be happy, persevere & in a few days it could be fine!
Preparing the milk properly - we found the most success when a bottle was made to body temperature (like breastmilk would be). Swirl the powder don't shake it to mix as this can introduce more air into the milk. Never microwave milk & remember breastmilk can be re-heated but formula can't. For babies under 6 months it is best practice to use boiled water to make formula and bottles should we washed and sterilized after each use.
1. Sit in a nursing chair or on the couch or bed in the same position you would breastfeed in.
2. Hold your baby's face and mouth next to your breast and hold their body close to yours. The more points of contact between your two bodies the better! (picture of the position below).
3. Hold the bottle at an angle where the milk is in the teat but not flowing out. Think roughly a 30 degree angle.
4. To get your baby to latch onto the bottle use the same technique you would when getting your baby latched onto a nipple. Touch their top lip with the teat gently to stimulate them to open their mouth. Make sure their lips are nicely flanged (spread) over the teat and they are latched deeply enough on the teat to suck.
5. Once the baby is rhythmically sucking you can begin to raise the bottle so that the milk is flowing out. (I found that if i did this too quickly before the sucking rhythm began the flow would overwhelm my baby) this is the tricky part and can take some practice!!
6. Continue feeding until your baby pulls off, becomes fussy or finishes the bottle, I don't recommend stopping to burp your baby if they are happily drinking.
7. Remember that bottle fed babies take in much more air with their milk than breastfed babies do so burping is a really important step if you want a happy baby! We found stretching the baby's abdomen out for 15-20 seconds then rubbing upwards in a swipe like movement worked really well.
NB: these steps should be taken for every person feeding the baby. Whether is the mother, father, granny or a babysitter, consistency is key.
Things that make it harder:
Trying your baby on a bottle when they are either too hungry or not hungry enough - try to anticipate when they are likely to next be hungry and prepare a bottle so you can have it ready to go.
Trying it at the wrong time - I'd recommend a lunch time feed as a good time to try the first bottle (not the middle of the night or witching hour!)
Noise or distractions - try to keep the atmosphere calm and quiet
If your baby is sick or has a stuffy nose
Bottle feeding when out and about:
I often get asked how we go about preparing bottles when we aren't at home. We bring along a bottle with cold boiled water inside of it. We also bring a small flask with hot boiled water. We then add a small amount of hot water to the cold until it is warm. We carry formula in a container that holds it in the portions we need for each bottle. It's fiddly and isn't as quick as whipping your boob out but it gets the job done!
I hope this helped you in some way. Again no expert but this has worked for us twice over.