At Nurturing Mums we strongly believe that fed is best. With our free breast and bottle feeding event fast approaching at Mamas & Papas, Northcote Road on 3 Aug (snap up a last spot here), we are taking a look at one mum’s experience with feeding and how bottle feeding was the right option for Valerie from @city_mum_loves… whose blog maternityandback.com sheds a refreshing light on the challenges of being a new mum.
Sometimes as a new parent, there seems to be a gap in the market of baby information out there… and you’re just not sure how to plug it. That’s how my hubby and I initially felt about bottle feeding our newborn.
After the initial elation and baby birth hormones wore off, and even through our sleepless haze (which lasted about 6 months – but that’s another story), most consuming our early thoughts were “are we feeding this baby the *right* way?”
Breast feeding wasn’t for us. By “us” I don’t mean it wasn’t the choice of me and my husband – are you kidding, we’d have loved to avoid sterilising a gazzilion bottles! I mean it wasn’t for me and my baby boy. We tried – god knows, we tried – and there were tears and tantrums for all of us. But little Jasper – well, he’d had a go at latching and didn’t like it. We tried for four weeks. We had a lactation consultant, two midwives (one sorted out a posterior tongue tie), a breast feeding counsellor, and a doula. We had nipple shields. We had nipple cream. We had breast pumps and ice packs and hot gel packs. And all of it worked a bit – but not enough to sustain that gorgeous baby, and for mummy and baby to be happy and bond. It was a long journey but after six weeks of mixed feeding (including expressing religiously throughout the night)… we called it a day.
Here’s what I’d wish I’d known at the time.
1. It great to breast feed your baby. And it’s great to bottle feed, too. Sometimes it’s not a choice that Mum can make: sometimes baby, and Daddy, need to help Mum to make the choice that’s right for the whole family. Happy Mum, happy baby – happy family.
2. Anyone who says you can’t bond as well with a bottle fed baby is talking out their judgemental and ill-informed behind. Absolutely, you can. Cuddle your baby. Face them towards you. Shower the top of their head in kisses. Twiddle their toes and stroke their tiny little hands. Let your baby stroke your hair and face, and bury their cute little hands in your top while you gently hold the bottle for them. Look into their eyes. Tell them stories. There’s no reason you can’t be the Mum you want to be while bottle feeding your baby – hug them close and enjoy every moment. Adapt. Your baby will love that time with you.
3. Your baby knows who Mum is, whether or not you’re getting your nips out. There’s no reason why you can’t do skin-to-skin too, if you’re warm enough and that’s what you’d like to do.
4. You can glare daggers at anyone who says that bottle feeding is the easy option. It’s hard work – it’s different. So your nipples won’t be cracked – you might still be really uncomfortable while your milk supply sorts itself out. Or maybe you’re expressing – and being plugged into that bloody hospital grade “moo-machine” isn’t exactly enjoyable. If you’re using formula, it can be a real effort of trial and error to find the one your baby seems happiest on.
5. Washing, sterilising and filling bottles loses its appeal very quickly – and you’re going to be doing it for a very long time! That said – you’re going to find your flow. Soon it will be second nature and you’ll be washing and sterilising bottles with your eyes shut (I mean that – any chance to catch-up on sleep…)
6. Choose your bottles with care. Some babies are really sensitive – ours was definitely best on Dr Browns (reduced wind). But bottles are also expensive – until you know your baby is happy with your selection… buy a small number of bottles and circulate.
7. The NHS and WHO has some excellent leaflets on how to safely make and keep formula in bottles, and how to make it on the go. It’s… a bit of a faff, and some prescribed formulas (e.g. for cows milk allergy babies) have their own special instructions, too. Follow current advice, and also use common sense and think about food hygiene and food preparation.
8. Bottle feeding can be great – you’ll be able to go out of an evening far sooner than if you’re breast feeding, and Dad and Grandparents can all help with feeds and work on their own bonds with your gorgeous baby! Happy days. My husband is as confident and competent as I am with feeds – of course he is, we’ve been doing it together since the early days.
9. However, just because you CAN share bottle feeds, doesn’t mean you have to. I was really sensitive in the early days about who fed our baby – and my husband understood and respected that. I had so wanted to breastfeed and was disappointed that it wasn’t the right thing for me and our family. I felt like it was a special thing only Mum could do. I explained this to my husband, and we agreed that in the early weeks the assumption would be (when around other people) that I would be doing the feeds. It was important for me to have newborn cuddles, and to feel like I was getting to know my baby and his feeding patterns. In truth, I was pretty soon very happy to share the feeds with Daddy (especially at night!) – but I really loved saying to family and friends that I’d be feeding our baby, because it was “our” thing, for now. You might feel differently and happily watch your family and friends feed your baby, or go and rest! But if you want to do it – hell, it’s your right.
10. When it comes to babies, there’s a lot of information out there which is absolute bollocks. Unfortunately, the same is true when it comes to bottle feeding. One of the worst things I heard was via a friend getting some help from a well-meaning doula, when the baby had colic the doula said something like “it’s because she’s still mourning the breast” (Mum was bottle feeding). Utter crap. Sorry Mums – as with everything, sift through the hysteria, the ill-informed, and the outdated… find the relevant sources of supportive and kind information and focus on that. Life’s too short, and there’s a lot of fruit loops writing on forums. Sadly.
Heck – so much to talk about when it comes to bottle feeding! Choice of bottle, temperature, formula, allergies, involving other people, and even dealing with serious neck ache (from staring gooey eyed at your little cutie-pie; or from watching too much Suits in bed while doing endless hour-long feeds…).
You’re doing brilliantly Mum – keep it up. And Dad, too: if it’s right for your family, you’ll find that Dad has a really special role to play when it comes to bottle feeding. (And that includes at 3am on the weekend, in my book!)