Bottle Feeding With Love

As soon as I made the decision not to continue with breastfeeding (for various reasons which you can read about here), I began doing research and coming up with a plan for feeding my daughter her bottle in the best and most loving way possible.

Having planned to breastfeed, I didn’t have much knowledge about bottle feeding, and a lot of what I did find didn’t seem helpful or a good fit for my parenting style. Ultimately, we acted on much of the advice given to breastfeeding moms together with a good dose of instinct.

I’ve been wanting to pass on some of what we’ve learned for awhile as a resource for those who may have found themselves surprised by a similar situation. I fully support and advocate breastfeeding, but as it’s not always an option, this post is for moms who – for whatever reason – are looking for ways to bottle feed with love.

Feeding Time is Bonding Time

As often as possible, we were skin-on-skin when we fed baby. We cradled her close and made it a special time to bond with her. Feeding time was a chance to just BE with her in the moment, almost more than at any other time.

Now that she generally insists on holding her bottle/cup herself, I find myself looking back in nostalgia on those precious minutes spent holding her and feeding her – I have no question at all that we bonded strongly through them.

Baby-Led Feeding

One of the greatest temptations a bottle-feeding parent can have is to put baby on a schedule and be the determinant of how much he eats. This is a very strong message in our culture; most of us are hearing it from just about every corner.

This is also a money issue. Bottle feeding is certainly more expensive than breastfeeding, and if you prepare 3 ounces of milk and baby wants only 1, you can’t just throw it back in the fridge – you have to dump it down the drain. And it can be really, really difficult to do that!

We managed to find a way around both of those problems in our bottle-feeding adventures.

The first was more difficult for me – as a new parent I found it harder than I do now to fly in the face of convention – but it’s something we all just have to learn how to do for ourselves. From all that I had read, I knew trying to force-feed baby a certain amount (or on a certain schedule) would not be good for him in various ways, and that knowledge gave me the confidence to stand up for doing it my own way.

The other solution we came up with is one we’ve received some flak for but I’m going to go ahead and share it – the milk we gave our baby was cold milk, pretty much from the time she started drinking bottles (around 10 days).

Before you decide I’m a terrible parent, hear me out! I looked everywhere and could find absolutely nothing to back the idea that cold milk would be bad for baby. I asked 2 midwives and 2 doctors and all of them said it would be fine. And ultimately, I tested it on Bean herself – I figured if she didn’t like it, I wouldn’t give it to her. But she was never fazed by it – she drank it down from the first without even making a face.

This enabled me to do several things with much more ease (and avoid temptation to schedule feed or try to get her to drink a certain amount every time).

The danger with heating a bottle and keeping anything left over is the possibility of bacteria multiplying at those temperatures; as we didn’t heat the milk, we could simply refrigerate it again right away after she drank what she wanted.

We made bottles ahead of time, kept them in a cooler bag for going out and during the night, and she could determine her own schedule for eating without our having to throw any out. (Though I will say that if she hadn’t liked her milk cold, we would have continued to make every effort to let her lead when it came to her feeding – even if it did mean pouring milk down the drain!)

Get Your Partner Involved

Bottle feeding can be a great opportunity for your partner to get in on the bonding experience. Encourage them to make it one, too – skin to skin, focusing on baby during feeding. It can be a truly awesome experience for them as it is for you.

Love in Preparation

Though it made me feel a little silly at times, I always felt a sense of pride and love whenever I was preparing bottles for baby. Cleaning them properly, making sure we were well prepared, knowing she would never want for food at any time – it truly was an act of love.

I’m not going to say it never felt like a chore (it did, on more than one occasion), but for the most part I was conscious of the care I had for my daughter through the food that I prepared for her – something I’ve tried to continue now that she eats solids.

Don’t Feel Guilty

If you’re here at the Natural Parents Network and consider yourself to be an attachment sort of parent, I’m guessing you may feel some guilt around the idea of feeding your little by bottle – I know I certainly have!

But ultimately, it’s something you have to get over. None of us can change the past or decisions that were made that led us to this place – but we do control how we continue to react to them.

I’ve had plenty of crying jags and thoughts of being a terrible mother and apologies made to Bean for not feeding her “the right way” – but ultimately those thoughts and actions are not serving her. Being joyful in the way I feed her and prepare her food, being knowledgeable in the decisions I make about what goes into her body and confident that I’ve made the best choices for us that I could – these are the things that will serve her.

If I had it to do over again, yes, I would do it differently. But I don’t regret the way I did end up doing it, either. Looking back on our journey over the past 16 months, I have every confidence that we have truly fed our daughter with love.

If you have any questions about bottle feeding, please feel free to connect with me – you can e-mail me at Kelly(at)BecomingCrunchy(dot)com. Please remember that I am not an expert; none of the advice I’ve given here counts as medical advice, and I encourage you to do your own research and talk to your doctor as necessary. But I am here to give a loving ear if you need one.

About The Author: Kelly

Becoming Crunchy My NPN Posts

Kelly blogs at Becoming Crunchy about her family's journey to moving towards more sustainable, healthful living, along with whatever else she can think of to write about. She is wife to Dave and mother of "Bean".

20 Responses to Bottle Feeding With Love

  1. Rachel Wolf  

    A friend recently had a heart attack when her baby was just a couple of months old. The medications she now requires makes her unable to nurse. Though breastmilk is in her bottle (thanks to our amazing supportive community – ) she will be bottle-fed. I reflected on my own biases against the bottle here and am coming to terms with many ways to lovingly nourish a baby.

    Here is the bottle/breast post:

    Sending blessings, mama. ~ Rachel

  2. Melanie

    I’ve always fed my babies cold milk in bottles. So if I do that, I don’t have to throw away what he doesn’t finish, assuming I refrigerate the leftovers right away?

    • Kelly

      Melanie, that is what we do, though there can be a risk involved – please see my comment in response to Sara for more detail on this. 🙂

  3. Marin

    What kind of formula do you use? Or do you make it yourself?

    • Kelly

      Marin, we used a well known name-brand formula that we chose when we rather suddenly found ourselves in the position of bottle feeding.

      If I had known more at the time, I may have sought different alternatives; as it was I felt a bit ‘stuck’ with what we had until my daughter turned one, when we transitioned her to goat’s milk.

  4. Sara

    I believe it’s the saliva that goes back into the bottle that causes the bacteria contamination. It’s not recommended to feed a baby a partial bottle and then save it for later, whether you keep it cold or not. You can read more about the recommendations for formula bottle feeding here:

    • Kelly

      Sara thank you for bringing this point up – it was one reason I was hesitant to share how we do it as you are right – saliva/backwash can be a source of bacteria contamination (also why we’re recommended not to ‘re-feed’ from baby food or ‘wash’ a pacifier in our mouths).

      I did take this into consideration along with other factors and made a judgement call – to me, the temperature issue is significant, but with a very healthy child (and a very tiny nipple opening) I did not find the idea of saliva contamination very worrisome, though I do know that there are probably many who would disagree.

      This is why I recommend people to do their own research and understand these kinds of issues before making a decision. I appreciate your resource and comment – thank you.

  5. Jenny B  

    THANK YOU so much for covering this topic. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

    Due to very legitimate supply issues that I do not feel the need to justify to anyone, both my babies had to be combo fed and then bottle fed. We did the same thing with the room temperature bottles. I have noticed that as they got/get closer to one year old they “snack” on the bottle a lot like a breastfeeding baby would nurse throughout the day. I make sure I always have a “snack” available for the baby.

    There are definitely ways to naturally parent even when bottle feeding. Thank you again, SO MUCH.

  6. Lauren  

    I love this article, Kelly! There are so many of us parents who for one reason or another don’t exclusively breastfeed (working out of the home, adoption, jury duty, taking a girls’ night out for crying out loud) who could use these tips just as much as those who exclusively bottle feed. I really appreciate them, and love that you’re sharing them with us! You are such a thoughtful parent, and I really admire your openness in sharing about this topic.

    I read a tip that cold milk isn’t usually rejected as long as the nipple’s warm. The advice suggested warming the nipple under warm water if it’s been refrigerated.

  7. Rachel C.

    Kelly, thanks for sharing! I loved it!

  8. Momma Jorje

    Thank you. Bottle feeding is definitely a good way for other family members to bond with a new baby, even if the mother is breastfeeding. I supplement with a bottle of donated breastmilk.

    So many people like to prop bottles up for babies… ugh.

    • Kelly

      Thank you Jorje. 🙂

      I actually never even imagined propping a bottle…I always found it odd to see so many references to that in regards to bottle-feeding moms!

  9. Jennifer

    Thank you! I struggled for awhile after my daughters birth to establish breastfeeding. She had no interest in latching on and staying on. I ended up combined feeding for three and a half weeks before I decided I couldn’t continue with expressing for various reasons. I tried everything and had loads of support to get her attached but nothing worked. The guilt was horrible and I have come to the conclusion that people aren’t prepared for the social and maternal pressure to breastfeed. I said I was prepared for it not working out but really I wasn’t and I think there needs to be a gentler approach to breastfeeding, explaining all the possible problems. So thank you for this article.

  10. Louise

    Your support for other bottle feeding moms made me cry! My baby can’t latch because of mouth issues that I don’t have money or insurance to fix (high palate, two lip ties and a tongue tie, all inherited from me). I pumped for her until mastitis dried me up, or so I thought! For the past two months, I’ve tortured myself trying to get her to latch, trying to pump and only getting drops, crying and ranting and feeling like an incompetent mom when i see other women nursing. I haven’t felt like a woman because I can’t nurse, but this article made me feel a bit better and I have to thank you unconditionally. You’re right — we can’t change the past, we can’t change issues. We have to be grateful that we even have alternative methods to feed our babies! We are so lucky we live in a place where we can feed our babies with alternate methods rather than watch them starve because of nursing or supply issues.

    I have to keep that in mind when I feel like I’ve failed my baby. Thank you for your support. It means the world to me <3

  11. Louise

    Thank you <3 I don't believe in parenting styles, just in what helps my baby and supports her needs, but I do want to be a more gentle parent with a lean toward AP, and not being able to BF really affected me and caused horrible PPD. I had sexual abuse issues from my ex while pregnant and did not want to nurse, so I decided to EP to give my baby the best start at life. After my daughter was born, I decided to try to nurse and deal with my issues for her sake. She ended up not being able to nurse because of a high palate and three ties, plus after mastitis, my supply dwindled. I'm proud that I was able to give her as much as I could through pumping, but I felt like a failure and like I wasn't doing what was best, even though my entire family had been FF and I was the only one to try BFing in three generations! When I was a kid, I didn't even thinking about anything but bottle feeding when I imagined feeding a baby.

    I can't express how much articles like this from natural parents mean to me, especially after seeing so much judgment and cruelty toward FFing moms in the AP and natural parenting communities. Thank you so much for your perspective. It shows that in all things, we should have a balanced view.