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.
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.