Tips On Bottle Feeding Baby

How can moms who find themselves in the unenviable position of either not being able to breastfeed, or simply not wanting to breastfeed, feel at peace with their decision? We asked a pediatrician and moms to share their tips on guilt-free bottle feeding.
Melissa Chapman-Mushnick

Eight years ago I was an overwhelmed, terrified first-time mom lying in a hospital bed after almost 24 hours of labor at a teaching hospital, where it seemed like my vagina was open for business and public viewing.  Suffice it say, I was exhausted and when a La Leche  representative walked into my room and began to rattle off how important it was for me to start breastfeeding as son as possible; I begrudgingly obliged. Although I had planned to formula feed -- and even bought the bottles I had planned to use -- the breastfeeding cheerleader was not going to let me go without a fight. After several minutes of indoctrinating me with guilt, I succumbed to the pressure to be a dutiful mother and give my baby the best possible start -- which she implored me would not be possible if I chose formula over breast milk.
Those first two months were brutal… my daughter seemed unable to latch on properly and we had a bit of an adjustment period which was consisted of me sobbing for the better part of most days. My inability to breastfeed had me feeling completely inept that something as natural as breastfeeding felt like the most unnatural and trickiest part of motherhood for me.

I also craved my pre-baby body back, and felt that I’d done my part to house my daughter for nine months- during which time I swore off coffee, diet soda and the hardest sacrifice; letting my blonde highlights fade to brown . I was honestly ready to reclaim my body-and allow my husband equally shoulder the feeding responsibilities. And yet- the opposition I experienced from other mothers, as well as my La Leche local chapter- was akin to my basically denying my baby the sustenance she rightfully deserved. I felt so incredibly guilty for wanting to choose formula over breast milk, so I soldiered on for three more weeks until my cracked, raw nipples had reached their limit. And still seven years after the fact, I feel guilty.

Bottle feed without guilt
According to  Dr. Laura Jana pediatrician and co-author of the book,  Heading Home with Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality, published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, being a new parent is challenging and can be frustrating. For a mother faced with the additional challenges associated with breastfeeding, sometimes the extra time, effort, appointments/instruction can prove to be too overwhelming. The bottom line: if a mother wants to be able to breastfeed in the face of physical limitations, she should know that there may well be ways to make that happen. However, for the mothers that can't either physically or emotionally, Dr. Jana feels very strongly that there should be no guilt involved!

“While I am actively involved with the American Academy of Pediatrics, and fully support the recommendations for breastfeeding infants my co-author, Jennifer Shu, MD and I feel that the breast is best message has the unfortunate consequence of making those mothers who bottle feed feel guilty,” says Dr. Jana who notes that guilty-formula feeding moms can take some comfort in the fact that formula is continually being improved as more is understood  about what components of breast milk are beneficial, and how to combine these nutrients in formula. In fact 99% of US formulas currently contain DHA and ARA; omega fatty acids naturally found in breast milk and thought to play an important role in health and infant development from eyes and brain to potential immune benefits. “If you've already discussed your choice with a qualified health professional," she writes,  "then you have my full support in flipping directly to the formula-feeding discussion of our book without experiencing unrelenting pangs of guilt.”

While Dr. Jana is quick to reiterate that breast is best; she notes that there are some fringe benefits that moms who decide to formula feed will reap. “Especially early on formula-fed infants are generally able to go a bit longer between feedings, mom is not the only caregiver who can partake in the bonding experience of feeding the infant which allows others to participate, but also gives mom the very valuable opportunity to get longer stretches of sleep, and most parents I know really like to be able to see and know just how much their baby is drinking," says Dr. Jana who notes that on the flip side one of the frustrations of breastfeeding is not knowing how much babies are getting, and having to rely purely on wet/poopy diapers and weight checks!

Bottle feeding tips
For moms who decide to formula feed Dr. Jana highly recommends several ideas to make it a more bonding, enjoyable experience.

  • Choose a feeding chair, special pillow, etc that helps to accomplish this and make the experience more enjoyable - while not necessary - is worthwhile. Anything that approximates bottle-propping (or the elimination of caregiver involvement in the feeding process) should not be used.
  • Check out special bottles designed to eliminate the swallowing of excess air (which for some babies doesn't matter too much, but for others leads to excess gassiness.
  • Try to avoiding BPA in bottles; obviously a "hot topic" these days.
  • Moms should not be  tempted to purchase low-iron formulas, as the iron in infant formula is very important to a developing baby and does not cause constipation in infants (whether the constipation is just perceived or real).

A Real mom shares her bottle feeding tips
According to Amy Smorodin, a 34 -year-old Arlington, VA mom and vice president of public relations for a think tank, her decision to formula feed was based on several issues. 

“Since my daughter was born via c-section my husband was prepared to be the primary caregiver for at least the first few weeks if needed. I also did not want my daughter to be exclusively dependent on me for all feedings, especially since I planned to return to work three months after her birth,” says Smorodin. “Most importantly, personally, I was not interested in breastfeeding and after a very difficult pregnancy, I was eager to have my body and hormone levels return to normal.”

Smorodin offers these 3 tips which helped her on the path to successful formula feeding.

  • Start by buying a few different brands of bottles.  You may find your child prefers one particular type.
  • Mini coolers specially made for bottles are vital for leaving the house for any length of time if you are using powdered formula.  It's much easier to grab a ready-made bottle out of the cooler than wrestle with pre-mixed cans or small individual packets of power when your child is screaming to be fed.
  • Smaller bottles are virtually impossible to fit a kitchen sponge into, so invest in several bottle brushes.

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