As I fed my baby boy, I gazed into his eyes, locked intently on mine. We stared at each other in silence, except for the gulping and swallowing of him chugging away — literally. Calmness enveloped us both, and I hoped that this would be one of those moments I’d remember forever.
Guess what? It wasn’t breastfeeding that brought about this bliss for me.
Bottle-feeding has brought me a sense of peace, pride, and pure joy that I thought was reserved only for breastfeeding mamas.
But if using a bottle has brought so much positivity to these exhausting early months of newborn life, why hadn’t I come across more information on combination feeding, let alone formula options, from the start? I’d been an exclusively breastfeeding mama before. But now, I’m a proud member of the boob and bottle club.
Breastfeeding my first baby is one of my most treasured experiences as a mother. And, if I could exclusively breastfeed (EBF) my second without any issues, I’d probably do that. But that’s not my reality this time around, and it’s not the reality of many other mothers out there — yet alternative information is far from readily available or provided. Instead, expecting mamas are inundated with the glamour of #breastisbest.
You don’t have to look far to get a taste of it. Instagram photos flood my feed, showing blissfully happy new mothers lounging with their little ones on their breast. I read over and over about mothers who proudly EBF for their baby’s full first year, so I knew I wanted to do it, too.
I didn’t make it to my babe’s first birthday but I was close. When I gave birth to my second baby this past fall, I didn’t even think twice – of course I’d breastfeed.
But guess what? No one warned me that nursing a newborn with a toddler climbing over you was going to be so difficult. I fully expected chaos with two under two, but I didn’t even consider how it would affect nursing – I became a topless, human jungle gym and only one participant in the party was having fun.
In addition, I began to worry that my little guy wasn’t getting enough milk. When a dear friend with a newborn the same age told me how she was combo-feeding, I was intrigued.
Why hadn’t combo feeding even come to my mind? I felt a bit silly for not even realizing this was an option. Instead I had made myself crazy looking into ways to increase my milk supply and make breastfeeding work when it just wasn’t.
There is no doubt that breastfeeding is highly recommended. The benefits are not to be ignored, and I’d had a wonderful experience with my first child. But just because one way works well at one time, doesn’t mean others routes should be ignored forever.
Every mama’s life is different, every mama’s body is different, and every baby is different. My son’s full belly was more important than any preconceived notions I had, so I said goodbye to cultural pressure I felt and opened myself to new ways of feeding my growing baby boy.
I began to look into adding some formula to our little guy’s menu, and it was frustrating to not find the same wealth of information as I could find regarding breastfeeding. After such an amazing breastfeeding experience with my first, I was worried about how bottle-feeding would stack up emotionally.
I was worried for no reason, because my experience has been amazingly beautiful.
Was it more “work” than breastfeeding? Yes. I now had bottles to clean and formula to mix but I also found it incredibly easy to just sit back and feed without dealing with awkward shirt adjustments, both in and out of the house. Managing a bottle was often a lot easier with a toddler in tow as well. Bottle or boob, both have their pros and cons, as I’ve discovered – it’s finding what works best for the season of your life you’re currently in.
I found that by adding a bottle to my hands, I become totally present (no temptation for phone use anymore). I was more aware – to him in my arms, to the sun setting, to the music in the background (often the Moana soundtrack, obviously). I found myself soaking up that sweet newborn smell, his milk drunk eyes, his long eyelashes – the pure magic of a new baby.
Even better? By introducing bottles, nursing has become more enjoyable. The pressure is off, allowing me to take a much needed deep breath.
We’re four months into life with this little guy and I’m loving our setup. My fingers are crossed that my milk supply stays at its current status. But if not, I’ll open myself up again to review and adjust, feeling confident that there is more than one way to bond with my baby boy while providing all the nutrients his growing body needs.
It took some deeper digging (and some helpful non-judgemental girlfriends), but I have learned quite a few things when it comes to bottle-feeding:
Finding the right formula is like Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
Some may upset your baby’s belly, you may prefer others based on dietary preferences, or your baby may not like the taste of another. Don’t get frustrated if you need to try a few to find a winner.
Even if you’re planning on only offering one or two bottles, have more ready.
Having plenty of clean bottles (and parts) means you won’t be holding a screaming newborn as you try to clean that singular bottle over and over again.
Bottles don’t need to be 100% formula or 100% breastmilk.
It’s often recommended to mix a little formula into a breastmilk bottle to get your baby used to the taste. This method can be continued with any ratio of formula to breastmilk. But, if you are using powdered or concentrated liquid formula, always mix it correctly with water before adding to breastmilk so the nutrients remain balanced.
Cleaning doesn’t need to be intense.
Sterilize all bottle parts to begin, but after that, washing thoroughly with hot water and soap is enough. To be extra clean, I toss everything in the dishwasher frequently as well.
Many formulas can be ordered online via subscription services.
Add your bottle-feeding must-haves to your monthly orders, just like diapers and other necessities. Once again, thank you Amazon.