Because, let’s be honest, it’s about more than the bottle or the boob.
After exclusively breastfeeding my daughter, I was sure I would do the same with my son. Sure, this time around I would introduce the bottle sooner (so that he might actually take it — my daughter never did), but I figured I was committed to at least another year of baby-to-boob feeding.
However, when my son was taken to the NICU soon after he was born and I wasn’t able to breastfeed until a few days later, I knew we were on a very different journey.
He seemed somewhat intrigued by breastfeeding, at least, until he promptly — though sweetly — fell asleep on me.
Still, I proudly waved away the lactation consultants when they popped in. After all, I’d breastfed my daughter for 15 months.
I’ve been there, done that, got the trophy. Right?
Once we were home, though, it was very clear that my boy preferred the tiny bottles he’d been given in the hospital to me.
At first, I felt frustrated. Maybe I should have accepted help from the lactation pros? Then, I felt guilty. What if he gets sick more often if I don’t breastfeed him? Finally, I felt sad. How would I bond with him?
Well, now that I’m on the other side of it — my son is over a year now and drinks cow’s milk to his heart’s content — I can say without hesitation that bottle-feeding can be just as rewarding as breastfeeding. If not more so. There, I said it.
Having such different experiences with my kids showed me that no matter how you feed your baby, you’re doing it perfectly right for you.
Here are a few key things I learned about bottles and bonding:
Bottle-feeding means you need to be present
Once I got the hang of breastfeeding, it was easy for me to zone out.
I was beyond exhausted the first time around and found myself closing my eyes for a catnap after my daughter was latched on. That, or I was scrolling Amazon to find the perfect swaddle that would finally get her to sleep for longer than 45 minutes at a time.
I was a new mom and life felt hard. I was sleep deprived and overwhelmed. I had no idea what I was doing. I second-guessed myself all the time.
With my son, I felt much more confident. I’d mastered the art of functioning on no sleep. I also had the perspective that time speeds up after you have kids. I didn’t want the baby stage to pass me by.
But it wasn’t just a shift in outlook the second time around. I’d never bottle-fed before, so I needed to really pay attention. I had to hold the bottle correctly — plus, I couldn’t snooze since my baby couldn’t hold it himself.
Because of this, I spent less time checked out (or on my phone) with my son. I spent more time looking into his huge eyes, his mushy little cheeks, his tiny, wrinkled hands as they grasped my finger.
While breastfeeding bonded me to my daughter because of the physical connection, bottle-feeding bonded me to my son because of the way it required my presence.
And continually being in the moment made me feel close with him even while he drank formula instead of my own milk.
Bottle-feeding gives you peace of mind
There are so many things to worry about when you have a new baby. Are they sleeping enough? Are they growing enough? Are they eating enough?
Bottle-feeding gives you clarity on that last one — you know exactly how many ounces your baby gets each feeding.
My kids are on the smaller side, so having this information with my son gave me one less thing to be anxious about. Fewer worries meant that I was a relaxed, more receptive mama. I was more able to enjoy the newborn experience.
Bottle-feeding allows you to have a break
When my son was just a few weeks old, I left the house for a couple of hours. I ran errands. I got a foot massage. My boobs weren’t twinging or feeling like they were about to explode. I wasn’t on the clock.
I was exhausted, of course, but I felt human.
And when I returned home to my family, I felt replenished after the time away. I was ready to make a bottle and hold my son. And cuddle and do crafts with my 2 1/2 year old, too, for that matter.
Bottle-feeding gave me the chance to take meaningful breaks. To put my own oxygen mask on first, so to speak. To be able to give both of my kids my best self.
After these moments of self-care, I was more mentally equipped to bond not only with my baby, but with my toddler as well.
Bottle-feeding doesn’t affect your closeness
Yes, my son just wasn’t into breastfeeding. But, let me tell you, he’s so into me.
Even at a year old, he wants me to hold him all the time. He nuzzles and cuddles into me before I put him down for bed. He books it to the front door when I return from working or grocery shopping.
I’m clearly still his favorite person. How I fed him as an infant didn’t make a difference.
Don’t tell those lactation consultants, but having gone down both roads, I would happily choose bottle-feeding again. Once I got the phrase “breast is best” out of my head, I was able to relax into the reality of the situation and truly enjoy the time I spent feeding my son.
I learned that it doesn’t really matter how or what you feed your baby — breast or bottle, milk or formula. Whatever your feeding circumstances or choices may be, they’re just right for you.
Natasha Burton is a freelance writer and editor who has written for Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, Livestrong, Woman’s Day, and many other lifestyle publications. She’s the author of What’s My Type?: 100+ Quizzes to Help You Find Yourself―and Your Match!, 101 Quizzes for Couples, 101 Quizzes for BFFs, 101 Quizzes for Brides and Grooms, and the co-author of The Little Black Book of Big Red Flags. When she’s not writing, she’s fully immersed in #momlife with her toddler and preschooler.