Sometimes, breast-feeding is not physically possible for every family. Sometimes a mother has to make the choice to bottle-feed for other considerations, like her own personal mental health. Those choices are entirely valid, and very personal.
While leading health organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization absolutely recommend exclusive breast-feeding for every infant everywhere, at every time, for optimum health, obviously that’s just not possible in every circumstance.
Some babies have health issues, some babies are adopted, and sometimes, work and family life just make breast-feeding impossible. Life isn't perfect, nor is parenthood, but if breast-feeding is off the table for you and your baby, that's perfectly OK.
So if bottle-feeding is that path that is best or most practical for you and your baby, here are a few tips to get started on bottle-feeding your newborn.
1. Research what formula you will be using.
If possible, try to choose a formula that you will be using for your baby ahead of time, so you can request it at the hospital. Many hospitals partner with formula companies and typically offer one certain brand to new mothers, but they often have other brands available if you request it.
If you are using a supplemental service like WIC, for instance, only certain brands of formula will be covered. If you would like to start out with a soy or other kind of specialty formula, it’s best to let the nursing staff know so they can be sure to have plenty on hand for your baby.
2. Keep in mind that exclusive pumping is an option.
While some parents may think it's baby to the breast or bust, exclusive breast pumping is also gaining more popularity among mothers who want the benefits of breast milk for their babies but aren't able to physically feed their infants at the breast.
"It was okay for me to give her pumped milk," wrote blogger Veronika on her journey with exclusive breast pumping.
"My daughter thrived on it and I thrived, knowing exactly how much she was getting — a blessing since she had trouble gaining weight when she was born. From the very beginning, early into my pregnancy, I always said, 'I don’t care how she gets my milk, as long as she gets it.' I loved the closeness of breast-feeding, but I disliked the feelings of frustration and inadequacy I felt when she was hungry again soon after a feeding and when I would open her diaper and see the change in color in her output. I wanted her to have my milk, and I was producing milk, so did it really matter how she got it?"
If you're looking to exclusively pump, La Leche League has some great resources for pumping mothers. And keep in mind that you and your baby can adapt to a mixture of both breast milk and formula, if that's the best option for you.
3. Aim for the roof of the mouth.
It sounds silly, but many parents I worked with as an OB nurse simply didn't know exactly how to feed a baby with a bottle. They would kind of stick the bottle in the baby's mouth and look at me in bewilderment when the baby didn't immediately start sucking the formula down.
But a little trick of the trade from the OB nurse world: If you aim the nipple of the bottle towards the roof of the baby's mouth and gently rub the nipple on the roof of baby's mouth, it stimulates the sucking reflex. And of course, as always, ask your nurse or baby's pediatrician if your infant is having trouble getting started on the bottle.
4. Bottle-feed multiples on a schedule.
If you're a soon-to-be parent of multiples, bottle-feeding gets a little trickier. Two babies, two arms, two bottles, and pretty soon you're twisted up faster than those games of "Twister" you used to play as a kid.
To keep everyone healthy and happy, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents of multiples start feeding schedules for their babies as soon as possible. The AAP offer tips on how to actually feed two babies at once (hint: a special pillow is involved!). It also encourages parents of twins or other multiples to make sure all babies are fed simultaneously, if at all possible, to hopefully help you get more sleep.
Other resources like the Mayo Clinic encourage parents to do what works for them, even if that means feeding children separately with a bottle.
No matter how you choose to bottle-feed your baby or babies, do so with the confidence that you are making the best choice for all of you to be happy and healthy.