There is so much advice out there when it comes to feeding, you could go mad trying to decide if the decision you make will turn your kids into little Einsteins or hyperactive jumping beans. News Flash – whether you decide to feed your babies breast, bottle or both, it is unlikely to be the most important decision you will make while raising your kids.
I was given lots of advice regarding feeding babies before my boys arrived. There is no doubt breast is best (if alone just based on your bank account), but you also need to keep your sanity. With one baby it is hard, let alone two or more. Both my parents were bottle fed. My dad turned out to be allergic to milk and constantly had an upset stomach as a baby. As the oldest of four children, I was only breast fed for a few weeks because my mum had to go back to work and didn’t have a breast pump. When my three siblings arrived she gave up work and spent a longer period of time breastfeeding them. She strongly believes I have serious allergies because I was switched to 100% formula so early whereas my siblings have none or very minor allergies. My mother-in-law, to encourage me to breastfeed, bought me a very expensive, easy to use breast pump (Medela Freestyle – hands free, small and quiet). That I used all of ½ dozen times as I could just never find enough hours in the day.
Based on the advice I received, I had originally planned to exclusively breast feed but plans quickly change when boys arrive four weeks early. At 6 8lbs and 6 12lbs they were a very healthy weight (probably would have been 9lbs each if they had been full term) but by the second day they had both lost over 10% of their body weight and the doctor advised that they needed more food. We were told to top up their feed with formula, and that we would not be released from the hospital until the boys went 24 hours without losing any weight.
Initially we started with normal readymade formula bottles but one of the midwives advised we should do finger feeding so the boys didn’t get nipple confusion. (General advice is to wait until the babies are 4 weeks old before introducing bottles.)
We were lucky as the boys never had a problem and could easily go back and forth between breast and bottle. They just loved their food. After we started finger feeding another midwife advised we could not be released from the hospital until the boys were no longer finger feeding so we switched back to the bottles. At that point I wanted out of the hospital, and would have followed any piece of advice as long as we were allowed to go home. We received several different opinions from midwives in the hospital and unfortunately there is not one standard approach.
If you do have a problem switching from breast to bottle, here are a few tips for getting a baby to take to a bottle:
- Get someone else to offer the bottle
- Offer it at a time when your baby is neither starving hungry nor completely full
- Offer the bottle in the dark, so he can’t see it.
While feeding in the hospital I had just stacked pillows up around me, but they kept slipping and the boys were never balanced well so when we finally did leave the hospital one of my first online purchases was the E-Z to nurse pillow (Go for the foam one – I bought the inflatable one thinking we would use it when we went travelling but regretted the decision as it kept deflating).
Once home, I continued to offer the boys one formula bottle a day and the rest was breastfeeding. The bottle supplement actually made my life so much easier as I could have a break or sleep while my mom and/or husband would feed the boys. We also moved their bottle feed to any time of the day that suited us best. When I took the boys in to visit my office, everyone took a turn to feed them a little. If we had friends coming around in the evening, they could help out and give the boys a bottle. We also found if we moved the formula feed to the last feed of the evening, around 11PM, the boys tended to sleep a little longer during the night. One of the best tips I was given was not to heat the formula but give it to the babies at room temperature.
As we started this right from the beginning we never had to worry about warming formula, which I imagine is a hassle when out and about.
We also found putting them in bouncy chairs or propped up on pillows initially one of the best ways to feed them bottles. I spent hours sitting on the floor with my back against the sofa and a bouncy chair on either side. I was so excited when they finally managed to hold the bottle on their own.
I continued to mix feed until the boys reached seven months and started to cut teeth. As soon as they could bite I transitioned to 100% bottles. I replaced about one feed a day for a week transition each time until they were on 100% formula. Overall I think mixed feeding was the right decision for us. My sister who had a baby two months before me was never able to have a few hours to herself as her son refused to take a bottle and she breastfeed him until have was 14 months old. I enjoyed my girls’ nights out too much to not consider having the flexibility of bottles.
Whether you wish your partner to be more involved, plan to work or study soon after having babies, or just prefer the convenience of your babies being able to breastfeed and take a bottle – mixed breast and bottle-feeding may be the preferred choice for you.
Jennifer from East Dulwich, mum to Matthew and David, 2