When Breastfeeding isn’t an Option: How to Bond with Baby while Bottle Feeding

You hear it all the time: Breast is best! While I do believe that is absolutely true, sometimes, breast just doesn’t work out. You can try with everything you have within yourself, bring in lactation consultants, go to meetings, see your pediatrician, seek advice from friends, spend constant hours working, positioning, experimenting, etc. and it can still end up with both you and baby in tears.

There is a certain stigma that follows bottle feeding. There are some that say that it is just impossible to bond with your baby at a bottle in the same way that you can bond with baby at the breast. While it may be difficult to exactly mimic a breastfeeding relationship, it is not impossible to bond in some of the exact same ways that a breastfeeder would.

1. Skin to skin
One huge benefit of breastfeeding is skin to skin contact. Having baby touch your bare skin promotes the release of the “love hormone”- oxytocin. However, what says that a bottle feeding mama can’t feel their baby’s super soft tummy against hers? You can achieve the same sensation by taking off your shirt, rolling up the bottom, or unbuttoning just enough to feel baby against you.

2. Look at your baby
Bottle feeding doesn’t necessarily mean that you can put a bottle in your little ones mouth and go about your business. Sometimes you can… so can a breastfeeding mom. While feeding your baby, though, look into his eyes. Hold him no more than 10 inches from your face to make sure that he sees you, too!

3. Don’t be silent
Sometimes just feeding your baby in quiet is OH SO amazing. But, a great way to bond intimately with your child during a bottle session is to let them hear your voice. Talk to her, sing, tell her a story. She loves to hear your voice, she knows your voice, and it will make that feeding even more relaxing.

4. Switch sides
Switching sides isn’t just for breastfed babies. Changing sides during a bottle feeding gives the baby a new perspective of you. It allows baby to learn both sides of your face and may keep them interested in eating for a longer period of time because of the change of scenery. (It does wonders for your back and shoulders, too!)

5. Unplug
Turn off that TV! Being distracted by electronics while giving your baby a bottle disengages you from him and could cause you to miss some prime bonding opportunities and an awesome oxytocin release! (This goes for breastfeeding moms also!)

6. Don’t prop!
Probably the most important recommendation I have is to hold your baby while she eats. It may seem super convenient to just put the baby on a pillow or bouncy seat, prop the bottle in the baby’s mouth and have both hands available to do what you need to do while she is preoccupied. However, you are both being deprived of super sweet cuddle time. Additionally, propping the bottle increases the risk of choking and ear infections. Your baby most likely downs that bottle pretty quick. Dedicate that special time to her.

Be encouraged. You are the beautiful, glowing, perfect mother to a brand new baby. You are doing a great job. Your baby is fed. Your baby is loved. Your baby is happy. Relish in that!

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