Breastfeed, Bottle Feed or Both? Choosing How to Feed Your Baby
By Chelsea Skaggs, founder of Postpartum Together
How parents choose to feed their baby can be one of the most difficult decisions. In a lot of mommy circles the conversation is full of mom guilt, judgment, and plenty of phrases that can make women feel insecure. There are a number of factors that impact newborn feeding choices and the personal decisions to be made. No matter how you chose to feed your baby, whether you breastfeed or formula feed, we are here to support you and help you understand your choices.
Feeding Options for a Newborn
When it comes to feeding options for you and your baby, you are considering the benefits of breast milk, the benefits of formula feeding, or combination feeding which includes both breast milk and formula.
If you are making the choice to breastfeed, you have the option of directly nursing baby on your breast, pumping milk with a breast pump and bottles, or using a combination. Additionally, some women use donor milk, which is breast milk from another woman, if the mother is unable for any reason to use her own breast milk.
Ways to Feed
- Nursing: Feeding your baby breast milk directly from your breast
- Exclusively Pumping: Using a breast pump and feeding breast milk via bottle or other feeding system
- Combination Feeding: Using a combination of breast milk and formula to feed. May include supplementing with formula for quantity or fortifying breast milk with formula to increase the caloric value for baby’s growth.
- Donor Milk: Milk pumped and provided by another lactating woman.
- Formula: “a food which purports to be or is represented for special dietary use solely as a food for infants by reason of its simulation of human milk or its suitability as a complete or partial substitute for human milk” (FDA)
Bottles for Newborns: Starting with Bottle Feeding
If you are choosing to use a bottle for a formula fed baby you want to figure out how much milk baby needs and get and find a bottle your baby likes. Use CDC formula feeding recommendations to understand how much formula to feed your newborn and how that changes as your baby grows. Then you can find newborn baby bottles that fit your needs. If you are bottle-feeding a premature baby, there are special preemie bottles your hospital will likely recommend and help you find. Some babies will take any type of bottle and some babies show their personality early by being choosy about the kind of bottle he enjoys. If you baby is having trouble taking in enough formula or breast milk, talk with your medical provider and/or a lactation consultant to help identify any problems.
If you are choosing to exclusively pump (it is important to note this is still breastfeeding) or provide donor milk via a bottle, follow CDC guidelines for how much and how often to breastfeed. Infants who are bottle fed will need a bottle with a newborn or slow-flow nipple. The amount of bottles you need depends on how many feeds your baby requires and how often you want to do the dishes (or, I should say, outsource the dishes!) If you are exclusively pumping, it is helpful to feed your baby from a bottle that hooks into your pumping system so you can save a step and minimizes parts to wash.
Bottles for Breastfed Babies: Switching from Breast to Bottle
At some point, most women who directly nurse their babies need to learn how to get a breastfed baby to take a bottle. If this is you, you may worry about things like nipple confusion and your baby’s desire to continue nursing from your breast. There are many reasons you may switch from boob to bottle- some switch only partially and others switch totally.
You may switch from breast to bottle because:
- You are going back to work or school
- Others are providing childcare
- You are struggle with breast pain/latch
- You are mothering multiples
- Your mental health would be better if you stopped breastfeeding
- You require a medication or procedure
- You are experiencing trauma that is triggered by breastfeeding
When you switch from breast to bottle, you want to find the best baby bottles for a breastfed baby. There are many bottles created to mimic the shape and flow of the breast and these bottles may have a higher likelihood of your baby learning to switch back and forth if you plan continue to nurse as well.
As a mother who nursed one child until he could take a sippy cup and then exclusively pumped and supplemented with formula for my second, I know the pressure can feel overwhelming at times. Unfortunately there is still a lot of language that can make moms carry guilt about their feeding choices- no matter what you choose to do. There is outside pressure and there is also the internal pressure we put on ourselves.
If you are trying to decide how to feed your baby, here are 3 tips to help you:
- Remind yourself that your success as a mother is not based in how you feed your child.
- Evaluate your mental, emotional, and physical wellness and remember that a mother who is taking good care of herself can then care for her baby.
- Have open and honest conversations with those close to you about your struggles, thoughts, and decisions.
As you work to find the best solution for your family around how you feed your baby, you will likely have a journey that looks different from friends or family. Your journey will also likely change as your baby grows. Just because it looks different does not mean it is wrong. You are doing a great job.