Feeding will be your first official act as a new parent. And for the first few months, it will seem like you do little else, which may be true. Consider this: a new baby needs to be fed as often as every two hours; a new parent may take an hour and a half to prepare and complete a feeding. Now do the math. From the first feeding, feeding metrics (frequency, length, amount) and baby weight will become essential statistics in your life. New parents compare weight and measurements after each well-baby visit, sounding like major league scouts. The conversation inevitably turns to how the baby is fed — breast or bottle.
Any new parent can attest to the strong breastfeeding bias in hospitals. While breastfeeding classes and lactation consultants abound in hospitals, an introduction to bottlefeeding often comes at the time of discharge in the form of a free goody bag from formula makers (”blue or pink?”). The same bias exists in new parent circles, where bottlefeeding moms may feel marginalized, or worse yet, judged — this in addition to any feelings of guilt or inadequacy they may be confronting.
The positive health benefits of breastfeeding for babies and moms is well-documented. Nonetheless, breastfeeding is not the best or only option for everyone. For some new moms, breastfeeding is simple and painless from the first time. With a good maternity leave policy, these moms are good to go. For others, breastfeeding presents unavoidable, and in some cases insurmountable, challenges. And then there are those new parents who simply prefer bottlefeeding. Bottlefeeding has its own benefits: dad, siblings and grandparents can enjoy feedings and share in nighttime duties from the start.
Because of the breastfeeding bias, new parents are uninformed about bottlefeeding technique, formula choices and potential difficulties (gas, allegeries, etc.). Many nurses and doctors avoid discussing the bottle option in the hospital, for fear of discouraging a mom who may be having difficulty breastfeeding. Query whether this approach is in the best interest of the baby.
When it comes to feeding a newborn, the goal, first and foremost, is a well-nourished, contented baby. All new parents should have some bottles and powdered formula on hand, even as a back up. If you choose to breastfeed but latching doesn’t come easy or supply is a problem, use a breast pump to create and maintain milk supply. Bottlefeed using the pumped milk, combined with formula if needed. If you plan to bottlefeed exclusively, try a couple different bottle designs and stick with BPA-free plastics.
Whatever method of feeding you choose, listen to your baby and be open to change.