When it comes to feeding our little ones, sometimes breastfeeding moms need a break from being the only means to feed. If you and your partner are up for it, there is no reason you can’t give your breastfed baby the bottle sometimes. It’s a great way for the other parent to bond with your little one and gain confidence in raising this tiny human. Here are some quick tips and tricks to making the most of your feeding time with baby.
Make sure to check out the links throughout the article for more information on each topic!
1. Bottle Feeding Breastfed Babies
If mom’s planning to breastfeed, you’ll want to wait a bit to start bottle feeding. Once mom’s milk is established, baby is latching and feeding well, dad can start bottle feeding baby here and there. Usually, around 4 to 6 weeks is a good starting point.
An important tip to remember is that mom’s milk flow is typically slower than any standard bottle nipple flow. Bottle nipples come in different flow levels, from very slow flow to fast flow. So, make sure to use very slow flow nipples at first, like the Dr. Brown’s Preemie Nipple. The flow of the slow flow bottle nipple is less likely to overwhelm your little one. The Preemie Nipple can also help prevent flow preference, where baby prefers the faster flow of the bottle, so that breastfeeding continues without a hitch.
2. Preparing the Bottle
Frozen breastmilk can be thawed overnight in the fridge, or by placing the bag under warm running water. Gradual warming is key, so if you want to thaw breast milk faster, use something like the Dr. Brown’s™ MilkSpa™ that safely warms breast milk without removing important nutrients. Before putting the milk in the bottle, make sure it’s clean by giving it a quick wash (as well as your hands).
Whether you will be using formula exclusively or supplementing, there are a few tricks to making the most out of each bottle.
- Wash the bottle, parts, and your hands before mixing.
- Follow the formula maker instructions for mixing guidelines but make sure to measure precisely, as too much powder can cause an upset stomach for baby.
- Mix thoroughly, ensuring there are no clumps that can get stuck in the nipple.
- Remember that formula stays good for two hours at room temp or 24 hours if refrigerated.
There are several ways you can mix the formula. If you’re using Dr. Brown’s bottles, we recommend gently stirring the formula to help minimize air. If you want to use the shake method, remove the parts and use a travel cap before shaking it.
Warming the Bottle:
You may be one of the lucky few parents whose baby will take a bottle straight out of the fridge. For many dads, though, you’ll need to warm up the bottle. There are a wide range of ways you can do that but sticking it in the microwave is not one of them. You can read more about bottle warming techniques, but there are three main techniques:
- On the stove. Put a pot of water on the stove and let the water warm, not boil. This takes the longest but it costs just about nothing.
- Under the faucet. Hold the bottle under warm-to-hot running water and rotating it around.
- Use a bottle warmer. By far the fastest, bottle warmers get the milk to that ideal body temperature.
Make sure to swirl the bottle a bit to help prevent hot spots. Also, put a few drops on your wrist to ensure it’s not to hot before giving it to baby.
3. Feeding Positions & Techniques
We could write an entire article by itself about the different techniques and positions for bottle feeding your baby – so we did. For a full description of your options, check out the article here. In this article, though, we’ll focus on the most popular.
Popular Feeding Technique: Paced Feeding
Paced feeding helps baby eat more slowly and work harder for the milk, just like they would during breastfeeding.
Here’s how it works: Baby sits more upright and you tickle baby’s lips with the bottle. Once baby makes rooting cues, you place the nipple in baby’s mouth and hold the bottle horizontally. You may even wait to let the milk reach the nipple of the bottle so it mimics the letdown process in breastfeeding. Then, every 20 or 30 seconds, you tip the nipple towards the top of baby’s mouth to stop milk flow.
Popular Feeding Position: Cradle Hold
The cradle hold, or football hold, is one of the more traditional positions. It helps prevent ear infections, allows you to see baby’s face better to read their cues, and is great for bonding time since lots of eye contact is possible.
Here’s how it works: Place baby’s head in the crook of your arm and wrap your hand around his bum. Then, lift your elbow so that baby is at a slight angle, with their head higher than their body. Switch sides when your arm gets tired, because it will.
One of the trickiest aspects of bottle feeding is ensuring your baby’s latch is correct. That may mean trying out different bottles to see which baby best latches to. For example, some babies love the Dr. Brown’s Options+ Narrow Bottle, as the nipple is elongated, and the base is sized right for baby’s who have more of a narrow latch. Other babies prefer the Options+ Wide-Neck, that features a more breast-like shape for those little ones who also breastfeed.
A good latch means that baby’s tongue is under the nipple, not above it, and their lips are securely sealed around the base of the nipple – not on the nipple tip. Getting baby to take the nipple might require some creativity, such as dipping the nipple in formula or breast milk and tickling their lips to engage them.
The best part for dads who want to bottle feed their baby is the opportunity for bonding time. This is your time with your little one, time to get to know each other. Undistracted feedings can’t happen every single time but making space for you two to sit together is truly precious and goes a long way to solidifying your relationship.
Consider going a step further and removing your and baby’s shirts before feeding. That skin-to-skin contact has a load of health benefits for baby, stabilizing their heart rate, helping warm them up, and releasing a ton of feel-good chemicals in both your bodies. Over time, you’ll get to know all your baby’s faces, cries, and what they mean – helping you become more clued into their needs and encouraging you as a parent.
When you use a bottle like Dr. Brown’s, you may find that you don’t need to burp baby as often. However, burping may be necessary in the earlier weeks as baby’s digestive system takes a bit longer to develop. Burping baby after every 2-3 ounces and after every feeding is a good place to start.
There are lots of different ways to burp baby, depending on their age and personal preferences. Again, there is a lot to unload about this topic, which we do so in this in-depth article on burping techniques. Starting out, though, the trusty over-the-shoulder technique is a great start.
Over-the-Shoulder Burping: Simply put, it’s gently placing baby over your shoulder and patting or rubbing her back to expel trapped air. Bring baby a bit higher up so that her belly is resting closer to your shoulder to add a little extra padded layer of pressure to help. Whatever you do, no bouncing.
How Long to Burp Baby
If baby doesn’t let one loose within a minute or so of trying, he probably doesn’t need any additional help. Sometimes air can take a little to work its way to the top of the stomach, though. If he is wriggling around making unhappy faces, give it another go. Unless he’s going down for a nap, consider keeping him upright for a while; sitting up helps nature take its own course.
There is a lot for dads to learn about bottle feeding babies, but the same can be said for any new parent. The best thing you can do is take it slow, be attentive, and remember that you and your little one will learn from each other. Baby will be all grown up before you know it, so enjoy the bottle feedings while you can – maybe even the middle of the night feedings. For any questions about Dr. Brown’s bottles or baby products, get in touch today!