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The Closest Thing to Nursing & the Best for Your Baby’s Health
Some breastfed babies grow up without ever drinking from a bottle, some babies are only bottle-fed, and still other babies have both. There are some situations where bottle-feeding is medically necessary, and temporary situations that require partial or temporary bottle feedings, with the intent to gradually switch to breastfeeding.
Here are some situations where the mother is required to bottle feed: premature babies, babies that are separated from the mother due to a medical issue (either the mother’s or the baby’s), and babies born before week 40 with a weak rooting reflex. There are also situations that require a combination of formula and breastfeeding.
There is a fundamental difference in how babies nurse from a breast and from a bottle. When breastfeeding, the baby gets the milk slower, stops from time to time, and as the flow is regulated by the act of sucking itself, it therefore takes longer for baby to finish his meal than when bottle-feeding. There are great advantages to breastfeeding versus bottle feeding. The most significant is that it takes about 15 minutes for the brain to detect satiety, so babies that go at the bottle enthusiastically, will finish within a few minutes and will often eat more than they really need. Of course, an overly full belly, combined with a sense of heaviness in the digestive system, means baby sleeps more deeply. A breastfed baby sleeps less deeply, because he eats less and in a way that is better suited for his tiny tummy. Babies that sleep lighter reduce the risk of SIDS.
This is why sometimes we hear sentences like, “He was so hungry he devoured the bottle in a few minutes, and then finally fell asleep.”
Babies will suck on anything, and when he sucks milk from a bottle the flow is very fast, which means there isn’t room in his tiny tummy for all this food. That’s why some babies tend to spit-up a lot.
You can prevent this and allow your baby to regulate the milk flow from the bottle by slowly and moderately offering the bottle, reducing the flow rate so it is more similar to breastfeeding. This slow, relaxed, and varied speed is better for the baby’s digestive system.
If the baby eats more from the bottle than he would have from the breast, it creates a great disparity between what the mother can provide naturally and what her baby actually eats. This forces the mother to pump more often in order to create a greater milk supply.
Feed your baby when he starts showing signs of hunger. Avoid feeding your baby as a way to soothe him if he is not hungry, and instead try calming your baby by hugging or touching him. This recommendation does not apply to breastfed babies, as you can always reassure a baby through the act of breastfeeding (which eases pain and discomfort, and is easy on the stomach).
To help your baby regulate the flow of milk from the bottle, hold him in an almost sitting position with his head supported and facing yours (make sure that you are adequately supporting his neck, and that there is no pressure on his hips). You can also hold him cradled in your arm and close to you, as long as you make certain he is sitting straight.
Use a bottle nipple with the smallest opening you can find, so the flow is as slow as possible.Gently place the bottle nipple on your baby’s upper lip. This stimulates him and signals him to open his mouth wide.
Gently and gradually rotate the nipple into your baby’s mouth, to avoid stimulating his gag reflex. Your baby’s lips should be placed around the nipple as close to the bottle as possible.
Let your baby suck a few times with no milk in the nipple of the bottle (similar to baby’s initial sucks at the breast to stimulate “let-down”); after a few empty sucks tilt the bottle to a 90° angle so the milk covers the position of the nipple holes. Many parents are concerned that this position will cause their baby to swallow air, but there is nothing to worry about. Gas pains are caused by digestive problems and not swallowing air.
If the milk flow is still strong at 90° and you see the baby is receiving too much milk, you can decrease the flow by taking breaks or adjusting the tilt of the baby and bottle, until the flow is slower.
Let the baby decide when to end the meal.Good luck!