It is really common these days when discussing breastfeeding in the antenatal for mums-to-be to say “I want to breastfeed but I want to start pumping early to let dad feed and bond with baby too.” So, is it essential to put your breast milk in a bottle as soon as possible so you can help your partner bond with their baby?
Let’s Start with What Makes Breastfeeding Different
This blog is here to get the facts straight on this one! It’s always essential to have the real facts so that we can all make an informed decision about anything.
Does bottle feeding help dads bond with their new baby? Yes… and no… This is a tricky blog!
Bottle feeding is never going to be as beneficial as feeding directly from the breast; our bodies have been designed over millennia to have evolved to be perfect for our newborns mouths.
Feeding directly from the breast helps our baby’s eye sight develop by strengthening the muscles inside the eye. Think about it, every time you breastfeed, your baby looks lovingly into your eyes. Babies will always search out their mum’s eyes for communication and love.
When we breastfeed, we will often feed off different breasts, left or right, and even sometimes in different positions. This causes your baby to look in different directions for your face and to seek eye contact with you.
If we compare this with bottle feeding, most of us (if right handed) will feed our baby with the bottle in our right hand for every feed. This way baby is nearly always looking at you from the same position. This is why experts recommend that babies who are bottle fed are held in a variety of positions and fed with our left and right hands.
Feeding at the breast also helps to shape our babies’ mouths, palates and jaws. It helps to bring in better aligned teeth, as well as helping with future speech development.
Of course, genetics has a role to play here as well, so breastfeeding your baby is more likely to spare you orthodontic fees later on, but it is not guaranteed!
The other thing which is important to note is that babies are perfectly adapted to regulate how much milk they drink during breastfeeding, once they are full they stop.
With bottle feeding, sometimes it’s not so easy for them, especially if we want them to drink a certain amount or have spent time expressing our precious milk and we do not want to see 30mls go to waste!
Not All Bottle Feeding is Created Equal
Pace feeding is recommended when bottle feeding; this is when we feed our babies in a more upright position which is comfortable for them and you. Then, we watch and listen to baby’s cues which show us when they are full. This is true even if, occasionally, they may leave some milk in the bottle!
This helps to better mimic breastfeeding, because we know that babies do not take the same amount at each feed. Some breastfeeds will be small amounts while others are like a huge three course meals!
But, What About Bonding?
Research shows us the differences between bottle feeding and breastfeeding, but, what about when it comes to bonding?
Hmm… well the reason I answered the initial question with a yes and no is because of course we can bond with our babies if we bottle feed. There are many mums who need to feed their baby with a bottle and they bond beautifully and lovingly with their bub. But the no side of the argument is when bottle feeding is seen as the ONLY way your partner can bond with their newborn. This is incorrect.
Bonding is About More Than Just Bottle Feeding
Our partners can bond with their newborn in numerous ways which do not interfere with the breastfeeding.
If we are expressing and bottle feeding can be an exciting, beautiful time. It can also be a bit overwhelming as you try to get everything off to a good start.
Our partners can bond through just as meaningful activities with baby; bottle feeding is not the only way to bond. Often, an extra pair of hands to bottle feed the baby does not provide a new mum with extra sleep or help. After all, our breasts will still need to be expressed as they’ve gotten used being fed from regularly! There are usually many more tasks a new mum could be given a hand with which provide her with extra rest!
Here are some other ways to promote daddy baby bonding…
Skin to Skin Contact
It is one of the most gorgeous ways to bond with your baby… and it’s not just for mums!
When you hold your baby next to your warm skin, baby can hear your heart beat, snuggle into your chest (whether hairy or not for dads!) and smell your scent.
Babies prefer the real smell of you, so don’t go too heavy on the deodorant on perfumes. Skin to skin contact can be done anytime; watching the TV, reading, listen to music, dancing to music.
Every time you hold a baby like this we are drawn to look at them and them to look up into our faces. This promotes lifelong bonding and encourages the release of huge amounts of the love hormone, oxytocin.
The other thing skin to skin contact does is reduces stress hormone and helps babies to drift off into la la land and sleep well. Now if that isn’t a good excuse to promote it, I don’t know what is.
Similar to skin to skin contact, this is a really enjoyable thing to do for bub and your partner. Babies love to hear your voice, so being in the bath is the perfect time for dad to try out his singing voice! As baby gets older dad will probably get a giggle from bub every time he starts singing!
Reading to Baby
This may seem silly as babies cannot understand what you are saying but they do recognise voices and the intonation in our voice. Your partner could be reading the news on their phone out loud to baby, it wouldn’t matter baby would still be enjoying it.
Get your partner to try changing their voice to be more babyish and “sing-song” and baby will soon be looking up at dad avidly hanging on every word, even if it’s the business review!
Going Out for Walks with Baby
This is a lovely activity for everyone, but can also give you some precious time alone to have a bath, sleep an extra hour or just sit on the loo in peace!
Fresh air is something we take for granted but can make everyone feel better mentally and physically. Being outside with your baby promotes relaxation, better sleep for baby, and is absolutely a bonding exercise.
As you can see in the first few weeks it’s important to allow you and baby to get into the swing of things with breastfeeding. This will not be a detriment to your partner being able to bond with baby.
There are numerous opportunities for you both to bond with bub. Remember bonding is an ongoing love which keeps on growing and strengthening over time.
Only you, your partner and your baby know what’s best for your family. Just make sure you always get all the facts first so you feel happy in your decision… whatever that is.
What activities does your partner use to bond with the baby? How would you describe your breastfeeding journey? Let’s have a chat, here or on the Medela Australia Facebook page.