When a new baby arrives, dads want to participate in the care of their little one just as much as mom, but when it comes to feeding, many dads admit to feeling useless or irrelevant. Just because mom is breastfeeding doesn’t mean dad can’t get in on the action. Bottle feeding is a great way for the other parent to bond with baby and gain confidence in raising this tiny human. Here are some quick tips and tricks to making the most of your bottle-feeding time with baby:
If mom is planning to breastfeed, it’s best to wait a bit to start bottle feeding. Once mom’s milk supply is established and baby is latching and feeding well, dad can start bottle feeding baby. This usually takes a few days, but it’s worth the wait. Breast milk can be pumped and stored in breast milk storage bags in the fridge for up to one week or freezer for up to six months. When preparing stored breast milk for use, frozen breast milk can be thawed overnight in the fridge, or by placing the bag under warm running water. Gradual warming is key, since warming breast milk too quickly can destroy important nutrients.
Whether you will be using breast milk exclusively or supplementing with formula, there are a few important things to consider each time you prepare a bottle. Wash the bottle, parts, and your hands before mixing. If using formula, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s 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.
When it comes to 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. If you are warming it on the stove, place a pot of water on the stove and let the water warm, not boil. This takes the longest, but it costs just about nothing. Another option is placing the bottle under the faucet. Hold the bottle under warm-to-hot running water and rotating it around for a few minutes. By far the fastest method, bottle warmers are great at getting the milk to that ideal temperature quickly. Whichever method you use, be 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 too hot before giving it to baby.
When it comes to feeding positions and techniques, there are several popular ones. You may have to try a few before deciding which works best for you and your baby. 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. Place baby’s head in the crook of your arm and wrap your hand around his bottom. 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 one baby best latches on to. 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 may require some creativity, such as dipping the nipple in formula or breast milk and tickling their lips to engage them.
It’s important to remember 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. The flow of the slow flow bottle nipple is less likely to overwhelm your little one.
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 in solidifying your relationship.
Burping baby after every two to three 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. The trusty over-the-shoulder technique is a great start. Gently place baby over your shoulder and rub her back to expel trapped air. Whatever you do, no bouncing! 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 while 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.
Remember, your pediatrician is a valuable resource for helping you raise happy and healthy kids. If you have questions about ways you can engage dads in feeding your little one, don’t hesitate to reach out.
• Dr. Tamarra Moss is a pediatrician committed to helping you raise happy and healthy kids. You can find her at Dr. Carlos Thomas & Pediatric Associates in Nassau, Lucayan Medical Center in Grand Bahama, or on Instagram @mykidsdoc242.