Ask Dr. Sears: Better Bottle-Feeding

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Ask Dr. Sears: Better Bottle-Feeding

Q. I can’t breastfeed my baby. Can I bond with him when I give him his bottle?

A. Absolutely. Feeding isn’t only about delivering nutrition. It’s also a way to comfort your baby and connect with him, regardless of the method you use. When my wife, Martha, had to partially bottle-feed our adopted daughter (she used breast milk she’d gotten from a donor), she was worried that she’d miss out on the closeness she’d felt while breastfeeding our other children. However, she stayed connected by following certain bonding techniques. Here are some tips:

Avoid bottle-propping, which deprives you and your baby of the social benefits of feeding. Plus, if your child falls asleep, the sugary formula can pool against his teeth (once he has them), which can cause tooth decay. Instead, cradle him next to your breast while you’re feeding him and he’ll be soothed by your touch.

Don’t feed your baby less often even though formula takes longer to digest than breast milk. For more together time, give smaller amounts more frequently (at least every three hours during the first few months). This is also easier on a newborn’s immature digestive system.

Remember that babies vary in their needs. So rather than count ounces, watch your child for signs that he’s had enough milk (droopy eyes, less vigorous sucking). And if he continues to fuss when the bottle’s empty, it’s fine to offer him some more.

Give him lots of contact, caress him, and talk to him while feeding — all interactions that will help you bond.