Bottle Feeding and Responsive Parenting: TBSTP Perspective
The Beyond Sleep Training Project supports and promotes the biological norm of breastfeeding and recognises the importance of breastfeeding our babies through infancy and beyond.
As per WHO guidelines, breastmilk is the recommended standard for babies to 24 months and beyond, including throughout toddlerhood. We will promote the feeding of baby milks in this order: Breastmilk direct from mother, Expressed Breastmilk from mother, Donated EBM, Infant Formula.
Regardless, we acknowledge that for many, breastfeeding was not an option or reality for a variety reasons. We acknowledge that this is an emotional topic for many. We support mothers in this position and respect your informed choices. However you feed your baby, you are welcome and supported here.
We all share a common goal to parent our babies gently and respectfully through these sleepless years and we are all able to do so regardless of how our babies are fed. Bottle feeding does not need to go hand in hand with schedules and training as popular myth would have us believe – you can parent gently and responsively with a bottle.
Feeding your baby by bottle can be a wonderful bonding experience. Especially in the early months, you might consider restricting who feeds bub and saving this honour for parents where possible. Maintaining eye contact, skin to skin contact, touching and stroking bub also increases intimacy and makes for a wonderful experience of closeness. Feeding on demand and pace feeding are wonderful ways to follow a baby led, responsive routine. (Here is a video from The Possums Clinic demonstrating Paced Bottle Feeding)
A parent or caregiver should always feed, or be present, while baby has their bottle. Never leave baby unattended in bed, a carseat, or otherwise with a bottle. This is outright dangerous and any comments recommending leaving bub alone to have a bottle will be deleted without warning.
For all babies, regardless of feeding method, we recommend they room share with parents for 6-12 months (and for as long after that as you are happy to continue), as per SIDS guidelines. It’s recommended that all sleeps, including naps, take place in the same room as a caregiver to reduce the risk of SIDS/SUDI. Safely cosleeping is a lovely way to bond and promotes responsiveness and communication between baby and parents. Cosleeping may be on a separate sleep space in the same room, in a safe cosleeper such as a sidecarred cot or crib, or sharing the parents bed. As always, please take into a account your own personal circumstances as well as abiding by official safe sleep guidelines (see our safe sleep stance here).
Bedsharing and bottle fed infants is a grey area and we encourage you to strongly consider the research and make an informed and responsible decision for your family. Many parents decide to only bedshare once the peak risk period for SIDS has passed. See below, from Pinky McKay (www.pinkymckay.com/5-co-sleeping-myths-busted) –
“Conversely, formula feeding mothers were more likely to hold babies up on the pillow or turn their backs on their babies while bed-sharing. According to SIDS researcher, Professor James McKenna, Director of the Mother-Baby Sleep Laboratory at Notre Dame and author of the book Sleeping with Your Baby: A Parent’s Guide to Cosleeping , sharing sleep with your baby can be potentially life saving. He says, “infants and babies give off cues and signals that caregivers need to react and respond to. “By sleeping next to baby, the mother is able to promote baby’s breathing stability…. There is no scientific validation that says co-sleeping is bad. Accidents, of course, happen, and there are risk factors, as with everything.” However, even the researchers who warn against bed-sharing agree that by about four months, bed-sharing by a responsible, nonsmoking adult is as safe as having your baby sleep separately in a bassinet or cot.”
As a group, we do not advocate for parent-led night weaning before 18 months. This also applies to bottle feeding. This is probably around the youngest age that your child has reached a level of development and comprehension where he or she can understand what is going on and communicate more clearly with you. They can be a part of the process and let you know when they are coping well or days when they do need some extra comfort via a bottle.
Night weaning from bottles does not necessarily mean an end to night waking and should therefore not be something parents feel they ‘need’ to do to get their child sleeping ‘better’. Babies and toddlers wake and feed at night for many reasons and while it may not be nutritionally required, comfort is a valid need that we should strive to provide.
You may be told that after 12 months babies do not need a bottle. Nutritionally, this could be the case – some babies are meeting their nutritional needs without milk at 12 months, others may need milk for longer. If a baby is comforted by their bottle, it is simply not respectful or gentle to remove a source of comfort because they have reached an arbitary age, a line in the sand that they cannot understand. As with any changes, we recommend making them slowly, gently and with love. This comes down to many individual factors and you may need to seek professional advice. Many toddler formulas are marketed as essential and this has been proven inaccurate – we encourage you do your own research into what milk drink you will offer your baby after 12 months.
In the case of breastmilk given by bottle, it does not lose nutritional value. Expressed breastmilk continues to provide valuable nutrients and antibodies not provided elsewhere and is recommended for as long as mum and bub are happy to continue.
If you are concerned about your child’s teeth, you should remove the bottle from the child’s mouth immediately to prevent milk pooling and always remove the bottle from sleep space if they fall asleep feeding (a caregiver should always be present). You can try to give their teeth a wipe with a wet cloth if you are unable to brush them at that time. A sip of water after the bottle is also good for rinsing the teeth where possible. You might also give their teeth a good brush after breakfast or whenever there is the biggest break without bottles or solids. You can also visit the dentist regularly to catch any issues before they become a problem.
Bottles feeding parents and caregivers face a different set of challenges and considerations to nursing mothers, and as a team we strive to be supportive, gentle and inclusive, supporting parents, caregivers and, most importantly, babies through these challenges.
#informedisbest #normalisebreastfeeding #naturaltermbreastfeeding #supportedisbest #responsivebottlefeeding #exclusivelypumpingmama #breastbybottle #gentleparenting #nighttimeparenting #morethanjustmilk #beyondsleeptrainingproject #babyledroutine
*If you need support to establish or continue your breastfeeding journey, please reach out. Help is available. We recommend contacting a registered IBCLC (find an IBCLC in Australia or NZ here). If you do not have access to this, the following organisations/IBCLCs can assist via phone or Skype.
*If you would like information or support on exclusively pumping breastmilk in Australia search:
*If you would like information on milk sharing look up your local branch of:
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