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04/11/2018 10:27 EDT | Updated 04/11/2018 10:30 EDT

6 Bottle Feeding Myths Parents Should Know

Nothing boils my blood more than the idea that bottle feeding your baby means you aren't bonding with them.

Chances are that regardless of how you're currently feeding your baby, at some point you'll want to introduce a bottle. Here are some myths I've debunked for you before you get started.

You need to warm the bottle

So, do you really need to warm up that bottle? Probably not. Definitely not from a medical standpoint. Whether formula or pumped breast milk, warming the bottle isn't strictly necessary. Formula in particular is easy because you can mix and serve if you want. Pumped milk might need to be warmed slightly, but only because the fattiest milk can separate (like cream rising to the top) and needs to be gently mixed back in. If the fat clings to the side of the bottle, holding it under running water for a minute should help.

Here's the thing though: if you start by warming up the bottle, that is what your baby is going to learn to expect. If you start with a warmed bottle from the beginning, your baby might reject a cold or room temperature bottle later on. If you start as you mean to continue, either with a cool or room temperature bottle, your baby is more likely to accept that as normal.

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Your baby has no opinions

Before you gave birth, did anyone tell you that baby would decide when to be born? Probably. Well, there is truth to "baby will decide" after birth, too. Despite being small, and not understanding things like cause and effect, babies often have very strong preferences. These preferences can be why some babies reject breastfeeding, or refuse to take a bottle. And for some babies, no matter how you start out, they are absolutely going to prefer warmed bottles. If that is your baby, investing in a good bottle warmer might be helpful in reducing how long it takes to heat the bottle.

Wait six to eight weeks

As doulas, we hear this one a lot. And honestly? If you wait that long to introduce a bottle, there's a good chance your baby won't take it.

Six weeks in, your baby is well into developing Primary Circular Reactions. While this developmental milestone is primarily about how they see and discover objects, it also establishes preliminary responses to those objects, including the difference between breast and bottle. If the familiarity of food via breast is completely established by six weeks, your baby may not understand how to latch, suck or handle a bottle.

For that reason, we often recommend introducing a bottle between 10 days and three weeks of age. At this point, most parent-baby duos have either figured out breastfeeding, or have introduced a bottle in order to supplement.

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Anyone can give the baby a bottle

Maybe, if your baby agrees or if they are exclusively bottle fed. However, a breastfed baby might pose additional challenges when introducing a bottle. In particular, the breastfeeding parent might find it harder to get their baby to take a bottle. Why take a bottle with the normal delivery method is right there? Babies are often smarter than we give them credit for, and they will hold out for what they really want. That is why it's often a good idea to have someone else give them bottles in the beginning, while the breastfeeding parent escapes for an hour or two (or three, or four; we won't judge!)

My baby has nipple confusion

While nipple confusion has been a bit of a buzz word/phrase in breastfeeding circles for a number of years, it's not particularly accurate. It's unlikely a baby will develop nipple confusion. However, it can be common for babies to develop flow preference. That may seem like splitting hairs, but there is an important distinction.

Nipple confusion means your baby cannot figure out how to latch to either the breast or the bottle, and is often blamed for why infants refuse the breast. Nipple confusion is presented as something to be avoided at all costs, and the only way to avoid it is to delay introducing a bottle as long as possible. Flow preference on the other hand is a fairly easy solution: control the flow.

When a baby breastfeeds, they are often reclined and in arms. So when parents introduce a bottle, they put the baby in the same position. What it does is angle the bottle so it's almost straight up and down. Gravity is not your friend here, as it will cause the milk to drip continuously into your baby's mouth, meaning they don't have to do any work!

Spending a feed or two surfing Facebook on your phone, or playing Candy Crush, is not going to damage your bond with your baby

Since a passive action is always easier than an active one, some babies will prefer the fast flow and low effort of drinking from a bottle. Using paced bottle feeding, where the baby is sitting and the milk only half fills the nipple, requiring baby to actively suck, can mimic breastfeeding and help to reduce flow preference.

Bottle feeding isn't bonding

Nothing boils my blood more than this. Yes, from a hormonal perspective, breastfeeding produces oxytocin, which is a love hormone and aids in bonding. However, while we traditionally think of oxytocin as associated with birth, breastfeeding and orgasm, those are not the only times that oxytocin is released.

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Oxytocin also plays a vital role in friendships and other relationships that have neither a parental, nor sexual, component. That is because touch, eye contact, trust, cuddling, hugging and eating in general, can also all result in oxytocin production. You do all of these things when you feed your baby a bottle, even if they are in a chair. As long as the caregiver is engaged in the feeding, oxytocin is contributing to bonding. And spending a feed or two surfing Facebook on your phone, or playing Candy Crush, is not going to damage your bond with your baby.

At the end of the day, some babies may never take a bottle, just as some babies never really take the breast. Every baby is different, and you'll need to get to know yours to know what they want.

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