Q&A: Parents disagree about introduction of bottles

July 28, 2011. Posted in: Feeding baby

QUESTION:

Our baby is 5 weeks old. My husband and I both agree that breast is best, but since our son was born my husband has been asking me to start pumping milk so he can give baby a bottle each night. We have had many breastfeeding difficulties and are still struggling at times. I am worried about nipple confusion, but my husband just says I’m being emotional and a nervous new mom and is unwilling to read any information from books or websites. He says he wants to help with nighttime feedings so I can get more sleep at night, but he never hears the baby when he wakes at night. Do you have any suggestions?

ANSWER:

Kudos to Dad for wanting to become more involved with baby! There are many ways that Dad can interact with baby without giving a bottle. Remind your husband that after six months or so, baby will be starting solids and he can have lots of fun with that.

Try moving your discussions on the topic from the more emotional level (where Dad seems to categorize the fear of nipple confusion) to a more practical level of “more hassle for a busy new mom.”

Have you talked to Dad about the extra hassle pumping will be for you? (This argument may not be as effective if you’re already pumping regularly.) That’s certainly not something he can put down to “nervousness” and it’s a significant thing – particularly since at 5 weeks you’re still recovering from childbirth. Does he know that it’s likely you’ll need to pump while he feeds baby (for comfort, if not to maintain supply) since you normally nurse at that time? Frankly, you’ll get a lot more sleep if you just nurse baby than if you had to get up and pump. Has he thought about where you’re going to fit pumping into your day when baby is still nursing very often? I know at that point with both my kids it was hard enough to find the time to take a shower, much less pump. And most moms need to pump more than once to get enough milk for a bottle feeding.

Have you considered going out somewhere for just an hour or two (however long baby normally goes between feedings) and leaving baby with Dad? This between-feeding outing is a good time for Dad to work out his own way of playing with and comforting baby when Mom is gone and baby is not hungry. He and baby will start to hit their pace and get their own rituals soon. This tends to work better when Mom is not at home (I sure have a hard time not telling my husband, “Well, this is how I do things.”) If you have a cell phone, take it with you – that way you’re likely to be less anxious while you’re gone since Dad can call you to come home if baby gets really upset where nothing but Mom will help.

If you do decide to go ahead and pump for the occasional bottle, then make it Dad’s job to get you the pump, transfer/store the milk pumped, fix and warm the bottles, and clean the pump. If he’s doing this to save you work, then he should really be doing everything but the actual pumping (and if you can get him to do that, too…). If you’re worried about nipple confusion (and I would be, too, since you’ve had some problems), then you might ask Dad to cup feed instead of bottle feed, or use a dropper. He can learn that just as easily as bottle feeding. Here are some directions for both. You might try having Dad offer the expressed milk only 1-3 times per week in the beginning, and if your breastfeeding relationship suffers you’ll want to stop until things are back on track.

Good luck!

Dad comments:

It was a bit overwhelming in the early months (after baby #1) to see just how much a baby needs his mother, and how little a role Dad might have when it comes to comforting baby at times. It’s really such a short time to wait, and the time flies by fast. But I did find it much easier to accept baby’s need for Mom the second time around since I had already witnessed this intense need the first time around. I knew (from experience this time) that I would have a much larger role in a few months once baby got bigger and interacted more with me.

I agree with the ideas of moving your discussion to a practical (instead of emotional) level, and going out occasionally between feedings so Dad can have time alone with baby. I have never given either of our children bottles. In our family, Dad does bath time, diaper changes (when home), and walking/comforting baby when Mom needs a break or baby needs a change of pace. As baby gets older, my return from work is playtime with Daddy.

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