Offering Your Infant a Bottle While Breastfeeding
Including your partner in feeding and giving yourself a (much deserved) break!
Dearest full feedings family,
As a new mom, I felt intense internal pressure to nurse my daughter. I was under the impression that nursing meant she had to eat directly from me 100% of the time. For the first few weeks, this was really challenging for me physically and mentally. This perspective, the pressure I put on myself, physical recovery, and my PPD, let me into a bad cycle of feeding, not sleeping, crying and dealing with the variety of physical pain I was in.
A few weeks after my daughter was born, I began pumping. I didn't have a plan for what I wanted to do with the milk, aside from building a stash for when I went back to work. But then I started to develop a fear of nighttime and I hit a breaking point. I was terrified of the dreamfeed and feeding overnight. To me, this time was so lonely that I really couldn't handle waking up anymore.
Finally, my husband and I talked about it and he suggested that he could give a bottle at the dreamfeed, which meant I could pump at 9:30, he could give her the milk, I could go to sleep and my husband and our daughter could spend that time alone together.
From that day forward, my husband fed her a bottle at the dreamfeed until we dropped it. We got into a groove that worked well for our family. To this day, my husband misses the dreamfeed and the time the two of them had together at night. I'm so happy they had the time to develop a bond that wouldn't have happened if I weren't willing to accept the help, take a break and step away at night.
At first, I really struggled and felt guilty pumping and going to sleep. The first few nights, I actually stayed up with them and sat there while he fed her, which was really weird for me. In my mind, she was supposed to be eating from me and it took time for me to be okay with this shift. Over time, I started to go to bed shortly after he got her up for the dreamfeed and then eventually I just went to sleep after pumping and was sound asleep by the time he got her up.
This transition allowed me to finally… finally get some rest. I was able to separate myself physically and mentally for a few hours because I knew my daughter was in the best hands and I was so happy that my husband got that alone time with her. For the first time in weeks, I got a good stretch of sleep and I was able to start feeling more rested.
Here's the thing, as a new nursing mom there were fewer opportunities for my daughter and husband to spend time together. This isn't because he didn't want to spend time with her, it's simply because I was her food source and those first few weeks, food was most of her needs (aside from sleep).
It turns out, my daughter was able to eat more fully from a bottle at the dreamfeed anyway. The few times I tried to nurse her during that time after we switched it, she struggled to eat full from me and fell too asleep to keep eating. When we offered the bottle, this was never an issue for her and she was able to eat a full feeding (full feeding, full sleep!).
Did this mean I was still nursing my daughter? Absolutely!
I am a big believer in a bottle at the dreamfeed, pumped milk or formula, but if there's a different time of day when you need a break, call in all the support you can and take that break, you'll be a better mom for it!