The pressures of modern life have made it incredibly difficult for women to breastfeed for as long as many would prefer and the limits of anatomy have made breastfeeding arguably more difficult for fathers. That means that, for many families, bottle-feeding becomes a necessity around the time mom has to head back to work. It’s an adjustment and, like other adjustments made in those nervous early months, it arrives along with a lot of bottle feeding guidance — some good and some terrible.
The reason for the proliferation of bad data on bottle feeding likely stems from the emotional immediacy of the act and the fact that it is often freighted with a peculiar but persistent kind of guilt. The truth is that bottle feeding isn’t that complicated and the people that claim it is are largely (though not entirely) wrong.
Here’s the bad information they’re passing around.
Bottle Feeding Myth #1: Bottles and Nipples Should Be Sanitized After Every Use
It would seem that bottles and nipples would be the perfect place for bacteria and viruses to grow. And even more than that, the perfect vehicle for delivering said nasties right into a babies vulnerable pie-hole. So, it would make sense then for bottles to be boiled or put through the sanitation wash setting after every use, right? Nope. And thank goodness, because that’s way more work than most new parents need to do.
The one-time bottles should absolutely be sanitized after purchase. There is no telling where they’ve been before hitting the store shelves. So prior to first use a good boiling is in order. Simply place all components in a pan of boiling water ensuring that all are submerged in boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes. (It’s best to have a dedicated pot for bottle sanitizing unless your kid like their milk with a piquant hint of marinara.)
While bottles do not need to be sterilized after every use, they can (and should) be sterilized after an illness. Otherwise, hand-washing with soap is completely fine. It should be noted though that parents do need to wash their hands beforehand washing bottles of sanitizing, or there’s really no point.
Bottle Feeding Myth #2: Bottles Can Be Warmed in the Microwave
Honestly, bottles don’t really even need to be warmed. Sure, a kid might like milk that’s in the body-temperature range, and a bit of warmth helps the fat in pumped breastmilk to mix back into the solution, but other than that there’s no need for a lengthy warming process.
Besides, warming a bottle in the microwave can be downright dangerous. The problem is that microwaves heat unevenly—even with their little turntables to rotate the food. As a microwave heats a bottle it can produce hotspots that a parent might not detect when they do the old wrist test. These hot spots can scald a babies throat and force a trip to the emergency room.
A better bet for parents warming bottles is to place the bottle in a bowl filled with hot tap water until the milk or formula is roughly body temperature.
Bottle Feeding Myth #3: Giving a Baby a Bottle Leads to Nipple Confusion
Many people feel like it’s a given that when a child begins bottle feeding they will develop resistance to going back to the breast. The idea of a kid rejecting the human nipple they once craved in favor of the plastic facsimile is enough to break a mother’s heart in two. But with the right bottle-nipples and technique, nipple confusion can be mitigated.
The idea is to make bottle feeding more like breastfeeding. This starts with understanding what bottle-nipples work best with each baby. This is something best left to moms because they know how the baby interacts with their equipment and will be able to purchase nipples that best match.
However, there are also feeding techniques to consider, which are best summed up as: “Make them work for it.” This is particularly important information for fathers. The more breastlike they can make the feeding experience, the more likely it is the kid will be able to transition between breast and bottle. One way to accomplish this is by starting a feeding session with the nipple flat so that it touches the babies top palate. Additionally, keeping the nipple about half filled when feeding starts makes the baby work a bit, just like they do at their mother’s nipple. Occasionally during feeding, the bottle can be tilted so the nipple is flat forcing the baby to work a bit. This also keeps the kid from drinking too fast. Something many dads have yet to master, frankly.
Bottle Feeding Myth #4: Bottle Feeding Will Decrease Milk Supply
As long as moms keep a consistent pumping schedule when they are away from their baby they should be able to keep up a very consistent supply. Of course, this is often easier said than done, considering the awful infrastructure many workplaces have for supporting breastfeeding moms.
Bottle Feeding Myth #5: Bottle Fed Babies Require Burping
A nice juicy burp is satisfying at any age. But there’s nothing particularly special about bottle fed babies that requires they be burped. If they are getting too much air in their system, or are having problems spitting up, it’s likely the nipple on the body provides too much milk too quickly, or a parent’s technique is off, resulting in poor flow control.
The fact is, if a baby doesn’t burp right away after feeding, there’s no need to continue pounding away at their back. Any gas in their system will come out one way or another with or without parental assistance. Besides, by six weeks of age, babies are usually able to burp just fine without a getting a pat on the back.
Bottle Feeding Myth #6: Bottle Fed Babies Don’t Bond
The thought that babies at the bottle will eventually become emotionally stunted compared to babies at the breast has largely been abandoned by modern science. It turns out that bottle feeders have just as much opportunity to coo and look lovingly into their baby’s face. And when it comes to getting the skin to skin contact that babies receive with breastfeeding, there’s nothing wrong with mom or dad stripping to the waist and getting the kid down to their diaper before bottle feeding. Unless it’s a public place, in which case the side eye will likely be worse than what the average breastfeeding mom in America receives.
Bottle Feeding Myth #7: Bottle Feeding Leads to Child Obesity
There has been some late weight gain associated with bottle-fed children. But the issue doesn’t so much lie in the bottle or even what’s in it. The issue is largely about technique.
Bottle fed babies can drink way more milk than necessary before their brain even has a chance to tell them they’re full. This is naturally mitigated when babies are at the breast. But at the bottle, parents need to be both informed and watchful.
First parents should make sure they have a nipple on the bottle that’s not delivering too much milk too quickly. If babies have a wide-eyed panicked look while they suck, they are likely receiving too much. Feedings should take between 10 to 15 minutes to complete, so it might sometimes be necessary to slow things down by tilting the bottle flat to slow the flow and make the kid work. With a watchful eye and an understanding of how much a baby is drinking, and weight issues should be easily handled.