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December 2019
In this issue: Breastfeeding and Bonding: How Partners and Caregivers Can Get Involved
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Breastfeeding and Bonding: How Partners and Caregivers Can Get Involved

New parents who breastfeed their baby often ask when they can start giving their baby a bottle so the non-breastfeeding parent (or another caregiver) can take a turn. Each family has their own reasons for wanting to share the feeding responsibility, but we often hear that the non-breastfeeding parent wants the chance to bond with their baby or to fulfill the baby’s need to be fed, and the breastfeeding parent wants a break or needs to be away from the baby when the baby needs to eat.

What about breastmilk in a bottle?

We can hear you saying “Right! So when can we give our baby breastmilk in a bottle?” There isn’t a perfect answer to this question, but there are a few things you should know before you make this decision:   
  • How a baby latches and sucks from a bottle is different than how they need to latch and suck on the breast. Some babies will have trouble switching between a bottle and the breast, which can affect how much milk a baby gets during breastfeeding and can be painful for mom. This is especially hard for some babies if they are switching back and forth before they’ve mastered breastfeeding. 
  • A baby of any age might prefer the immediate and easy flow of milk from a bottle or how the bottle nipple feels on the roof of their mouth. These preferences can lead to a baby self-weaning from breastfeeding earlier than planned.
So, what is a family to do?  Well, you do what is right for you! A little further below you will find some tips that may be helpful if you decide to share the feeding responsibility.    

Ways for the non-breastfeeding parent to bond with baby

If you want to give your baby a bottle so the non-breastfeeding parent or caregiver can bond with the baby, then consider this: it isn’t the milk that creates the bond. Brain pathways related to the five senses (hearing, seeing, touching, tasting, and smelling) are the first to develop in infants. Much of the importance of breastfeeding is about the brain-building and bonding that comes from time spent together, skin-to-skin and eye-to-eye contact, and smells and sounds shared between the breastfeeding parent and baby. The non-breastfeeding parent is able to engage these same senses to help build their baby’s brain and the parent-child relationship without giving food. Here are some ideas to get the non-breastfeeding parent or caregiver started.
 

Sit close to mom and baby during feedings

Interact with your baby by stroking their back, holding their hand, or talking to them while they eat. It’s also a great chance for you to connect with mom. Ask how she’s feeling about being a parent...and talk about your feelings too.     
 

Enjoy some skin-to-skin contact

Babies need to be held a lot in the early weeks and months. Much of the closeness of breastfeeding is due to the time spent together—and it’s a LOT of time! How can a partner or caregiver accomplish this type of closeness? Hold baby skin-to-skin! This is a great way for the non-breastfeeding person to bond and respond to baby’s needs. 
 

Talk, sing, and read to your baby

Babies love to hear familiar voices. As you spend time together, talk, sing and read to your little one to help build their language and literacy skills. 
 

Wear your baby

Babywearing (carrying baby in a wrap or carrier) is a great way to stay connected to your baby while keeping your hands free. It’s much easier to respond to your baby’s cues quickly when they are right there with you.   
 

Massage your baby

An EarlyON Child and Family Centre near you may have a free infant massage program for you and your baby to join. Or, watch this video to learn how to do it.
 

Give baby a bath

Find out what you’ll need and how to do it in this video: bath time.
You can even combine skin-to-skin time and bath time! Just remember that water makes babies and tubs slippery. Step in and out of the tub without your baby in your arms. Once you sit down, have someone hand baby to you or pick baby up from the floor beside the tub. Do the same in reverse order at the end of bath time.
 

Change baby’s diaper

Diapering (video) might not be the most glamorous job, but it has to be done...and it’s a great chance to spend time together. You could even sing to your baby or fit in a few minutes of that baby massage while you’re at it!    

Responsibilities will shift and change over time

Breastfeeding is recommended for up to 2 years and beyond, but keep in mind that around 6 months of age other solid foods should be introduced as well. The non-breastfeeding parent or caregiver can take on more responsibility for feeding the baby at that time since the baby will need help eating from a spoon for many months...not to mention the many years they’ll rely on other people to prepare snacks and meals. 

Some tips if you decide to share feeding responsibilities

If you decide to have a non-breastfeeding person feed your baby, here are some tips to help it go smoothly.
 

If possible, wait until breastfeeding is going well

  • Baby latches deeply and easily
  • Baby is gaining weight
  • You, as the breastfeeding parent, feel comfortable

Offer expressed breastmilk instead of formula if you can

Anytime formula is given it changes the baby’s gut bacteria.
 

Pump/hand express breastmilk when your baby is being fed

Breastfeeding works on a supply and demand system—the more breastmilk removed from the breasts, the more milk the breasts make. When milk isn’t removed, the breasts will make less milk. 

During the first couple of months, your body and hormones will be working to figure out how much milk to make. Long gaps between feedings (day or night) can reduce your milk supply. If baby is fed by some other method (cup, bottle, etc.), then pumping or hand expressing around the time of the feeding is important to establish and maintain milk supply.  
 

Consider cup feeding as an alternative to bottle feeding

Cup feeding is less likely than bottle feeding to confuse your baby while he or she learns to breastfeed.  


Try paced bottle feeding

Babies are more likely to overeat from a bottle because there is a continuous drip even when they aren't sucking. They may also wean from breastfeeding earlier than planned if they get used to the fast/easy flow from a bottle.

If using a bottle, try the paced bottle feeding method to help slow the flow of milk. It's also important to end the feeding if your baby is showing signs of being full (e.g., falls asleep, turns head to the side, no longer sucks, lets go of the nipple, closes lips).
 

Make your baby’s meals about more than filling an empty tummy

Hold baby close during feedings (skin-to-skin even), make eye contact and talk softly to them.

Before Baby arrives

We recommend that you and your support person learn some breastfeeding basics before your new baby arrives. Knowing what to expect, how to work with your baby to get a deep latch, and where to go for support if you need it is important. Register for our FREE Online Prenatal and New Parent Program to learn about breastfeeding and so much more!

Your child's developmental milestones:

Want more stage and age-specific information? Visit our website to read about your child's development and get more activities and healthy living tips:
1st trimester | 2nd trimester | 3rd trimester | 4th trimester 

Learn more:

  • Want to learn more about pregnancy? Public Health has a FREE Online Prenatal Program.
  • Planning to give birth at the Guelph General Hospital Family Birthing Unit? Sign up for their tour and information session offered the third Wednesday evening of each month. 
  • Enjoying this monthly e-newsletter? Subscribe to Public Health's Let's Talk Parenting e-Newsletter to get reliable, local parenting information directly to your inbox.
  • Not sure how you will pay for dental care for your children? Public Health has free dental clinics for kids ages 0 to 17.
Follow us on Twitter @LetsTalkParents
and Facebook @LetsTalkParenting.
Public Health supports breastfeeding.
Talk to a public health nurse at
Let's Talk Parenting.

1-800-265-7293
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