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Beyond The Bottle: Alternative Ways To Feed Your Baby

This weekend, my mother-in-law offered to watch my children for me. I needed to clean our former apartment and it's so much easier to do when I don't have a toddler underfoot and a newborn who constantly wants to be held. So, armed with my breast pump, I sent my kiddos off to enjoy some time with their grandparents at their house in the country. Today, my mother-in-law texted me to say that Rory was not at all a fan of the bottle and formula I sent with her. Yes, I sent formula - because the overnight was a last-minute arrangement. My resourceful MIL resorted to feeding Rory formula through the syringe for some gas medicine. All seems to be going well - for now, at least!

In one day, feeding my baby touched on so many different approaches - pumping and bottle feeding, formula, nursing, syringe feeding. Most folks know that babies can be fed with boobs and with bottles, but don't realize there are loads of other options as well. I'd be pretty dense if I didn't pause here to recognize that some folks feed their babies in unique ways - g-tubes, NG ubes, OG tubes, IVs. These parents get all my praise and adoration - their vigilance keeps their kiddos healthy. I don't know too many of the ins and outs, but hey - I bet I know someone who does!

In general, there are several methods for feeding a young infant (before foods can be introduced).

Formula and Bottles

Look at that happy baby!

Many parents choose to use formula and bottles to feed their infant.

Pause. Formula is a life-saving invention. It's absolutely a godsend that we have formula to help feed babies. And there is absolutely no shame in feeding a baby formula. Period. End pause.

Even this, which is a commonplace method, can be a bit of trial and error. Sometimes the baby is very particular to the bottle nipple. Other kids have food allergies that make finding a suitable formula difficult. Of course, there's a constant stream of washing bottles and buying the actual formula. But - it's common, right? So this method works for many - not all - and just takes a little bit of effort. Isn't that how most things are with babies?

Syringe Feeding

Eat up, little person!

I'd also include spoons and droppers in this method, too. This is the method my mother-in-law used when my daughter refused the bottles I sent with her. It's a bit time-consuming. Generally, this is easier with smaller babies. Their stomachs are still growing so they only eat small amounts at a time. Did you know when a baby is born, their stomach is about the size of a cherry? That's how they stay nourished with only drops of colostrum! But larger babies, like my almost-five-month-old daughter (and yes, she's a chunker) eat several ounces at a time.

Cup Feeding

This baby can lap up milk from the cup.

This is another alternative to bottles - it's generally used for small babies who don't have a strong suckling reflex. I'm calling it cup feeding here, but others might use bowls to achieve the same purpose. By holding a cup to their bottom lip, parents can allow the baby to lap the milk with their tongue. It's not about pouring milk or formula into the baby - it's about letting them lap up as much as they can handle. The reaching of their tongue is great future practice for introducing baby to the breast, as well.

Breastfeeding

Why does he seem so concerned?

It might seem like a free way to feed your baby, but it is anything but. Breastfeeding is incredibly difficult. It requires lots of patience, persistence, and a lot of grit to make it work - and that's even in pretty good nursing relationships. Some moms use nursing shields, some are exclusive pumpers; both cost money. I was only able to keep up my nursing relationship with my children because my employers accommodated my legal right to reasonable breaks to pump and store my milk. I'm privileged in that sense - there are lots of moms who have to go back to work right away, and can't find a way to keep up with pumping. Breastfeeding works best when you're consistent - and that inconsistency can have serious impacts on a mom's supply.

Nursing Supplementer

Love love love this!

This is one of the coolest things ever, in my humble opinion. Okay, here's the deal - this device delivers a supplement to the baby *while they are latched to the breast and feeding*. A small tube is attached to a bag of breast milk or formula, with the tube ending next to the nipple. Lactation consultants can help you learn how to properly use a nursing supplementer - it's a great method to avoid disrupting breastfeeding while ensuring baby gets proper nutrition. You can also use this same tool to finger-feed: this is helpful for babies who are struggling to latch.Have you ever fed your baby with anything other than a bottle? Were you able to breastfeed, or did you use some kind of assistance? How many of these methods have you tried? I realized I've tried a lot more than I had thought! @pi3sugarpi3

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