Here are some differences-
- It's important to have your baby slightly upright, with their head at least a little higher than their tummy when you bottle feed them. When lying flat while being fed from a bottle, the child is more likely to have milk go into their trachea rather than their esophagus ("going down the wrong tube"), causing coughing or respiratory infections. It can also pool in their middle ear causing ear infections if they are lying flat while being bottle fed. The baby is less able to unlatch and turn away from a bottle nipple than from a human nipple, so you never want to prop a bottle up to feed them, as this can also cause coughing and breast milk going down the trachea into their lungs.You also want to watch the bottle to make sure the breast milk fully fills the nipple so that they aren't sucking in any air and giving themselves painful gas bubbles. This link has some good suggestions for positions to feed your baby in.
- You can actually know how much breast milk your baby is getting; a common worry among breastfeeders is the question "Is my baby getting enough milk?" However, don't get too caught up in this, and realize that many babies will eat less breast milk than they would formula, because they don't need as much volume to get the nutrients they need. Click here for a good general guide for how much breast milk a baby needs, but remember that some babies need more than others, and you should never restrict or schedule your baby's feedings. The best way to tell if your baby is getting enough is to feed them on cue, and watch to be sure they are gaining weight, have healthy looking eyes and plump skin, and are having at least 5 or 6 wet diapers per 24 hour period.
- Pumping and feeding requires more planning ahead, especially when leaving the house. Once you get a routine down though, it's not as difficult as it is at first. I have a car adapter for my electric pump, and a nursing cover I take with me when we go anywhere. Then I'm not stressed about being back home in enough time to pump, as I know I can just plug into the car in a parking lot somewhere and pump. Some women also carry a cooler with ice to store anything they pump in, as well as a thermos of hot water to use to reheat any stored milk.
- You have to know how to handle the milk. When it comes directly from your breast, you don't even have to think about it. If you are heating previously pumped milk for your baby, never microwave it. Even with vigorous shaking (also not recommended,) sometimes little globules of fat from uneven heating will hold onto the heat and will not be able to be fully mixed in enough to disperse the heat. These globules can burn your baby. Plus microwaving destroys some of the nutrients. The best way to heat it is to put the sealed baggie in a bowl of hot water, and gently squish and swish the bag around until it feels warm enough. It's better to err on the side of too cold than too warm, as milk that is too cold doesn't hurt the baby, while milk that is too hot can. Some babies are pickier about the temperature of their milk than others, though it seems that most babies will take most anything from room temperature to body temperature. While cold milk won't hurt them, many infants refuse it. Lastly, don't shake the milk when you are mixing back in the fat that has separated. Shaking breaks down some of the more delicate proteins in the milk. You do want to mix that fat back in, but do so by gently swirling the bottle, or squishing the bag instead.
- Sleep is different. I haven't decided if it's worse or better, and much of this will depend on your individual baby, and your individual parenting choices. I have co-slept with all my babies, so when I would nurse the older two at night, I would basically just roll over, get them latched, and drift back to sleep. Now that I have a baby eating from a bottle, I have to get up and pump a couple times in the middle of the night. If I wake because the baby wakes, I feed her, then lay her back down to sleep, and then go pump. If I wake because I need to pump, I go pump, and then gently pick my baby up and offer her the bottle. I do this in an effort to sync up our sleep patterns up. At first, if I woke needing to pump, and she hadn't woken to eat, I would pump and go back to sleep. Then she would wake an hour or 2 after that, and I would feed her. Then an hour or 2 after that, I would wake needing to pump again. I was waking twice as often, and getting to a scary level of sleep deprivation. Now our sleep and wake patterns are matching up much better. It is still hard to wake up fully and go pump in the middle of the night rather than just to roll over, latch, and go back to sleep. However, with bottle feeding, my baby doesn't want to slowly snack all night long, like my nursers did. She snuggles in for a bottle, and then goes right back to sleep. I lay her back down, and am able to sleep in whatever position I want to, instead of having to make sure I'm in just the perfect position on my side to keep the baby latched. It's a lot more comfortable, especially for a back sleeper like me, and I have less back pain throughout the day than I did with my nursers.
Here are the similarities I have found-
- The amazing nutritional benefits that you read about in every article and book that talks about infant feeding are all still true. Your baby still gets the perfect food, the antibodies, the micro-nutrients, and the probiotics that only breast milk has.
- You can (and should) still feed your baby on cue. The signs that your baby is hungry are still the same- rooting, sucking on their hand, minor fussiness, etc. It's best not to wait until they are actually crying to feed them, as by that point they are generally so hungry that it's painful for them. Breast milk stays good at room temperature for 6-8 hours, which is helpful because you are able to always keep a bottle of breast milk on hand. This way you don't have to turn your attention away from your baby to prepare a bottle when she's giving cues that she's hungry; the bottle is already ready to go. This will work better for some babies than others, depending on how particular they are about the temperature of the milk, and if they will take it at room temperature or not.
- I still feel that special sense of accomplishment watching my baby grow and get that adorable baby pudge, knowing that it's my milk nourishing her. Comedian Jim Gaffigan said in his comedy sketch "4 kids," "But truly, women are amazing. Think about it this way: a woman can grow a baby inside her body. Then a woman can deliver the baby through her body. Then, by some miracle of life, a woman can feed a baby with her body. When you compare that to the male's contribution to life, it's kind of embarrassing, really." Not to dog on men, but it really is pretty miraculous that we women are able to feed babies with our bodies. Whether we are are able to partially provide for our child's nutrition, and supplement with donor milk or formula, or we are able to fully provide for our baby's nutritional needs, or if we create more milk than necessary for out own child, and are able to donate the excess to other babies; it is an amazing miracle. (For more information about milk-sharing, whether you have excess to share, or are in need of donor milk, search "Human Milk 4 Human Babies" along with the name of your state, province or country in the search bar on Facebook. Every state, and many places outside the US, have Facebook pages which facilitate getting people with breast milk to donate in contact with those in need. There is no exchange of money allowed, but it is common practice for the mom receiving the milk to give the donor mom storage baggies to replace the ones she's taking that are filled with breast milk.)
- My baby still wants me all the time, and wants to be held frequently. At first, I had worried that without nursing directly from the breast, I would somehow be more replaceable to my baby. I mean, anyone could snuggle her and feed her my milk from a bottle; what would be different about the care she received from me to set me apart from anyone else who cared for her? However, I have found that even without nursing, she knows I am Mom. When she caught her first cold, she didn't want anyone else, even Dad or Grandma, both of whom she normally adores. When I have been away at work for the day, she needs me to just hold her and be with her for awhile when I first get home. No one can calm her as well as I can, and she seems to save her best giggles for me. Your baby may not do these exact same things, but I'm sure will have enough of his or her own ways of showing you that even without nursing, they know you are Mom, and that Mom is different than any other caregiver. Regardless of how they receive their nourishment, there is no other attachment like the bond between an infant and a mother.