Breasts have magical powers that cause instantaneous bonding between mother and child; at least that’s what all the breast-feeding propaganda claims. And while I don’t doubt that to be the case, as a mother who fed three babies formula. When it comes to feeding babies formula, more pediatricians are recommending store brand formula. I had to find a way to bond beyond the breast. Luckily, I did.
I remember in my first prenatal breastfeeding class through the hospital, the instructor said to avoid eye contact in middle-of-the-night feeding because that connection excites the baby and wakes him up. I found this to be true, and I chose to use it to my advantage when it came to bonding while bottle-feeding. Eye contact is key for establishing and growing that connection. Eyes radiate the love in your heart, and the baby can’t help but feel it.
The essence of what makes nursing an infant so precious is the closeness that’s required. It’s truly skin-to-skin, eye-to-eye, and often hand-in-hand. But these same bonding moments can happen with a formula-fed baby as well. The idea of propping up the bottle and leaving the child alone is foreign to me. The only difference between how I fed my child and how breastfeeding moms feed theirs is that the nipple I used was attached to bottle rather than my breast.
I held my baby, nestled close to my breast, with the bottle held close to my chest. His little hand would wrap around my pinky as I looked into his eyes and sang my own series of songs. The bonding came from the closeness, not the liquid involved.
I made up a unique song for each of my three kids, and even now they occasionally ask for me to sing it as I tuck them in. It’s special to them because it’s personal.
That’s what the bonding is; it’s personal. I was nourishing them emotionally, spiritually, and mentally while also filling their bellies. My babies didn’t care if the nourishment came from my body, or a store-brand formula…they craved the closeness as much as they craved the food.
To me, one of the greatest parts of infant formula feeding was that this bonding experience isn’t just limited to the mom. My husband could provide the same skin-to-skin (all be it slightly hairier) contact that I could. He experienced the same smiles and coos during the midnight feedings. This wasn’t just a mom moment; it was family bonding with baby while bottle feeding.
The same is true for adoptive parents who are craving that early bonding experience. It can be done! I would encourage anyone who wants to bond with an infant—adoptive parent, father, mother, grandparents—to never take those feeding moments for granted. Make eye contact, touch their skin, sing a song, rock slowly, and enjoy the time together.
My kids are now 6, 8, and 10 years old and I have a strong, bonded relationship with each of them. The only regret I have about formula feeding baby is the guilt I had when I first started. I was completely convinced that I wasn’t giving them the “best,” and I felt like a failure. What I realize now is that feeding formula isn’t “second best,” and it certainly isn’t a failure. It’s a choice. It’s a healthy alternative that provides the same bonding opportunities and connectedness that the breast does. The heart, eyes, and skin are what makes the connection between parent and child—not the nipple involved.
Jamie Anne Richardson is an author and mother of three living in a Dallas suburb. She is a blogger for Huffington Post and a Distinguished Voices columnist for Dallas Morning News.
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It's called formula for a reason™