In my early twenties, hitting the bottle meant something far more decadent than when I had my baby boy. Suddenly it was less about 1984 Chardonnay and more about the Anti-Colic functionality.
Having been the Babycare Buyer for Ocado for nearly four years, I had spent enormous amounts of time with the specialists of the best Baby brands in the UK. Whether it was the Skin to Skin expert or the paediatric nutritionists, the advice was unanimous; breast feeding is the best.
The benefits were a lengthy list – reduced risks of sudden infant death, lower chance of obesity, better bonding with the baby, improved immunity aaaaand burning up to 500 calories a day. Once upon a time I used to die over the handlebars at a Spin class. Now I could simply sit on my sofa, ‘feel the burn’ and just melt away my fat one biscuit at a time. Oooo breastfeeding was going to be the best gift of pregnancy.
Of course like most things in life, the reality was quite different.
My experience of feeding my baby was a world away from the idyllic videos I had seen in my prenatal classes. Post delivery my little one sat splayed out on my chest with no inclination to ‘latch!’ He had just been yanked out of his cosy little home, this guy was in no mood to do any more work. The midwives came along and tried to encourage him; yanking me, pulling him but despite doing a Tango that would be Strictly-worthy, we had no luck.
I quickly found myself in really uncharted territory.
Everyone speaks about the birth and the benefits of breastfeeding but I needed to feed my baby and I just didn’t know how to. Promoting breastfeeding is important. It is an amazing thing for both mama and baby but I absolutely believe that Fed is Best.
Whether Mums choose to breastfeed, combination feed or bottle feed, the most important thing is for Baby to have a Mama that is happy and healthy – both physically and mentally. I ended up combination feeding; pumping like a crazy person in front of box sets and topping up with some formula. But here’s a few things I wish I had known at the beginning:
Find your fairy (booby) godmother
I would not have survived the first few weeks without the help of the most amazing breastfeeding support that came in the wonderful form of Jo (https://www.mypositivebirth.co.uk/my-positive-breastfeeding). But I came across her by chance on day 10 and by then, it felt like a lifetime as my baby was permanently hungry from my crummy attempts of feeding him.
Mamas spend ages thinking about their birth but not enough time planning for breastfeeding. The biggest secret is that it’s a skill….and not one that everyone is born with! Find a consultant or breast-feeding group during your pregnancy so if you get stuck, they can rush in and help ASAP. With a baby feeding every hour initially, each day that passes feels like a lifetime, so it is nice to have someone on speed dial that you have called in advance and who knows a little bit about you.
Jo arrived with a bag of knitted boobies to demo breastfeeding (one in every colour, after all, it’s all about the diversity and inclusion!). And just when you think you have all the positions perfected from the Karma Sutra, she taught me a whole new language from the Rugby Hold to the Cross Cradle to Side Lying! Unfortunately my little one and I couldn’t get our groove on so I resorted to the very glamorous pumping machine, but I moved on knowing I had truly given it my best shot!
Invest in a good steriliser
I didn’t think I would be using bottles as much as I did and therefore my initial steriliser wasn’t really up to the mark. There are so many options available and the unique filters on NeeNoo should help you narrow down a steriliser to suit your budget and lifestyle.
However one of my favourites is the latest Vital Baby UV Steriliser: http://neenoo.co.uk/product/vital-baby-nurture-pro-uv-steriliser-and-dryer
The system is deep enough to take a fair few bottles, looks stylish on a counter (it looks just like a bread machine so people could mistake you for a super Mum that is baking in between trying to survive with a little one!) and most importantly doesn’t require any liquids, chemicals, heat, steam or sterilising solution. Less faff – win win!
The Vital Baby UV Steriliser uses UV rays to kill bacteria and can be used for bottles, pacifiers, baby toys, blankets and comforters. Whilst leggings and dry shampoo became my BFFs in the early months (oh how far I fell from the days of stilettos and sexy blazers), in case you can manage to contour your face each morning, you can even sterilise your make up brushes in the system.
Check out the bottles
Choosing a bottle for your baby can be slightly overwhelming as there is so much choice. Just like a Subway sandwich, there are lots of different elements that you can mix and match including the teats, bottles and flow.
At the beginning of my journey, all of this jargon sounded like Greek and Latin to me so here's my starter guide to selecting a bottle:
Teats are made from silicon or latex. Silicon is less flexible than latex but latex needs to be replaced more regularly. Some parents are also cautious about using latex teats since allergies to this substance are increasing worldwide.
The teats come in two standards shapes – traditional and bell shaped i.e. one that mimics a nipple. You may have to try both to see which your baby prefers since there is no evidence to suggest one is better than the other.
There are four types of bottles to choose from:
Basic: These tall narrow bottles are usually reasonably priced and come with lids and teats but it can be trickier to fill these slimmer shapes.
Wide necked: These bottles are shorter and fatter than the basic ones but still accommodate the same amount of milk. They are easier to fill and clean but utilise more space in the steriliser so you probably won’t be able to clean as many bottles at once.
Read to feed: These disposable plastic bottles are available in supermarkets and are a convenient short-term solution as they come pre-filled with milk that’s already been sterilised. They’re more expensive and not great for the environment though.
Anticolic: These are more expensive bottles and have unique designs to help try and reduce the occurrence of colic symptoms. The bottles tend to have air vents or tubes to try and minimise the amount of air swollen. They aren't a guaranteed cure but may ease the symptoms for some babies. It is worth trying one or two to see if they work for you before you invest in a set.
Flow refers to the number of holes that the teat has from which the milk flows through. There are usually three categories; slow, medium, fast or 1, 2, 3.
A slow flow is preferable for a newborn as they adapt to the bottle. If babies drink milk too quickly, they may swallow a lot of air in between the feed or bring lots of milk up afterwards – i.e. hysterical crying and regurgitated milk all over Mama and Baby (there is literally no worse smell in the world!).
As the baby progresses or gets frustrated with the pace of milk coming through, you can move up to a higher flow.
Feeding a baby in the early months is so tricky and unlike my original fantasies it was a lot less about cake and a lot more about continued practise and resilience to find a method that worked for me on a personal level. I have the greatest admiration for women that breastfeed – it truly is a skill and one that I could never master! However I have also made my peace with my shortcomings and fondly remember our cuddles on the sofa as my baby guzzled his milk and I guzzled in that gorgeous milky baby smell.
Blog Photo Credit: @mummabearnursingwear, @vitalbaby @joelle_masterson via Instagram
Blog Homepage Photo Credit: @breemarieblog and @jessicagracefully via Instagram