Breastfeeding will go down in my book as both the best and worst part of motherhood. It has got to be the craziest roller coaster ride I’ve ever been on. There are highs and there are lows. There are moments of success and moments of frustration. One moment you’re on top of the world and feeling like an expert. The next, you feel like you haven’t got a clue as to what you’re doing! I’m telling you, it’s a serious mind game!
Before I had Noah I prepped for breastfeeding. I got a pump, breast pads, milk storage bags, nipple cream and every other must have for breastfeeding. After plenty of research, I decided I would breastfeed for the first year of my baby’s life. I had heard the horror stories, but I tried to focus on the success stories. I told myself that I would be one of those! And then Noah was born and my dreams of breastfeeding came crashing down! It was hard! It was painful! And nothing about the first two weeks of breastfeeding was beautiful in my opinion. I tried, boy did I try, but my boy and I just couldn’t find our groove. And so I exclusively pumped for 5 months. Which of course came with its own challenges. Pumping at work is horrible, and a big reason why my pumping days ended.
I’m not going to lie, I definitely felt discouraged that I wasn’t able to breastfeed Noah for as long as I had planned. And so when I became pregnant with Ryan, I felt like I had a second chance. Once again, I set the goal to breastfeed for a year. What I’ve learned about breastfeeding is that no two experiences are the same. In other words, no amount of experience can prepare you for the next time. My experience with Ryan has been completely different from my experience with Noah. We are six months into our exclusively breastfed journey! That’s not to say that it’s been smooth sailing this time around. We have had our own challenges. There’s been mastitis, cracked nipples, and my least favorite of all, nipple confusion! Yes people, it’s a thing!
Right at about four months, I found myself competing with the bottle. Because of a cracked nipple, I wasn’t able to nurse from one side. The solution: nurse from one side, pump from the other and bottle feed. Sounds simple, right? Welp, simple is the last word I would use to describe that time. Ryan ended up preferring the bottle and completely rejected me when I went to breastfeed him. Like, bloody murder screams, flailing arms, stiff body kind of rejection. And it was hard on this mama to endure. It took lots of patience, encouragement from my husband, and slow and steady work to reverse the nipple confusion. Google and breastfeeding groups that I am a part of became my best friends. What did I learn? Paced bottle feeding is the best way to bottle feed a baby, especially a breastfed baby.
What is Paced Bottle Feeding?
Paced bottle feeding is a method of bottle feeding that mimics breastfeeding. As you can probably guess, it has to do with slowing down the pace of the feeding so that it takes as much time for baby to drink from the bottle as it does from the breast. It forces baby to really work hard to get the milk rather than just laying back and having it poured into his belly. Paced bottle feeding is really beneficial for all babies, not just breastfed babies, for many reasons. One important benefit of paced bottle feeding is that it prevents overeating. When you pace feed your child, the child is in control of how much he is going to eat and can stop once he is full.
How to Pace Bottle Feed
The first thing you have to do when learning how to pace feed is to forget everything you’ve ever known about bottle feeding. We’ve all been trained to lay the baby down in the crook of our arms and hold the bottle at a 45 degree angle (essentially pouring the milk into baby). With paced feeding, you sit the baby upright and hold the bottle in a position that is parallel with the floor. This position requires baby to suck if he wants milk. The reason babies prefer bottle feeding over breastfeeding is because it’s much easier and there’s a faster flow. So, the goal is to make bottle feeding as similar to breastfeeding as possible so that baby won’t establish a preference for the bottle. Paced feeding allows for a similar flow to breastfeeding.
When pace feeding, each feeding should take about ten to fifteen minutes. Again, you’re trying to replicate breastfeeding so the more similarities, the better. When you lay a baby down to drink his bottle, the feeding is usually over in minutes because the milk essentially just flows through and baby doesn’t have to work to get it. Allowing the baby to take breaks intermittently is also recommended. This mimics the breaks your baby gets in between your let downs.
So to reiterate, you want to sit baby in an upright position, hold the bottle parallel to the floor, encourage breaks, and let the baby take his time.
Our Breastfeeding Experience
Once we realized that nipple confusion was the problem, we started researching ways to correct it. Ryan and I spent the next five to six days really re-establishing our breastfeeding rhythm. It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to do as a mother. Think of cluster feeding and then multiply that by 100. I basically had to feed Ryan for a minute or two at a time every short while. The problem was that he was only interested in breastfeeding when I had a letdown and the flow was fast. Once the letdown was done, he was done. So we had to repeat that process over and over again. And I had to breastfeed through wailing cries. On several occasions I told my husband that I was done. If it wasn’t for his loving encouragement, our breastfeeding journey would have ended. But he was right by my side encouraging me and helping me calm Ryan down whenever he became hysterical (or when I did for that matter).
Once Ryan and I made it through the most challenging week of our mother-son relationship, we became a paced bottle feeding family. Since we’ve made the changes, we haven’t struggled at all with nipple confusion. Bottle feeding and breastfeeding now are one in the same and Ryan can easily go back and forth between bottle and breast. He has mastered them both! Also a huge benefit is the fact that whatever I pump is always enough for him. Because he’s eating at a slower pace when bottle feeding, he no longer needs more to satisfy him. The same amount of milk that fills him up when he’s breastfeeding is all he needs in the bottle too.
Because I am working and there are times I need to be away from Ryan, bottle feeding is a must for us. We also use a bottle whenever mommy and daddy have date night! We taught our family members how to pace feed and now they are pros! Seriously, it’s simple and so beneficial for baby. If you haven’t heard about paced bottle feeding, I suggest you look into it. There are so many instructional videos and articles out there. And honestly, you should consider pace feeding whether or not baby is a breastfed baby. After all, slow and steady always wins the race!
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