If babies are primarily breastfed, sometimes Dad can feel a little left out in the cold. It’s understandable – Mum has the goods after all, and he might think there’s little place for him in this aspect of his new baby’s life. But introducing a feeding schedule that Dad can be a part of regularly, not only gives Mum a much-needed break but is also a lovely Dad-bub bonding time. It can be a little overwhelming though as it’s a common instinct for the man to feel like he knows less about looking after or feeding a baby, but that doesn’t make it true.
“I wanted to help with the feeding but was worried I would do the wrong thing, “ says new dad, Paul. “At first it was tricky giving my daughter the bottle, as she was used to being breastfed, but soon I learnt the little tricks and techniques that worked for me and my baby girl and we got a good routine going. It just takes practice, for both of you!”
Many new parents find that handing one of the later night feeds over to Dad (say, around 10pm) is a great idea – while Dad waits up, Mum can head to bed a little earlier and can sleep through until bub’s next overnight feed. Or, Mum could pump after one of the nighttime feeds and leave a bottle for Dad to use in the morning while she has a sleep in. Try a few different routines to figure out what works best for you.
Here are some tips for Dad’s wanting to introduce a bottle feed:
You and your partner should read our guide to expressing milk and bottle-feeding here.While the expressing part is not Dad’s domain, it’s important you appreciate the process your partner is going through to get that precious milk ready for your child.
So ensure you’ve a comfy spot where you’re happy to sit still for a while. It’s tempting to settle down on the couch with bub in front of a flat-screen TV but the light can be distracting and might be too much of a departure from their routine with Mum. Plus, while it might be tempting to get stuck into a Netflix marathon while you’re bottle-feeding, it’s nicer if you’re focused on the job at hand. This is special time for just the two of you, after all. You might even find that it will become your favourite, calming part of your day. If you need to use your smartphone, switch the screen to nightmode so the light doesn’t bother bub.
Ensure the teat of the bottle is always filled with milk, so hold the bottle horizontally at the start of the feed and as the milk is drunk, gradually tip the bottle. This will keep milk in the tip of the nipple so your baby is drinking milk and not swallowing air. The benefit is that this will limit their problems with wind (the air in their tummy that can cause them pain – cue upset baby). Take advantage of any natural breaks in their feeding to hold them upright over your shoulder for a little burp. Don’t forget to keep a cloth handy for catching any spills (and maybe don’t wear your best shirt).
The baby that is! If you notice discomfort during a feed, stop the feed and hold your baby upright, and pat baby’s back gently to help release the wind. After a feed, also hold your baby in an upright position for around 10-15 minutes or as long as your baby needs. Laying them down too early can cause discomfort or cause them to spit up. You’ll need that cloth over your shoulder for this bit, too.
Despite that Father of the Year trophy you’ve already inscribed in your mind, things might not go always as planned. You might (probably) get vomited on, bub might scream and refuse to drink your offered bottle, and it might be a stressful process for both of you. Bottle-feeding can be a different journey for every child, but it’s important to stay calm and keep trying until you work out the routine that best suits your family. Your partner and your baby need you – you’ve got this Dad!