Breast vs. Bottle Feeding

I’m so conflicted… As I mentioned in my post yesterday, we tried breastfeeding for the first time yesterday afternoon, and surprisingly Nora did really well.  I mean, all things considered.  I don’t think she actually got any milk, but she got the idea, she knew to open her mouth and she did suck a bit.  Our plan is to try again today at her feeding at 2pm.

I have so many thoughts on this I’m not sure where to start…  I guess I should first say that the most important thing to me is that Nora gets my milk.  How she gets it though seems less important, to me anyway.  But I’ll admit, I know very little about breastfeeding, which is where my confusion comes in.

Nora is still being fed through her feeding tube, as even though we are trying breastfeeding again today, they don’t expect her to actually get any milk just yet.  Apparently she is practicing, working on learning how to breastfeed.  That said, I assume this process takes time, although how much, I have no idea.  Anything that takes time extends our stay in the NICU, which is what got me thinking this morning…  If we were bottle feeding Nora my milk, would we be further along in this process of her learning to eat without her feeding tube, and therefore closer to going home?

Here are more of my thoughts, and not necessarily in any particular order 🙂

  • I know very little after breastfeeding.  Perhaps not even enough at this point to be able to say I don’t care if I don’t nurse Nora.  Maybe I don’t understand the bond that can be formed…  Maybe I don’t know what I’d be giving up if I decide to bottle feed her instead.
  • I finally figured out pumping.  And yes, it’s a pain in the butt and there is a ton of clean up.  But I’m producing about 36 oz a day, so more than she can eat, and if I keep freezing the additional each day, I could stop pumping before a year but have enough for her to have breast milk for a year… which is ultimately my goal.
  • Bottle feeding would eliminate a lot of stress from this NICU experience, for me, and maybe for her too.  That has to count for something, right?
  • Bottle feeding adds even more clean up…
  • I’m a numbers person, I make lists, I like things to be exact.  Bottle feeding strikes me as easier from the standpoint of knowing how much milk Nora would be eating.  Breastfeeding seems to be a drop in the hat on guessing how much babies are eating.  Something about that bothers me…  I know, I’m weird!
  • If we bottle feed, Eric, and others, could take part in her care on a greater level.  Not that Eric has any time to feed her, but lets say, in theory, he does! Bottles would also be necessary for daycare, but then again, the wait list was 2+ years.
  • If we bottle feed, I still have to pump, and how does one pump and feed a baby?  Does that mean getting up twice as often at night?  Anyone have experience with this?
  • Would there be any possibility that if we bottle feed now, she could/would breastfeed in the future?  Maybe not exclusively, but do babies ever learn to do both if they were bottle fed first?
  • Am I being selfish by wanting to bottle feed her now, as really, my main incentive is getting out of the NICU ASAP?

20 thoughts on “Breast vs. Bottle Feeding

  1. I won’t pretend to be an expert on this because I’ve never had a preemie. But I think preemies have trouble coordinating suck, swallow, and breathing whether from a bottle or a breast. So you may not be able to assume that feeding from a bottle will be easier on her at this age.

    I have one friend who exclusively pumped, and it is my understanding that it just gets so exhausting most people quit after a few months and switch to formula. Nothing wrong with that, just know that if you had a goal of bf’ing long-term, exclusively pumping may not get you to that goal.

    I personally loved breastfeeding after the first month. The first month was HORRIBLE. Bella wasn’t gaining weight, refused to latch properly, and just wanted to sleep all of the time. I had a wonderful lactation consultant at my pediatrician’s office that helped us through this really rough start. I then got mastitis, clogged ducts, and all of the other fun stuff in the first month. But eventually, Bella just figured it out. And the pain went away. And I ended up with a wonderful year of nursing. I pumped twice a day at work and also went to feed her at my lunch break.

    But in your situation, having a preemie in the NICU is challenging enough. You need to do what is easiest and best to get you both through this time period. If that is bottle feeding then so be it! If I were you for now I’d stick with it for at least a few days and see how you both feel :-).

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  2. wow so many questions! You should ask your lactation consultant if you really want to know. But from a NICU mom to another NICU mom..
    Breast feeding depends on the person .. I can honestly say I was uncomfortable breast feeding my daughter. I did it, but did not feel a bond with her doing it..
    My experience with NICU breastfeeding was extremely stressful.. She did latch but wasn’t getting much if anything. So they’d weigh her before feeds and then after and she wouldn’t gain.. that was stressful for me.. Also because she was so small the effort she put to breastfeeding actually made her lose weight.. which is not what I wanted. I went the pumping route and bottle fed her my milk and formula.. I wasn’t making nearly enough at that point. You’re lucky that you have a good supply.
    Yes bottle feeding is more clean up, but you can buy an abundance of bottles and they easily go into a dishwasher Or you can buy bottles that have the liner in them, those are extremely nice because no clean up you just throw the liner out! Also a less gassy baby.
    When I was in the NICU it was all about numbers in their feedings, and that’s good and all, but she is a little person and well sometimes baby doesn’t want to eat .. sometimes they want to eat more later.. a nurse we had told us that my daughter wasn’t eating enough and wanted to do the tube and we told her no that was not needed and as long as she ate a certain amount by the end of the day she was fine.. she was never allowed to help with my daughter for the rest of her stay. keep that in mind.
    Bottle feeding is nice especially when around family and friends because you can send baby with others they can hold her and feed her and feel like they are helping, especially hubby!
    When I pumped I’d do it around her schedule. I didn’t make much so when she slept i pumped and then gave it to her later. You’ll work it out.
    She can learn to breast feed later. My daughter did. She was fed by bottle in the NICU and we breast fed when she got home.
    If you were selfish you wouldn’t even bother pumping your milk! You are not selfish to want to bottle feed her! All that matters is she is getting your milk.

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  3. My daughter is 10 weeks and I’m dealing with this dilemma right now. She was mostly breastfed until a few weeks ago when I decided a bottle was just easier at times. And then she started refusing the breast. I’m torn on how hard to work to get her back to the breast, because I do really love bottle feeding. It’s faster, I can measure how much she gets, and others can help me. I only have to pump 4 times a day, and I get about 32 ounces, more than enough to feed her (so, it’s totally doable for you to pump less and maintain supply-I get about the same if I pump every 3 hours than if I go 4 or 5). But I also miss the bond that breastfeeding brings.

    I think the only thing I don’t like about pumping/bottle feeding is in the mornings when she gets up hungry and I have to pump. I deal with that by being ahead of myself with bottles ready in the fridge. But I’m also so full and need to pump pretty soon. So that can be tricky, and I wish she would nurse better then (she nurses horribly when I am full because I spray and choke her with all my milk, so it isn’t an option.)

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  4. 1. There isn’t a right or wrong answer to bottles versus straight from source. The answer is what works for you.
    2. You can weigh her before and after feeds to know how much she is eating. IF that is important to you.
    3. straight from the boob is less clean up and more portable than bottles… however you may be pumping too.
    4. Actually holding the bottle is NOT the only way to bond with a baby so all the stuff about your spouse or others getting to feed the baby too and bonding etc really is malarky especially if you are pumping, and it saves you no time/effort. However, that is a personal OPINION.
    5. Nipple confusion is not really a big thing to worry about extensively. By which I mean a baby can nurse and also use a bottle at very early ages.
    6. Baby nursing helps produce more milk than pumping. And once you get the hang of it all nursing is less of a PIA than pumping, your boob is always attached to your body and you don’t have to ‘prepare and warm’ it in the night when she is clear she “will purely die if she has to wait another two seconds and what abuse to wait!”
    7. There really isn’t a right or wrong answer here. Believe me, when you enter a kindergarten class no one can tell which child was bottle fed and which nursed in middle class America because both ways result in well nourished children.
    8. No one should judge or comment on which ever answer you find is right for YOU and your situation and this particular child.
    9. Keep breathing in and out. You are doing terrifically~!!!

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  5. You might check with your hospital. Most offer a 3 hour class on breast feeding, which gives a lot of information. Generally, if you’re going to commit to breast feeding you want to get a good latch and technique down before introducing a bottle, otherwise baby can get what’s called nipple confusion. Exclusive pumping can be done, but you run the risk of being an open buffet, if you’re not feeding your baby, then you’re pumping, which makes it hard to get anything done! Good luck with whatever you decide!

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  6. I gave birth to twins and did a short NICU stint (2 weeks) recently. I’ve got one twin fully on the breast and the other, who had more issues after birth, is on the bottle. She was NG fed, breast fed then we changed hospitals and they wanted her on a bottle to track progress better. So now she’s bottle fed breast milk. For me, I find the bottle now a huge pain especially at night. I over pump so there’s always a reserve but you have to keep up with it. So I also pump after feeding both during the night. Maybe it will be different with just one baby but for me and convenience sake, I’d really like to get them both on breast (once she’s gained enough). It’s not to say that she’ll forget how to take a bottle as my son will take one if my hubby feeds him so I can sleep. I’d also recommend if you’re using the nipples from the hospital, take a ton home with you until you find ones that she likes that you can buy. We’ve had a few feeds that come up short bc the nipples are different. I’ve literally bought every nipple and bottle available and its a real process to find the right one. Best of luck to you and great job on the pumping!

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  7. You are not being selfish in anyway if you decide to bottle feed her instead of nursing her, in fact I know a lot more people that pump and bottle feed than actually breast feed. I nursed both of my boys and they had bottles at daycare and they did great with both. Nursing and pumping is hard so you have to do what is best for you and Nora!

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  8. So S and I had a much easier start, but I thought I’d say what I thought about bf. It’s far more convenient in terms of night feeding and being on the go. First of all cause S gets her meal asap and doesn’t have to wait for a bottle when I am home. Second cause doing the bottle dance in the wee hours would suck! It’s already hard enough to get up and it’s nice to feed her right away and then go back to bed asap in comparison to getting up and making a bottle while she gets more and more rageful. I do think there is a bonding aspect to it as well, especially in regards to trust. I’ve enjoyed the time we have together because of bf. On the flip side I would for sure do some bottle simply for convenience sake. But do what’s best for you all!

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  9. Hey Stef! I have done both…. So you are right on with your pros of exclusively pumping. It was nice to know exactly how much milk Jonathan was getting. Also- with Will, he didn’t always focus and so some of the feeding weren’t super productive which would cause my supply to go down. Biggest downfall of exclusively pumping is if you don’t have someone around to help (especially middle of night). James would feel Jonathan and I’d pump during the night, but when he was gone, the nights were awful! Maybe you could feed her at nights and pump during the day? You are doing awesome mama! Look how good miss Nora is growing!!!

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  10. Well first off, I’m envious of your 36oz per day! I breastfeed so I don’t know how much baby girl gets from that, but so far I haven’t been able to pump more than 2oz per session. You can do both–breastfeed & bottle feed. I know moms who breastfeed their babies morning/night just for the bonding, but bottle feed otherwise. Best of both worlds. XO

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  11. I’m no expert but I do love my time breast feeding Harriet and I pump some as well so dad can feed, but have a friend who exclusively pumps and that works best for her. There is no one way to do it! I have heard of teaching babies to re-latch after a period of bottle for whatever reason (baby or mom medical issues). Just talk to her pediatrician and do what feels right! The most important thing is that she eats!

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  12. You’re not being selfish by wanting to bottle feed. My friend has pretty much bottle fed since she brought her daughter home and only breastfeeds once a day. If it makes your life easier and it’s what you want to do then go for it!

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  13. So I know we exchanged a bunch of texts but I guess I would reiterate that even if you switched to a bottle plan today, it wouldn’t really mean anything. She still has many many other milestones to reach (temp, PIC line, eyes, ears etc) before she is ready to go home. And she still simply needs time to develop the stamina to take food by mouth, whether it’s breast or bottle. In fact, if your plan all along had been to bottle feed, I am not even sure if thy would let you start that this early – the reason you start trying nursing is because it does take the extra learning – it may have been another week or so before they would have even offered her a bottle. Chat with the NP and let them know your concerns – they should have some good advice!

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  14. I completely know what your saying. Going home is the goal and the bottle is easier. I fully knew I would breastfeed Carly and gave her the bottle to ensure she peed and pooped so we could go home. I pumped and fed Nolan exclusively, he didn’t latch well An I was fine pumping. We also needed to watch his numbers and that’s how we exited the NICU faster. With Nolan pumping and feeding had me up forever in the middle of the night. It can be annoying during the day or when you are alone but it can be done to pump and feed. This is where I would say breastfeeding is easier as you throw a boob at them and call it a day. However if you over produce you still have to pump the extra and that’s annoying. I prefer to pump and bottle feed in the middle of the night, Carly goes to sleep faster with the bottle and I get to bed faster with her. With Carly it takes less time than Nolan in te middle of the night, each kid is different. It is possible to bottle feed to get out of the NICU and then to breast feed, it will take dedication. If you are a numbers person it might be easier to pump and feed. Just be conscious that your pump schedule gets thrown off by feeding the baby. I pumped after feeding Nolan and sometimes I went too long and then didn’t have as much at his next feeding.

    I would not say I feel a better bond because I breastfeed Carly. I felt a different bond because her start was different. Both kids have moments where they only wanted me. Carly more so at times because the food is attached and she wants the boob. Nolan just wanted me as he wanted mom.

    I’m not crazy and only allow Carly to have the breast, I love having a break every now and then when someone else feeds her. That was the nice thing about bottles with Nolan I was able to do more when he wasn’t attached to me.

    I’m a believer that you do what feels right and what works. If it doesn’t work you adjust your plan.

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  15. i’d ask the docs and lactation consultant – these are all good questions, and honestly every baby is different. i’ve seen NICU grads leave the NICU fully bottle-fed, who do eventually nurse. generally speaking, most did a combination of both afterwards.

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  16. Every question you have is legitimate. I have a friend who only pumped and never had any trouble feeding her babies this way. Keep in mind they were not NICU babies. She always produced enough milk, had plenty stores and bonded with her babies. I wish I had more answers, but I do know you’re ready to break free from the NICU and I can not blame you!

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  17. I breastfed my twins till they were 7 or 8 months while supplementing with formula. So it is possible to do both breast and bottle. I know some babies develop a preference for one or the other but neither of mine ever did. I bf’d one of my girls for the first time when she was about 6 or 7 weeks old. I do think breastfeeding can be pretty magical. But full disclosure- I didn’t always love it. But that’s just me. Lots of women really do love it. I would say definitely find a good LC and ask all those questions, and keep giving the breastfeeding a shot. You can start a feed at the breast and finish with a bottle. That’s what I did but with formula because my supply was lousy. Some women will breastfeed all day then give a bottle before bed at night.

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  18. No reason you can’t do both. I cannot say enough good things about the bond between me and my son from nursing him – and I was dreading the idea and terrified it would trigger all kinds of abuse trauma for me. Personally I would love for you to give it a good effort and see if you feel connected as I did and many moms do. I say this especially since you’ve spent s month not getting to have much physical intimacy with Nora. It might help you bond with her and her with you? You can always add bottles in with time.

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  19. First of all, congrats on doing such a great job pumping, you are doing fantastic and will be able to supply a significant amount of milk for our baby girl. I had no problem breast feeding but pumping was rough and I barely had any to bring to daycare. Anyways, I personally didn’t find breastfeeding a bonding experience. I realize most women do. I found it to be just as bonding when I gave her a bottle. That being said, breast feeding was super convenient especially in public/out and about. No bottle to remember, keep cool, clean up. You’re right, pumping and feeding a bottle is A LOT of cleaning up. I would give it a try, it is instant food, no waiting for a bottle to unthaw and warm. Just my two cents. Hang in there, you’re doing wonderful.

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