The fourth trimester can be a confusing place to be. Each time I experienced it, my body was working on healing, I was learning how to take care of someone who was completely dependent on me, and I was figuring out my new "normal"—the first time, the second time, and the third time.
One of the things that surprised me about this phase was that after a little while, I kind of felt trapped. I was nursing around the clock, running on little sleep, not showering regularly, getting my daytime hours mixed with nighttime hours and vice versa, never having a second to myself.
Where I went, my baby went. She was like an extension of my body. Where my baby went, I went. She needed to nurse all the time. What else was I going to do?
But then the time came where we introduced a bottle to our third baby. This was our third time trying this out. My hopes were high and my expectations were… well, also pretty high, TBH. I had pumped a small amount of milk, had the bottle ready, and when my husband got home we all—all five of us—went into our room, excited for the big event!
My husband tried giving our daughter the bottle first, and when she first started sucking, I was in awe! Look! She doesn't have to eat only from my breast! She is doing it! You're doing it together!
I was ecstatic. I was thrilled. This had been such a pain point for us with our older two children, and I knew that if this continued—I'd be able to have a bit more flexibility as a nursing mother. The benefits are plentiful.
Feeding your baby from a bottle can feel freeing.
It did for me. I felt like now, I could actually take a bit of a break when I needed to. A real break—not a time-sensitive break in between nursing sessions.
I could go to a yoga class at night without the nervous feeling in my stomach, wondering if she was hungry. I could go out to dinner and catch up with friends without wondering if my husband needed help soothing her at home—rushing to them after getting the "I can't calm her. She won't take the bottle. I'm so sorry!" text. I have to pump, but it's typically when I get home from whatever I'm doing so I don't even have to bring my pump with me.
Feeding your baby from a bottle can bring connection.
For other family members. As a breastfeeding mother, I have always been the primary person who feeds our babies (with the exception of when they've started solid foods). But when we started trying out a bottle, my husband was able to feed her—and they were able to bond in a special way they hadn't before. My mother-in-law was able to feed her and when she got our daughter to successfully take a bottle it was satisfying for the both of them. The proud big sisters were able to get in on the fun and give their sister her milk. And watching my two older daughters hold their baby sister and gently place the bottle in her mouth saying, "Good girl, you can do it… ooh, that's a good girl, you're doing great!" made my heart grow about 100 times in size.
Feeding your baby from a bottle can bring a schedule.
Which is a lifesaver for a lot of mamas. For a mom who works. For a baby who goes to daycare or stays with a nanny. For the mother who wants to have more of a routine. There's a certain peace you feel and confidence you have in knowing your baby can and will successfully take in the bottle without protesting or getting upset.
Feeding your baby from a bottle can bring sustenance.
A bottle is another vessel to get your baby their food in the first year of life. Sometimes mom's breast milk is in it, sometimes donor milk is in it, sometimes formula is in it. Whatever the case may be, a bottle helps our babies survive and thrive. It's just one of the many ways to lovingly nourish our babies.
Ultimately, I think relying on a bottle to feed my baby has given me a sense of reassurance. A sense of self, aside from being a mother.
This past weekend I spent the day with my mom—just her and I. We went to lunch and ate pizza and drank wine. We took the subway and went to a play. We chatted and caught up—without anyone interrupting.
I didn't have to think twice about what I was wearing, because I wouldn't have to nurse on the subway, or in the restaurant, or on the train. I wasn't carrying a diaper bag. I felt light and carefree—because I knew my baby was safe with her father, getting the food she needed when she needed it. And I was getting the break I needed.
When I got home, I felt refreshed.
Motherhood is the best thing I'll ever do in my life. The most validating thing. The most fulfilling thing. But it just might be the hardest, too.
Like my motherhood journey, our bottle feeding journey has had its ups and downs, that's for sure. My daughter doesn't always accept the bottle and I don't always have the energy to pump and plan. Sometimes it's easier to say, "I'll just stay home, I don't feel like worrying about it…"
But when it all works out and our daughter takes the bottle and I get time to myself to do something that fills my cup, or time with my husband to connect or focused time for work—it's pretty magical.
Bottles are a gift to parents of all kinds, and through all our ups and downs, I have to say—I'm grateful for what they can provide us.