I had absolutely no idea, and I mean I knew zero, nothing, nada about how to bottle feed a baby, because I was going to breast feed. I’d read all the books on breast feeding. I knew it was going to be difficult and I knew my nipples were going to fall off and people would spit at me for doing it in public, but I was going to have to persevere like a true Mother and I was going to do it. Turns out Mother Nature and her friends Fate and Circumstance, they had other ideas. During those early days, some of the darkest of my life so far, I remember getting quite angry with the world and myself. How could I have been so stupid? Why hadn’t I just given the tiniest bit of thought to what might happen if I had to bottle feed? Why didn’t somebody tell me about the various flow speeds of bottle teats? Why was I having to figure this shit out now when I felt broken and exhausted? This was when the ‘mummy guilt’ really kicked in. If I could just find the best bottle/teat/formula/feeding technique I would have some hope of being a proper mother to this baby instead of a failure.
Bottle feeding – what I wish I’d known
I realise now, with the benefit of hindsight that I was at the centre of a perfect storm; caught somewhere between the rising tide of militant breast feeding promotion (albeit a justified reaction to the complete opposite for so long) and the cynical and calculating world of those who peddle baby paraphernalia.
Midwives and Health Visitors are so mindful of not appearing to ‘promote’ formula feeding that very few antenatal classes these days demonstrate the basics of feed mixing, bottle cleaning etc. Indeed, I was told by an actual Health Visitor that they are not allowed to meet with reps from formula companies anymore and as a result she was not up to speed on the latest products and developments.
Meanwhile out there in the real world Amazon stocks no less than 15 brands of baby bottles and sterilisers. Just standing in the supermarket one morning staring blankly at shelves of formula milk I counted six main brands of formula milk, each brand with at least three variations for new born babies.
How the jolly heck is ANYONE supposed to be able to navigate though this multitude without just a little bit of help in the beginning?
So here it is – the things I wish I’d known in the very beginning. Some hindsight from the frontline of mummying for the benefit of anyone who needs it. Don’t be frightened. Just because you have the bottle feeding basics in the house before the baby comes will NOT mean you won’t breast feed. Instead it will mean that you, even with your ragged pre-natal brain will have made all the choices that your post-natal self will not have the energy or mental fortitude to deal with.
· Pick a brand of formula, any formula, buy the ‘first’ milk, they all do one and stick with it. Don’t agonise over which brand. They are literally ALL the same. For example Cow & Gate and Aptamil are both owned by Nutricia Ltd. Check the ingredients lists. Identical.
· Buy a couple of basic bottles with teats suitable for newborns (yes, I literally didn’t even know there were different flow speeds for teats when this journey began). Don’t spend a fortune, just a simple basic one will do in the beginning.
· Buy some inexpensive but effective microwave sterilising bags, they are reusable and will give you an effective stop gap whilst you figure stuff out.
· Bibs – get some. Bottle fed babies dribble like David Beckham in the beginning. It is super frustrating. Don’t be tempted to buy 35 different kinds of teats like I did. It don’t make no difference. After a few weeks they just get the hang of it and it stops. In the meantime bibs are where it’s at.
That’s it. Put it all in a box and forget about it. And like all the best Domesday Preppers you will be ready for a day that I really hope never comes.