Essential Bottle Feeding Tips for Dads

Daddy's can do it, too!

Any new mother, in any hospital, is offered all kinds of help with feeding baby. Breastfeeding groups send reps to teach, nurses give instruction, and even the maternity ward housekeepers have suggestions for mom to get baby started with healthy feeding.

Where's the help for dad?

The old days of Mom being the care-giver and Dad interaction with Baby limited to "Wave to Daddy, honey" are over. Today, lots of dads are involved in baby care and child rearing in ways that would make our grandfathers shudder. More and more fathers are doing more and more to share the parenting with mothers. Even breastfeeding moms are making it possible for dads to bottle feed baby—maybe out of necessity, maybe to encourage a father-child bond, maybe to improve their own bond with Dad.

Essential Bottle Feeding Tips for Dads

Yet there are still few resources available to help new dads learn what to do for and with their infant.

What's a dad to do? Ask us. We'll help you.

Here are some tips to help Dad with bottle feeding baby.

1. Relax and be confident

Baby won't know nervousness when she feels it, but she will sense that something is not right. If you aren't relaxed, neither will she be. If she isn't relaxed she won't eat well, or if she does eat, it won't stay down. If you are nervous, take some deep breaths, stretch your back, shake out your hands, and look at that little bundle—she is depending on you. You got this!

Act as if it is: even if you aren't feeling 100% confident in your bottle feeding skills, act as if you were. Eventually the act becomes the reality.

2. Get comfortable

Feeding baby is not something that can be rushed. You can't do it while you are on the go or in a quick minute between other tasks. Kick off your shoes and find a comfortable seat; you'll be there for about half an hour. The more comfortable you and Baby are, the better he will eat. Make feeding time a ritual and you and your baby will enjoy it better.

Bottle feeding baby might just give you an excuse to hang on to that recliner your mother–in-law has been complaining about.

3. Find the right position

The milk or formula flows much faster from the bottle than it does from the breast. To keep Baby from choking or having to gulp, hold her in a more upright position than breastfeeding mom does—more of a 45 degree incline, rather 90 degrees sitting up or lying flat on her back. It can be difficult to find the right position, but you'll keep trying because you want the best for Baby.

It will take some practice to find what's most comfortable for you, and what works best for baby.

4. Wait for the latch

Whether you start bottle feeding after Baby has got the hang of nursing with mom, or immediately after he's born, be sure to make sure that baby's lips are sealed around the nipple of the bottle. Baby has limited to no experience sucking. First, check that the nipple of the bottle is on the tongue, not under it. You'll have to help by to gently pushing his lower lip up to the nipple.

Have patience as both of you are learning a new skill.

5. Look at baby

According to some studies, babies can recognize faces after only a few days. Be sure to look at and engage with your baby as you feed him. You can sing or talk to him, too. These are the first days, weeks, and months of a lifetime relationship. The more you and Baby get to know one another, the more comfortable both of you will be. This is the start of you being his go-to guy.

Be aware, though, intense eye contact may cause baby to become distracted from the act of nursing.

6. Take off your shirt

Skin to skin contact has amazing health benefits for baby, so strip off that shirt. After spending months near mom's heart, babies benefit from skin to skin contact in several ways. Their breathing and heart rate stabilize by being near yours; their body begins to learn to regulate their internal temperature; and they are generally happier. If the air is cool, cover both of you with a blanket. As a plus, not wearing a shirt will eliminate stains on that shirt.

Some babies prefer to be swaddled, that is, wrapped tightly in their blankies. Even when swaddling, you can accomplish skin to skin contact with baby's head.

7. Burping

When baby starts to ease up on the nursing, usually about midway through the bottle, it is your signal to burp. Burping is necessary, even when mom is breastfeeding, because baby swallows a lot of air as she nurses. Methods of burping vary: on the shoulder, across your lap, over your elbow. Your baby will let you know which works best. Try to avoid bouncing baby, as more than air can come up.

Since burping does often lead to a bit of spitting up, it is wise to use a burp cloth.

8. Switch arms

Burping time is a good time to switch arms. When you are feeding Baby, you'll be holding him with one arm and holding the bottle with the other. Switching baby from one arm to the other mimics the breastfeeding mom and provides both you and baby some relief from staying in the same position. Changing arms eases pressure on your back and on Baby's neck and back. It also gives Baby a new perspective on the world and allows you to enjoy another view of that precious face.

You may find that you are more comfortable holding baby on one side. Try to learn to be comfortable on both sides, as it is better for the baby to switch from time to time.

Finally: Fall in love

Probably the most important tip for feeding your baby is to just do it. Bottle feeding your child provides a definite huge benefit, one that you won't get from changing diapers and taking out the trash.

The best part about bottle feeding your baby is that you have to opportunity for uninterrupted one-on-one time with your new love. Take this time to fall deeply in love with that little person. Touch those little toes, feel him breathe along with you, kiss his little forehead. Love him like you'll never love another.

Bottle feeding—more than any other action Dad can take in the first year—creates a bond between Daddy and Baby. Dads who take an active role in the early years of their kids' lives are more involved in the later years. There's no better way to get involved than by bottle feeding. You are creating a lifelong bond.

You'll need this bond when he becomes a teenager.