A Father’s Thoughts On Bottle Feeding

Before the arrival of our son, my wife had planned on breastfeeding him and I was fully supportive of this decision. I’d read up on everything there was to know about birthing, feeding, cleaning and nurturing a child. I was determined to be totally supportive and involved in rearing our child. But, when my wife announced she was switching from breastfeeding to bottle feeding, I found myself at odds with her decision.

My wife had never been comfortable with breastfeeding our child right from the start. Despite the best efforts of our midwife and family the experience was proving to be less than easy. She was shown how to get the baby to latch on properly and, in hindsight I can honestly say, she practised the techniques she was shown to the letter. But as time went on my wife became more and more unhappy. She was suffering terribly from sore-nipples; sore was not the word. By the end of the second month, her nipples were very badly cracked and blood was seeping out at feeding times.

Needless to say, our child was also suffering. His routine weighings were showing him to be below weight. Eventually, our midwife became so concerned that she booked an appointment to see our family doctor. I’ll never forget that appointment. Our son was weighed again and our doctor told us that he was in danger of becoming malnourished. My wife fell apart. The lack of sleep and worry over the last two months suddenly found a release. It was then our doctor advised that we switch to formula. When he told us this, I could see the relief written all over my wife’s face. We bought the baby formula on the way home.

Bottle feeding did not seem right to me. Despite what I’d seen my wife go through and knowing the lack of nourishment our son had been receiving, I felt – to my eternal shame – that my wife had failed in some way. This was compounded, I suppose, by the fact that several of our friends were also having children and they all seemed to be getting along fine with breastfeeding. Over the next few weeks I tried to persuade my wife to both breastfeed and bottle feed our son. Of course she refused this suggestion and soon I felt a wedge coming between us. This sounds silly now, but towards the end of the first month of bottle feeding, I was leaving the room every time my wife fed our child. Communication between us had nearly ceased. Then something quite unexpected and momentous happened; my wife became ill, too ill to get out of bed!

Suddenly I – the totally supportive and involved dad, remember him – had to feed our soon. This was something I had never done. The first two months my wife breastfed and over the last month I had been leaving the room during bottle feeds. Not approving of bottle feeding didn’t matter; I had to feed our son, plain and simple.

And that’s when the momentous and wonderful thing happened. I sat down and began feeding him. As I held him gently, my precious son reached out a hand and grabbed my little finger and looked straight at me with his big brown eyes: his mother’s eyes. Holding my son, and with us both looking into each other’s eyes, I began to cry. My son was the most beautiful thing on the planet.

It had taken this intimate act of holding and feeding my son to make me realise that I had been so, so wrong. I had been preaching a doctrine rather than getting on with the job of parenting as best I could. I took our child and carried him through to our bedroom and sat on the side of our bed. My wife turned and looked at me. She saw my tears and for just a fleeting moment thought I was about to start lecturing. But she saw me smiling and smiled back. I leaned over and kissed her forehead. I’m sorry, I said.

We continued to bottle feed our son for nearly 5 more months, before he finally started to eat solids. We continued to mix solids with formula for some after that. Now he is a fine, healthy child: a bottle raised child.