Feeding, like so many parenting issues, presents new mothers and fathers with many choices and evokes a variety of feelings. Parents need to decide between breast feeding and bottle feeding or both, whether they prefer to feed their baby on a schedule or on demand, when to introduce solid foods and, later on, how to find ways to help a busy toddler settle down to a nutritious meal.
In the beginning, much of the newborn’s care is centered around eating. Parents feel successful when a baby is well fed, content, and growing, and yet there are many ways to achieve this goal. There have been studies supporting the benefits of breast feeding, hence mothers can feel pressure to breast feed their infant and expect nursing to be a satisfying and bonding experience. For some mothers breast feeding is or becomes a rewarding experience that works easily for both mother and baby. For other mothers, several challenges can interfere with a positive breast feeding experience: some women have difficulty producing enough milk; infants may have trouble latching onto the breast; mastitis (a common breast infection related to nursing) or sore, chapped nipples can make nursing painful. Mothers may feel guilty and conflicted when breast feeding does not go well. They need support around these feelings and help making choices that will enhance the feedings for both mother and baby.
Bottle feeding allows fathers to share the feedings and have the positive experience of feeding their baby. With exclusive bottle feeding, parents can worry that they are depriving their child of the health benefits and emotional bonding promoted by breast feeding enthusiasts; yet mothers can bond as positively with their babies by bottle feeding as they can with breast feeding. We have seen infants thrive from nursing as well as bottle feeding at our Center.
At UWS Parenting Support, we listen closely to parents as they share their expectations, goals, and challenges around feeding. We find ways to help parents make choices that fit their values and life style. Of course, we always consider the recommendations of the pediatrician when working with each family and baby. Observing a baby with his or her parent also helps us know what might enhance the nursing or bottle feeding experience for each dyad. In our Mother-Child Groups, members share their feelings, successes and challenges, and with the help of the leader, support each other to make their own decision about each developmental phase of feeding.
Each new feeding phase is suffused with a parent’s feelings about his and her own childhood experiences with food and nurturing. In our Family Consultations, we help mothers and fathers sort through these feelings to help them enable their child have a healthy relationship with food.