I had a difficult delivery and I'm going back to work early, so I decided not to breast feed. My little girl is taking formula now and is very healthy, but I've heard so much about the psychological benefits of breast feeding that I'm concerned that she's missing something.
Even though you aren’t breast feeding, your baby can experience the same feelings of closeness to you. Breast feeding has the advantage of making it easy for a mom to pay attention to her baby many times every day. A breast fed baby has to be held close every time she nurses. Her mother has to relax and let go of other distractions so her milk will flow more easily. A breastfeeding mom has to sit down every two to three hours to nurse. In one way, that's more work, but nursing also helps a mother to pay attention to baby instead of housework or other activities. From a baby's point of view, the more cuddling and interaction the better.
The frequent holding, cuddling and feeding contributes to a baby's feelings that the world is a safe place where a warm, soft, cozy mother can be counted on to be there every time she's hungry. Your bottle fed baby doesn't need to miss this experience. Just make sure than when you feed her, you hold her close, letting her gaze at your face. Don't hurry her feedings, and when she finishes her bottle, hold her a bit longer just to cuddle her. Throughout the day, take extra time during the day to sit and rock her.
Even though other people can feed your baby, try to give most of the bottles yourself in the early months. Of course, your baby’s dad can do everything I've just described, too. In fact, one of the benefits of bottle feeding is that dads can take a role in the nurturing, warm feeding relationship. Many fathers say that they love the special feeling of intimacy they get from calming a hungry baby, satisfying her hunger for milk, and then holding and cuddling her while she digests her meal!
I'm sure that you are aware that as breast feeding has become more popular and the medical community has become more knowledgeable about the benefits of nursing, there is a lot of social pressure to nurse. When I started out as a nurse practitioner, new moms didn't get this kind of support. Instead, they had to have enough self-confidence to do what they felt was right for themselves and their babies and to ignore discouraging remarks. After many years of advocating for nursing, it's gratifying that nursing mothers are now praised instead of criticized, but sometimes mothers who bottle feed are put on the defensive. In my experience, being a good parent and raising a healthy child is dependent on many factors, most of them more complicated that what and how you feed your baby.
If your baby gets lots of cuddling and lots of interaction during the times that she is alert and responsive you will feel your relationship blossoming. Although you may miss some of the naturally occurring intimacy that comes from breast feeding, you may find that your awareness of your baby's need for contact in between feeding times helps you learn more about how to be just the right mother for her.