Over the last few years I have been chatting with families from our community about their experiences bottle-feeding their babies. Listening to these families stories I hear that the bonds and connections we have with our babies are the same however baby is fed. I love photographing the connections in families and feeding photography (Nourish Me Sessions) are one of my favourite ways of celebrating these important and fleeting times.
Thank you to the family who shared their Nourish Me photo session to go with this blog post.
Read on to hear from real families in our city (and beyond).
What are some of the memories that stand out for you about your feeding relationship with your children??
I have very vivid memories of the moment when my midwife realized I wasn't producing enough milk for my baby. The feeling of defeat was overwhelming, but their was so much relief in knowing I had another option. There was a moment in accepting that this was my reality and I was still providing the nourishment that my baby needed. - Lindsay
The eyes! That look! When you sit to feed your baby and your eyes connect. Those big innocent eyes looking up at you gives this overwhelming feeling of....I don't know what? Is there a word to describe it? The word trust comes to mind. It's a primitive feeling. Baby can't get up to get his own bottle, only me or my hubs can do that for him. In that moment, nothing else matters. ~Tammy
The biggest thing that stands out to me about bottle feeding when I look back on it is that it was always a bonding time. I always held them as they ate & they never held their own bottle. It was always a special time to hold them close. ~Sherry
I loved the feeling of seeing other people who are important parts of our family have that intimate bond with her. It was wonderful to see her Dad or a Grandparent or close family friend snuggle in with her and feed her. Everyone seemed to find their own connection somehow, and she reacted a bit differently to the different people who fed her. With one she would be more of a clown, with another she would stop and smile all the time, with others she just snuggled in. I think it made me feel more supported as a new mother. I had the sense that there really was a “village” supporting and caring for our child. ~ Heather
Do you have a specific story or moment that really stands out?
It was summer and hot, and I would sit in the room in a rocking chair, with the window open and the breeze coming through. It was absolutely silent and we would just focus on each other. It was my favourite time with her. Those are the moments that come back when I see the pictures, even though I don’t have any pictures of that. I can still feel the warmth her little pudgy cheek against me and it makes me feel very grateful that we had that bond, even if it wasn’t the way I had expected that it would be. ~Heather
It's truly impossible to pinpoint ONE particular moment that stood out to me because each time I was too distracted by the little hands grabbing at me. It's the perfect time to observe your little turkey's hands, little fingers and fingernails. They're so soft, untouched, delicate and full of promise. The hands. That's what stands out the most. ~Tammy
One of the biggest times that stands out is feeing my second daughter in the middle of the night. She had (unknown) food sensitivities and was up all night every night but during her feedings, she was quiet and everything in the world felt right, even if I hadn't slept in days. ~Sherry
I have NEVER been one to shame someone for breast or bottle. I believe fed is best. I was buying formula at a store when my son was 1 week old. The cashier said "Oh people still buy formula? Don't you know breast feeding is better?" I thought wow. Breast or bottle either is fine! ~Jessica
My first baby was a very big baby (11 pounds!) and I was a young mom who wasn't well informed. I remember crying when the nurses pushed us to bottle feed, telling me that my body wasn't enough for my baby. Looking back, as heart wrenching as it was, I like to think about being able to give my husband this amazing time to bond with our little girl. ~Lindsay
Do you have photos from those days?
Come to think of it, I don't have many photos from those days. I do have a few photos of us bottle feeding our babes when they were newborn, cause you know, that's what newborns do best. Eat! Then as time went on and baby grew into an infant, the photos became few and far between. Now photos were more about play. Now I'm sad. ~ Tammy
I have 2 of my oldest son and that's it. Both of them are my husband feeding him too! I really wish I had more. ~Sherry
I don't have any photos of those days! I was always worried about what people would think, but I wish I'd had to opportunity to capture those intimate moments with my girls. ~Lindsay
I realized that we have very few images of me feeding Catriona, and only a few more of other people feeding her. I wish, in hindsight, that I had captured that relationship more thoroughly. When I do look at the pictures, they actually don’t really remind me of the specific time that the picture was taken, but more so of the similar moments that were not captured on camera. With C, I actually loved the 2 am feedings (at least at first). ~Heather
I have a bunch. I LOVE THEM. I have a favourite of my husband. Sitting on the end of the bed, holding our son, with all the lights out except the beside lamp on my side. I was standing with the door half open. It was just him looking at the baby, feeding him and wearing pi's. I have set it aside forever. I love it. ~ Jessica
What were some of the challenges you experienced as a bottle feeding family?
Challenges. I remember when my daughter was born and I decided to bottle feed. I had tried to nurse her for a week with all the very best intentions, but ultimately bottle feeding was best for us. So the time came to get bottles and we had to try so many different brands and styles to suit our daughter. She was fussy, and we had a lot of experimenting to do with various nipples and flow levels. Cause you know, the standard guides by manufacturers aren't for everyone. I remember my husband heading out to the 24hr Shoppers at 2am to buy a new bottle and nipple. Makes me laugh now, although at the time I wanted to cry. ~Tammy
The biggest challenge was the judgement I felt. Even if most of it was in my head, I always felt people were thinking I didn't try hard enough or that I should have done more since "breast is best". Especially when I had that slogan pushed on me by nurses when I was having my daughter. ~Sherry
I vividly remember, on the second day after she was born, when she was weighed and the nurses and midwives were a bit concerned that she had lost too much weight. She was cranky and crying a lot, which she hadn’t earlier. We (reluctantly) agreed to try a bottle. Philip was holding her and I was being the usually slightly nervous first time Mom. I reminded him to hold the bottle so that she wouldn’t swallow too much air….but before I could even finish saying that, she had drained the bottle (30 mL, I think). The poor babe must have been starving! I felt awful; like I had somehow been hurting my baby because of my own (seemingly selfish) desire to nurse (Yes, I know that is all wrong but it was the post-birth hormones talking). That was a turning point I think for me, when I realized that I just needed to do what my baby needed and not what I (or anyone else) thought she needed. ~ Heather
Some of my challenges lied in tangible things like always making sure we had formula, clean bottles and sanitized water with us, but others were emotional. Worrying about what people thought was very real to me. ~Lindsay
Did you have a favourite place to feed your babies?
I remember feeding my baby daughter at all times of the night in my glider in the living room. The house was quiet. She was so content. Then when she fell asleep in my arms, I'd watch Breaking Bad for the umpteenth time. It was the best of both worlds. A bit of me time, and some seriously precious moments with my baby. ~Tammy
I always loved to find a comfy seat, cuddle them close and feed them. The corner of the couch was probably the most popular. ~Sherry
My second was an avid physical touch lover, so she was my cuddle bug while feeding. I loved curling up in anything comfy (couch, rocking chair, etc...) and sharing those sweet cuddles. ~Lindsay
What would you say to a new family who asked you about bottle-feeding their baby?
I would tell a new mom that she is doing an amazing job. No matter what her reason for bottle feeding, she is doing what feels right for her family and that's all that really matters. ~Sherry
I did envy the breastfeeding Moms who could just get up and go somewhere with their baby, whereas I was always packing up bottles, boiled water, formula, etc. But it made me more organized ☺
When my second child was born, I expected that I would have to supplement. I was still planning to try nursing but was open to having to give him a bottle if necessary. Interestingly, he barely took a bottle and was almost exclusively BF’d. There were still lots of ups and downs there, but once I realized that I would be able to nurse him almost exclusively, I expected to feel a stronger bond with him because it was “my” bond, that I didn’t share with anyone else. Only I could feed him and I thought that would somehow made me feel “special”. But, I really missed the intimacy of watching him connect with the rest of his family. In fact, once breastfeeding was established, I would pump so that his sister of Dad could feed him. I wanted to share the feeling of intimacy with them, too. ~ Heather
Once we realized that C needed to be at least supplemented, I felt like I could enjoy feeding her so much more. I relaxed, nursed her first and then gave her the bottle. It was the best of both worlds. I loved that she would snuggle right into my breast when I bottle fed her. She’d place her cheek right on the top of my breast and then sometimes reach for the bottle. She always looked right at me and locked eyes. It was actually much more fulfilling emotionally than nursing her. She still tried to nurse, but the milk came too slowly and there wasn’t enough so she was quickly frustrated and would spend much of the time thrashing around rather than focusing on me. It felt like we were always fighting each other when she nursed, and it was frustrating for both of us. Nursing felt like a chore, but bottle feeding felt so much more satisfying. So, oddly enough, I felt more connected to her bottle feeding than nursing. ~ Heather
Trust your instincts! Trust that you and you alone can make the choice in what's best for your family. Take time to cherish and bond with your baby within this new aspect of your relationship. Stand tall, and don't let the pressures of the world discourage you. ~Lindsay
Would you like to capture your bottle-feeding relationship with your baby in photographs? Breathe In Photography offers Nourish Me sessions year round. They can happen in your home or around Ottawa-Gatineau at one of your favourite locations. Create a beautiful album with your images so you can enjoy them for years and generations to come.