One of the things that people often mention as a benefit of breastfeeding is the bond that you develop with your child. I know that hearing people say this can make bottle-feeding mothers’ hackles rise. Please don’t misinterpret this post–I’m not saying that you don’t have a strong, life-altering bond with your bottle fed child. I’m just talking about the difference for me.
My babies started life drinking from bottles. They breastfed after a few weeks, with the help of nipple shields. They were fed through an NG tube for a few weeks in the NICU. When we got home and I tried to progress to exclusive breastfeeding, things went down the drain. I committed to exclusive pumping with one or two nursing sessions a day–just to remind them where the food came from. You can read about that journey here.
I was thankful for people’s help. I was so glad that my mom or dad or grandparents or Jed could feed my babies, especially while I was pumping. I started to move toward more breastfeeding and less pumping without really thinking about it. I got tired of pumping, especially at night, so I nursed Clara all night long and bottle fed during the day. Cormac and I had a harder time with nursing, but I started trying to nurse him more too.
It was different, nursing one and bottle feeding the other. I did have a stronger bond with Clara. It is hard to explain, but it was more primal. I would go out of my way to snuggle and cuddle Cormac, because I felt like we were missing something. With Clara, there was never a lack of bond. This might also go back to the first days, when I didn’t get to hold Cormac for almost a week. My bond with Clara was so much stronger than my bond with him then.
Once we made it to the land of EBF, I no longer felt the need to go out of my way for snuggles. Don’t get me wrong–I like to smush my nose against them both for zero reason. It just doesn’t feel out of balance anymore. Clara will still take a bottle, but Cormac has refused bottles for months now. I am their sole source of milk and will be until after they are a year old. This means that I can’t be away from them for more than three hours, that I can’t get drunk, that my schedule revolves around them. And I am totally okay with that. I have found a peace in myself through this journey that I never knew was there. I am a more mature, calmer, more stable person than I have ever been now that two people rely on me every day to keep them fed, hydrated, and loved.
They are still very different in their relationships with me. Clara is almost always the needier one, while Cormac is the more snuggly, more content one. She is my squeaky wheel, and he is more independent–or at least quieter. However, while they are different babies and they have different needs, our bonds are equally strong now.
I had a bond with them both when they were bottle fed, but it would be a lie to say that it was the same as the breastfeeding bond. It is different. I am the only person that feeds them. That makes me the most important person in their lives. That is incomparable.