Sunday, July 18, 2010

Bottle Nursing: Feeding in a Carrier

Eating in a carrier: This is really, really easy. Put baby in carrier, put food in mouth; best accomplished without super-hot or splashy food that might fall on the baby in the carrier... what?  Oh!  Um, strap baby to chair with carrier, feed baby... no?

Oh, right – feeding the baby while in a carrier on an adult! Yeah, I knew that. Chalk it up to “mommy brain.” Many women are back on the breast-feeding bandwagon, as well they should be (heck, it’s my preferred method too!), but not all of us are fully equipped for that task, whether they be fathers, mothers, grandparents, sitters, or other family. But we still need to be able to go about our lives, doing chores, chasing after older siblings, feeding ourselves, and that lump of love still needs to eat - all the freakin’ time.
So back to the beginning: Feeding in a carrier, with a twist, or a bottle.  When I wasn’t able to breastfeed the first time around, I didn’t even think about feeding in a carrier – I was too overwhelmed with guilt, and relief, frustration, and a jumble of other emotions. The second time around, knowing what was coming, I wanted to be prepared. I poked around on a few sites and started threads in some forums asking if it was possible to bottle feed in a carrier.  The only positive responses I received were “Yes, I did that!” and “good luck, you can do it” types. I was lost, trying to conceptualize where to stick the bottle that would be easy, mimic breastfeeding, and not wrench the poor kid's head back so he’d be in need of chiropractic services every day before his first birthday.  Once he was here, just after Valentine’s Day and with 6’ snow drifts still upon the ground, I made a few half-assed attempts and gave up. Sad but true, I was too tired dealing with both a new born and toddler who suddenly learned to climb, and it was too much of a hassle with our driveway covered in a sheet of ice.

But then, when the baby was about 6 weeks old and most of the snow had melted away, we were able to attend a local baby wearing meeting on a Saturday, to introduce the little guy and check out some more options. There my good friend Rachel asked if she could hold the baby in a ring sling, and of course, I pretty much threw him at her. And then he was suddenly hungry again. “Would you like me to feed him?” I got out a bottle and the dear gal fed him one handed in the sling.  Eureka!  That was our beginning.

We started by mimicking Rachel, and I’d feed him one-handed in a semi-upright position in a ring sling (keeping in mind avoiding the chin-to-chest issue, baby C was almost 2mo when we started this). Once he grew larger and progressed to larger quantities, and thus larger bottles, we changed tactics. I’ve found that it’s actually not too hard to feed him hands-free in a Mai Tei or wrap, by sticking the bottle under a strap by my shoulder with a slight downward slant (front wrap cross carry works well for us).  Some days I still have to use one hand, the positioning just doesn’t always work, but it’s still much better than being stuck on the sofa while the toddler scales another bookshelf.

There’s a bit of a learning curve, just as there is with learning to wear your baby safely, breast feed, riding a bike, eating while driving or anything else. But we took it slow, and found that it’s possible.
Bottle nursing in this fashion can help bottle feeding be more like breastfeeding and can help baby to bond with caregivers when breastfeeding doesn't work, isn't possible, or isn't the right choice for a family.  Just because you don't have milk in your breasts, doesn't mean your baby can't enjoy the bonding benefits of being held while nursing.  And just because you want to hold baby and bottle nurse doesn't mean you have to give up accomplishing others tasks like chasing the toddler around the playground.

Safety tip:  Bottle propping for hands free bottle feeding should wait until baby is 4mo or so and is consistently able to keep up with the flow.  Baby should of course be monitored at all times while feeding in a carrier whether it be by bottle or breast.

Contributed by: Lureta


  1. Thanks for the shout out to the mamas who aren't able to breastfeed. I did this with my son and it was wonderful. We could bond and be close during feedings or be on the move while eating instead of parked on a bench for 15 minutes :)

  2. Thanks very much!!! Im struggling to feed my reflux baby via bottle as I too can't BF. Thank you!!