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Today is Babywise Friendly Blog Network Day! I’m guest posting over on A Mother Far From Home about our family traditions: how we create them and how we keep them going 🙂 Claire is guest posting for me today and I asked her to help bring some insight into formula feeding mamas and baby wise. I get asked often about formula related questions and since I breastfeed…I don’t know the answers! Hopefully this post helps those moms who are formula feeding to understand how Babywise can still work great for them!
Can I do Babywise and formula feed?
I’ve had to learn a lot of new things with Nova, baby #2. My son Duke came on his due date, I birthed him naturally, and I breastfed him for a year. Literally everything that I planned would happen actually happened. Nova came one day shy of 42 weeks, I had to get an epidural, and she wouldn’t nurse.
At 2 months, I was exclusively formula feeding Nova.
I’m a huge Babywise advocate and after the success of it with my first, I knew I’d follow the same principles with my second. But when I made the switch to bottles with my daughter, I felt like I hit a wall. Babywise suddenly felt weird with formula – like it didn’t fit or wouldn’t work the same. Was it because there wasn’t the trusty supply and demand aspect? Was it because I wasn’t sure how much to feed?
What I discovered is that there are a few things that have been different for me following Babywise and formula feeding.
Giving your baby a “full feeding” means something different with formula than with breastfeeding. Full feedings are a big deal when implementing Babywise. They are what provide structure throughout the day so baby isn’t snacking all day long. With breastfeeding, I could physically feel if Duke wasn’t quite done. I could tell when I wasn’t emptied or when he needed to eat more. So if he woke up early from a nap, gulped down milk like nobody’s business, and nursed for his usual amount of time, then I knew he was genuinely hungry.
But when Nova wakes early from a nap, I make a full bottle (not knowing if she’ll take it) and offer it to her. Sometimes she’ll guzzle it which is an obvious indicator that she was hungry. On the other hand, sometimes she’ll show all the signs that point to being full (not taking the bottle anymore, burping, acting full) without finishing the bottle. I won’t know if it was really a full feeding until the next feeding. If it’s back on track and is 3 hours later, then I know she was full. If it’s another 2 hours and she’s ready to eat again, I’ll know it was a snack feeding.
Also, babies don’t necessarily eat the exact same ounces at every feeding. As a breastfeeding mom, I typically didn’t know how the feedings differed. I only knew the general amount that Duke was taking in because I occasionally pumped bottles when I was gone. For breastfeeding, a full feeding is … a full feeding. With bottles, a full feeding in the morning may be 5 ounces, while a full feeding in the mid afternoon may be 4 ounces. It’s taken longer to find these kinds of patterns.
The point is, achieving a routine of full feedings was harder for me with Nova than it was when I was breastfeeding Duke.
CONSISTENT MORNING WAKETIME
I wrote about how having a consistent morning waketime with Duke was the magic ingredient for getting him to sleep through the night. Once I implemented it, he slept through the night and never went back. For Nova, it didn’t work. Obviously, now (at 3.5 months) she has a consistent morning waketime, but in the beginning, it wasn’t happening.
In the early weeks with Duke, we started our day at 8:00 a.m. This meant that if he happened to wake at 6:30 a.m. or 7:00 a.m., I’d feed him, but then I’d feed him again at 8:00 a.m. Yes, he was still pretty full, but like almost any breastfed baby, he’d always latch on for more. So, even if it was just for a few minutes, he quickly realized that he would get fed at 8:00 a.m. no matter what. That immediately created longer stretches at night and eliminated those early morning feedings.
But bottles were a different story for us. I attempted the consistent morning waketime with Nova and she was not having it. But that’s because bottle feeding is different than breastfeeding. In my experience, a baby will always take the breast but a baby will not always take a bottle. So I’d wake her up at 8:00 a.m. and try to feed her. But if she had just eaten anywhere from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m., she wasn’t hungry and wouldn’t even begin to suck on the bottle. It was frustrating.
One of my best friends exclusively pumped with her first, so she was feeding bottles as well. She said that her goal was a consistent bedtime and not a consistent morning waketime. Whenever she woke in the morning (6:30 a.m – 8:30 a.m.), she’d start her day. I decided to give that a shot. It worked way better for us. It took off some of that pressure that I felt each morning. After a few weeks of that, Nova was sleeping through the night and a consistent morning waketime fell into place anyway.
This is maybe an obvious one, but the progress of night sleep you gain from Babywise moved faster with a formula fed baby. Nova is going 11-12 hours between feedings at night at 3.5 months and Duke couldn’t do those long hours until around 10 months (mostly because of his awful acid reflux, but I’m sure breastmilk contributed to it as well). He was sleeping through the night starting at 8 weeks, but adding on the hours at night was a much more gradual process with him than it has been with Nova.
The bottom line is that Babywise works for breastfeeding and formula feeding – thank goodness! Sure, there are a few differences and maybe a few things to tweak, but the structure and healthy eating/sleeping habits are able to be taught regardless of how we feed our babies.
Claire is a wife, mother of two, piano teacher, songwriter, and writer of My Devising.