When is Easier, Harder? An Argument Against Bottle Feeders

Late this afternoon while at a baby shower, I saw a product that shocked me. One of the shower guests, a first time mom and woman I know well, was leaving the party. As she was already gathering her things, she attentively noticed that her 6-month-old daughter was hungry. This kind-hearted mom gave her daughter a bottle while she sat in her car seat with a “neat” little product designed to assist today’s busy parent in feeding their children.

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Keep-It-Up Bottle Holder

So, there sat the infant girl, bottle in mouth held in place by a doughnut-shaped pillow.                                                                                     
The little one drank and drank, her hunger eased by the warm formula that filled her hungry belly. Her mom was able to politely say her good-byes to the other guests at the party, took a phone call, and finished gathering her things. Nevermind that the bottle fell out once or twice and a passerby popped it back in, or that the bottle had slipped the slightest bit and the baby was sucking on air for some time. She was, after all, being fed.

These things, though, were not the reason I was taken aback. What made me stop was the thought that yesterday was a typical busy Saturday afternoon, not that unlike any given weekend filled with parties, shopping trips and errands – obligations that occupied a busy mother and her only daughter. That bottle holder replaced the need for a parent to care for her child. The two did not spend the time to connect, to bond, to think of one another fondly for a few minutes. I’ll be the first to admit that not every feeding time amounts to a parent and child bonding experience, but that bottle holder absolutely removed all possibility of one.

The Latest & Greatest

Pacifeeder

Products that “help” parents parent abound in today’s market. The need for busy parents to work and/or stay at home to manage everyday chores, personal lives, family lives and work lives is challenging. Products like the Bottle Sling or Pacifeeder, however, while promoted as “easier” due to being “hands free,” are wedging themselves between parents and children and creating a disconnect in very fundamental parenting. The mom I spoke of previously is a great mom who loves her daughter, but all too often the latest products are also equated with being the greatest, which is certainly not the case this time.

Bottle Sling

Routines such as feeding, diapering, bathing, and sleeping are what make up a baby’s day. These are the very moments infants learn to trust that the adults in their lives will take care of them.
The Program for Infant Toddler Caregver (PITC), a program funded by the California department of Education and WestEd ( a non-profit service agency), trains educators to care for young children in group care settings. PITC produces videos and publishes guidebooks to make recommendations, founded on child development theory and research, for providing the best possible care for infants and toddlers.

In the book, A Guide to Routines: Infant/Toddler Caregiving, Janet Gonzalez-Mena specifies that caregivers should hold infants while they are being bottle fed. More specifically, she explains, “Focused attention by the primary caregiver ensures that all babies will get both the right amount of food and emotional nurturing.” This was the guideline I followed when I was an infant teacher caring for other people’s children. The care I provided for others’ children is the same standard I try daily to uphold as I now care for my infants.

As deliberate parents, it is our intention to make thoughtful choices. What choice is made by using a bottle feeder? The “benefit” of not having to hold your child while feeding her is of little, if any, benefit to a baby, as it robs him or her of the opportunity to interact with the people they love and depend on most. In the end, bottle slings and doughnut shaped bottle pillows have nothing on my arms, and I’m grateful for the memories I have of those times.

2 Comments

  1. Shoshana says:

    Seeing these products designed to hold a bottle for an infant makes me so sad that there are enough parents out there who are disconnected from the experience of feeding their babies to provide a market to have these items available. I have the hardest time even allowing my husband to give my daughter a bottle of pumped milk when I have to be away from my baby for a short amount of time. Yes, I spend most of my day feeding my two month old, and yes, I am always the last person to leave a family gathering because she wanted to eat one more time. However, I wouldn’t give up these moments for anything. When my oldest daughter weaned herself at two years old, I mourned the loss of closeness we were experiencing. I am dreading going through that again in a a few years. These items should be required to contain a warning notice: Items may steal precious bonding time away from you and your baby that can never be regained.

    • Marisa says:

      Shoshana,
      I agree with you about the market for such things. These products come to be for a myriad of reasons. I think that there is something validating about them by their very presence in baby stores. When we see products in a place we trust, I expect that we are more apt to try it out or at least see the product as commonplace.

      As a parent, I also understand the appeal for something that eases your day or mind but as you say, at what cost?

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