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Publication #FAR8008

Bonding with Your Bottlefed Baby1

Donna Davis2

For some new parents, breastfeeding is simply not an option. While experts agree breastfeeding is the healthiest choice, when it's not an option, such as for adoptive parents and the 5% of new moms who physically cannot breastfeed their babies, feeding time can and should still be prime time for bonding with a baby.

Most research on infant feeding discusses the mother/baby relationship, but dads can play an important role too. One of the positive aspects of bottle-feeding, either with expressed breast milk or formula, is that both mom and dad can be involved in feeding their baby.

Experts recommend a number of ways for new parents to bond with their babies during feeding time. For example, babies should be cuddled while being fed. Give them a little wiggle room, but not too much. Babies need to be held firmly enough that they don't feel like they're falling. Likewise, hold a baby so that he or she can look into your face while eating.

Research has shown that if babies don't get their emotional needs met by being held and talked to during feeding, they are more likely to eat too much or too little. Never prop a bottle during feeding, as propping does not satisfy the baby's emotional needs and can lead to earache, choking, and tooth decay. But feeding time is not just about meeting the baby's nutritional and emotional needs. Some experts suggest that the health of the parent/child relationship is determined to a large extent by what happens at feeding time.

Listening, learning, and living together: it's the science of life. "Family Album" is a co-production of University of Florida IFAS Extension, the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, and of WUFT-FM. If you'd like to learn more, please visit our website at

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This document is FAR8008, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Broadcast as program 36. Published April 2009. Reviewed January 2015. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Donna Davis, senior producer, Family Album Radio, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.