Daddy bottles

Should I help my breastfeeding partner by bottle-feeding the baby at night?

Partners can do many things to support a mother and baby, but feeding the baby from a “daddy bottle” while the mother is home is less than ideal. The process usually requires more work than breastfeeding, can pose health risks to the mother and baby, and has limited benefits.

A) Describing daddy-bottles

Daddy bottles, which are bottles given to a baby when the mother is home, are less than ideal. They are used by partners who want to help mothers by bottle-feeding the baby to give the mother a “break” from breastfeeding when she is at home. Daddy bottles are often used to allow the mother to have an extended period of sleep.

Using daddy-bottles is a highly individual decision. Mothers and families must weigh the risks and benefits.

Daddy bottles are different from milk supplements, which are given because the baby cannot get enough milk by breastfeeding, and from replacement feeds, which are given because the mother is away. Daddy bottles are optional whereas the latter two are critical to the child's well-being and growth.

B) Problems caused by daddy-bottles

We suggest that instead of daddy-bottles, partners consider other ways of reducing the mother’s load and supporting breastfeeding for the following reasons.

1) Risks of skipping breastfeeds without expressing

Breastfeeding mothers should not skip a breastfeed without expressing as doing so increases the risk of painful illnesses and a reduced milk supply. 

2) The work and risks of expressing

For most mothers, the process of expressing requires more work than breastfeeding. Breastfeeding can be relatively quick when compared to expressing and bottling. Mothers who are pumping need to prepare the pump, clean it, and put it away after use. Bottles or other feeding tools also have to be obtained, prepared, washed, and put away.

Expressing can be less effective than breastfeeding at removing milk from the breast and may cause the same problems as skipping breastfeeds.

3) Risks of not breast milk-feeding the baby

Ideally, the baby’s supplements consist of the mother's own expressed milk and not infant formula as partial breastfeeding can affect the baby’s health. However, even bottling breastmilk can have risks.

Many babies do not settle as well and fall asleep after being bottle-fed as they do when breastfed. If daddy-bottles are given at night, they can result in a baby who is unhappy and may wake the whole household.

Frequent bottle use can result in the baby rejecting the breast.

4) Lack of benefits

If daddy-bottles are used to allow the mother to have more sleep, many mothers wake anyway when their babies cry. If daddy-bottles are used during the night, both parents may be sleep-deprived.

If the mother is not expressing, her breast will fill and may become painful, which can prevent sleep. To fix this, she will either have to breastfeed or express.

C) When daddy-bottles are helpful

On occasion, mothers may feel that the benefits of a daddy-bottle outweighs the risk. In this case, they should proceed cautiously.

Mothers of twins will generally get less sleep and are busier than mothers of one baby. Some may find that using daddy-bottles containing expressed milk to get a little sleep is essential to their health. Ideally breaks are limited to a five hour period.