Monday, September 25, 2006

Bottle Boot Camp

When William was brand new, my friends Phuong and Joanna counseled me to introduce him to the bottle as soon as possible. Don't wait too long, they advised, or he might not want to take one when you need him to. Both of them reminded me each time they talked to me. Have you started the bottle yet? one would ask. Don't wait too long, the other warned.

Knowing that neither of them throw around advice without good reason (a wonderful quality to have, by the way), I listened. David and I diligently offered bottles of tepid breastmilk to William, beginning when he was about three weeks old. He eagerly took them. (I have posted the pictures here on this very blog to prove it.) We branched out, even serving him the occasional bottle of Similac. Again, no problem. In fact, that saved my sanity a few times, most notably during a couple of evenings when William nursed non-stop and showed no signs of ever stopping. David gave him a few ounces, and I sagged backward in relief, taking a much-needed break. And a shower.

We congratulated ourselves, patted ourselves on the back. Then we stopped being so diligent, and we got out of the bottle habit. Unfortunately, that meant that William got out of the bottle habit, too. As we developed a much more normal nursing routine, William and I got used to more regular nursing sessions, spaced out through the day and evening. I didn't fret as much about "running out of milk" in the evening, so we stopped turning to the occasional bottle before bedtime. So maybe it shouldn't have been a huge shock when David tried to give a bottle to William while we were in Holden Beach and William turned his nose up at it. At first, we worried that he disliked the flavor of the powdered formula (it did look pretty chalky to me). But when we got home and cracked open a can of premixed formula, he did the same thing. And he even rejected breastmilk in a bottle, much to my dismay. Last week, David gamely tried to give William a bottle of breastmilk while I attended a meeting of my spouses' group. William wasn't buying it. He wouldn't take formula either. David pressed on, but William grew more and more hysterical, the longer David tried. When I finally arrived home, David thrust William at me, and William fell on me like a starving man who has just walked into an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Needless to say, I despaired. I need to be able to leave William for a few hours with his daddy, or even with a sitter sometimes. But if he won't take a bottle, how can I do that? He gets crazy? It's not that I'm worried he'll starve to death--we've all seen the sweet little chubby body of his--but I am worried that he'll drive his caregiver into an early grave with his increasingly frantic crying. But how am I supposed to go to the dentist or get my hair cut?

I began emailing friends with babies, asking Mom, talking to women whom I've met through the hospital or the spouses' group, posting questions on an Internet bulletin board that I frequent. What do I do now, I asked. Some of their suggestions: try a sippy cup, try a different type of nipple, try a new bottle, try this type of sippy cup, try that kind of bottle, heat up the milk or formula, try offering the bottle to him when he's really hungry, try offering the bottle to him when he's eaten recently, try feeding him in a different location, etc. etc. Bewildered but willing to try almost anything, I hit Target, Wal-Mart and the commissary on base and began buying up every kind of sippy cup and bottle that I could find that seemed to target babies of William's age. I snapped up three different types of Nuby sippy cup because that was the brand most frequently recommended. I bought three different types of formula, and I began trying to pump more milk more often. Some parents told me to stick with it, to keep offering it to him and to not give up, so I steeled myself for what was to come.

So now we're doing Bottle Boot Camp here at Chez Larson-Wyckoff this week. And maybe next week. And maybe even the week after that. There is no uniform, unless you count the bib, and there are no drill instructors, but there is an obstacle course, namely William's mouth and tongue. And his willingness to try new things.

Here's how Bottle Boot Camp works. Each evening, David gives William a bottle or sippy cup (or both) of breastmilk. The first evening or two, this did not go so well. Mostly, both of them ended up frustrated and exhausted. So we started experimenting. We've discovered that we're having better luck when David offers it to William in between feedings, after he's eaten his rice cereal but is still sitting in his high chair. William cried angrily if he was positioned like he was going to nurse and then didn't get to nurse, so we're temporarily scrapping that. But he doesn't seem to mind as much if he's sitting upright, like a big boy. We've gone through about one third of our new repertoire of baby liquid-delivery devices. It appears that William prefers a soft-spouted Nuby sippy cup that resembles a bottle. He began to sort of gnaw on it--but in a cheerful way--when David offered it to him a couple of nights ago. We held our breath, waiting for him to get mad, but he didn't. He didn't seem to actually take in that much milk, but more importantly, he wasn't turning red with anger. My spirits beginning to rise, I scrubbed that puppy out and got it ready to use the next night.

And tonight, William actually drank about an ounce of milk from that little red Nuby sippy cup. David crowed excitedly that William was drinking, he was really drinking out it!

Now. I know that it's going to be a back-and-forth process, with all likelihood. But maybe we've taken a definite step toward progress. It's a hassle for me to stagger into the kitchen at 6 a.m. or so to pump, in order to store up some milk for William to play with each evening. But if it will get him to take a bottle or sippy cup and free me up when I need some time without him, I'm game. Maybe eventually he'll take some formula again, too. I'm actually really proud of William. He's doing pretty well, considering that we just started him on rice cereal, too. Maybe he figures that the sippy cup comes along with that small dish of runny stuff that Daddy keeps trying to coax him to eat.

So, wish us luck.

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