Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Bottle Let Me Down

Hey everyone, look! It's Stella rejecting a bottle!

The Bottle Museum, from left to right: Toxic, toxic, hated it, hated it, non-toxic and hated it, a "transition" sippy cup, and a full blown sippy cup.

Stella is a particular baby, and knows very much what she likes and dislikes. Baby bottles, it must be said, fall into the latter category.

There are reasons for this, and plenty of blame to go around. I will take full credit for the failure we've experienced in getting The Golden Child (as I've recently taken to calling her) to drink from the plastic boob substitute that is such a common prop of the baby world.

But, lord, it's frustrating. Most mornings, around 8:00 a.m. or so you will find me there, on my couch--no surprise to followers of this blog--sitting with Stella in my lap. If I'm feeling extra patient that morning I will wait a good long time before trying to get her to actually feed from the bottle. I will try all kinds of tricks to fool her into thinking she likes the bottle. I will let her hold it. I will put some booby milk on the nipple first. I will pull it away after she starts with it so that she doesn't get tired of it. For the most part these tricks do little or no good, and before not too long she is doing what she usually does: taking her little hand and slapping the bottle away, over and over again, no matter what I do.

Okay, I'm guilty, as charged. It's my fault. We waited too long to feed her from the bottle to begin with, and now she's set in her ways, possibly. Here is what happened.

We were enthusiastic proponents of breast feeding right from the start. Neither Randi nor myself were breastfed, so we thought it especially important to give the little one this extra dose of parental care, or so we perceived it. To do this, and make sure she gets used to the booby, we would have to hold off on bottle feeding for a few weeks, so she takes to the mammary, which is not always as easy as it might sound.

We wanted to start on the bottle, for sure, but only after a few weeks. This delay, we thought, would head off the dreaded condition known as Nipple Confusion, which occurs when babies confuse the bottle and the boob. No good can come of that, we thought. Also, we didn't want to fill the bottle it with formula, because that would make no sense if we were breast feeding. So we wanted to pump the boob milk into the bottle. To do this we would need a pump. We registered for one, but no one ever bought it. And that was where it stood.

The first few weeks of Stella's life are kind of a blur to me now, only four months later. She slept pretty much not at all, and "cluster fed" from Mom's Dairy almost 24-7 for weeks. She was quite literally ALWAYS on the boob. And if she wasn't she'd scream bloody murder. Eventually we stopped thinking all that clearly, which is a normal result of sleep deprivation. I knew I had to buy a pump, but didn't do it for a few days in a row that somehow started to become weeks. Randi didn't buy it either, as our window for getting her started on the bottle already began to close, almost as fast as it opened. From about three to five weeks is when the window is open, and if you miss it, whoa unto you.

Eventually, right at five weeks, Randi bought a small, manual pump. It squeezed out barely a trickle of milk for all the labor it required, which was plenty. Then we had a second problem.

All out bottles were of the variety that had the crappy plastic chemical that allegedly leaches into the milk, somehow harming babies. Why do they still sell it if it's so harmful? I don't know, and I've forgotten, at this moment, the name of the chemical, but this left me having to get a new bottle. Of course, I forgot one day, and then forgot another day ...

Finally I went into the Babies 'R Us at Union Square in NYC, and wandered over to the bottle section, and looked for the chemical free, low-flow bottle, as specified by the Brooklyn Baby Mama. I picked it up, it only cost a few bucks. Then we tried it the next morning. Of course by now even more time had passed.

The results were mixed. One morning Stella pretty much drained the bottle, and I was overjoyed. Moreover I felt oddly powerful, as if I had the gift of life in my hand. Then other mornings she rejected it completely. And there were more mornings like the latter than the former. And there was no rhyme or reason to any of it. So we tried more bottles.

Randi next bought a transitional sippy cup, which is designed for older kids. Stella took to it like a champ. She even grabbed it out of my hand and pushed it to her mouth, draining several ounces of milk in just a few minutes. I was blown away. Then the next morning, flushed with confidence, I tried it again. Nothing, in fact she resented the whole procedure. After that she held the sippy cup in her mouth, chewed on it, and even blew on it, but never drank from it with the same gusto as that first morning.

Readers, I am ashamed to admit that after not terribly long this ongoing bottle war started to make my nerves fray, and I would get seriously cheesed off, as they say in Jolly Old England. If she rejected the bottle after fifteen minutes of constant, upbeat trying I would often have to put down the little one and walk away, frustrated out of all proportion to the indignity visited upon me.

"Why?" I'd ask, pointlessly. "Why?"

Sometimes I would argue with my non-verbal baby.

"Okay, okay!" I'd say to her, as she rejected the bottle once again, spitefully, I'd imagine. "You win again, fine. Don't worry, I won't try to feed you, with the same milk that comes from your mother that you can't get enough of. Fine!"

Reader, is this pathetic or what? A grown adult, an editor at that, arguing fruitlessly with a child that he helped raise, and groom? How could ANY of this be her fault? Of course it wasn't.

Randi kept trying new bottles, hoping we'd luck into the winner.

The latest one is a hard plastic sippy cup. Stella seemed to take to it, more or less. But this is also far from foolproof. It leaks, leading to feeding sessions where both I and The Golden Child are wetted with fast-drying boob milk. Yuck. Another morning, I tried to wet the plastic tip in the bottle, spilled it, and boob milk poured from the top, and doused me in the seat of my pants as I sat on the couch. Double yuck, and what a way to start the day. Stella actually ate pretty well that morning, god only knows why.

Now we have something like a bottle museum in our hallway, of four or five different bottles, some clear, some with nipples, some are sippy cups. All bear mute witness to my lack of planning, lack of execution and lack of follow through. Some probably have the dreaded chemical, some do not, but it hardly matters because Stella rejects them all.

Recently we've tried going back to the very first bottles in our collection, which have a soft, pliable nipple. I figured, maybe she's just missing Mom, so let's try something that at least has one thing in common with the ultimate caregiver. But she's rejected that too.

It's enough to drive a man to drink, and not milk.

But tomorrow morning is a new day, with new opportunities to try and coax my daughter into bottle feeding. Soon she will be taking solid foods and maybe all this will have been in vain. Let's hope so.


Anne Stesney said...

Good luck with the bottles! I guess keep trying, right? We're at the opposite end-trying to wean Walt OFF the bottle now that he's a year old.
We've gotten rid of the daytime bottles but the before night-night one is gonna be tough.

David Serchuk said...

Hi Anne,
So you're saying we dodged a bullet and didn't even know it? I guess there is an upside to my lack of planning and discipline.

More seriously, it just goes to show, there's always something. I guess that's what being a parent is all about though. Solving all these new riddles, all the time.


Randi said...

It went a little better this morning when mama left the apartment altogether (I'm usually in another room).

However, at this point I've pretty much resigned myself to the belief that I'll be driving to her college dorm room every day, pulling my boob out to give her lunch. I hope she goes to Wesleyan or the likes, so others don't give her a hard time about it! ;-)

Jo said...

Hey there -- I'm a colleague of Randi's at 321. Your post made me laugh out loud, only because we went through the exact same thing with our now 14-month-old. I wish we would've taken a picture of the rejected bottles to show our daughter what she put us through when she's older. Ha! All of this certainly wasn't funny at the time, though. Know that someday, you'll look back and laugh. Cold comfort, perhaps.