Bottle Strike

Looks like my first week of paternity leave may have been an anomaly. Lauren worked from home most of Thursday and was off on Friday, so we had a long stretch with minimal bottle feeding. Monday morning rolled along, I was feeling upbeat and confident. Then I brought in the bottle for Micah’s morning nap and he exploded into tears. I managed to get him to take 1.5oz, but he wasn’t that happy about it. I reminded myself that often the first bottle or two of the week are the most challenging ones.

Micah took a measly 1.5oz more after his nap, though he did have a lot of applesauce for lunch. However, he was getting more and more fussy as the day progressed. I knew Micah was hungry and offered the bottle a few times, meeting with a complete refusal. I finally just put him down for his nap and he cried himself to sleep after 15 minutes. He woke up one sleep cycle later, and after another bottle refusal I started getting desperate. I offered him some milk from an open cup – Micah was very eager but only managed to get about 1oz into his mouth. I tried offering some solid foods with minimal success. Finally Lauren rescued me around 4PM.

Tuesday continued the misery with Micah refusing bottles before his first nap. Finally by 11AM he was hungry enough to manage a 3.5oz bottle (at this point last week he would have had 6-8oz). It was time to get serious. For lunch, I sat him in his booster seat, put on a SuperBib, and tried to:

  • Give him an open cup
  • Give him a sippy cup with handles (removed the valve)
  • Use a Sugarbooger sippy cup
  • Mix breastmilk into rice cereal and sweet potatoes in a bowl; spoon fed and had him drink directly from the bowl
  • Spoon fed him milk with an Asian soup spoon

With each new tactic Micah would be interested for a bit, and I had a spoon in hand to keep recycling contents out of his bib and minimize waste. When all was said and done Micah probably had about 4oz between cup drinking and mixed into sweet potatoes and rice cereal. There’s no way I was going to sustain such acrobatics though.

Lauren had called a few lactation consultants that morning, and snagged a same-day appointment for me at the Lytle Center. We declined to follow-up with another one of the lactation consultants who had this demoralizing advice for my wife:

“You know, your baby doesn’t have to take a bottle, you can just have your baby nurse at night and in the evenings. Or just give your baby lots of calorie-rich solid foods…you know, your baby is already six months old, I wouldn’t put too much effort into getting him to take a bottle, you’re just going to have to transition him to a cup at a year. It has to be your baby’s choice – if your baby doesn’t want a bottle you should try something else.”

After Micah’s third nap we went to the Lytle Center, and while I waited in the lobby for the lactation consultant I discovered a new way to get Micah to take an ounce or two of milk – he was in his bucket car seat fussing a bit, so I handed him the bottle and because of the incline he was able to feed himself (with some surreptitious support from Dad). Finally the lactation consultant brought me into her office and asked “do you know why your wife sent you here?” Very funny. I told her how he was taking 18-20oz/day last week, and that after a long weekend with Mom started refusing the bottle. She then asked what I had tried, so I started with the basics:

  • Didn’t push the bottle; if he refused I stopped and waited at least 15-20 minutes to reoffer
  • Waited until he was extremely hungry or sleepy
  • Started aligning to the clock more
  • Used different bottles and nipple speeds

I then mentioned the car seat trick I had discovered in the lobby, at which point she stopped me and asked “can I take notes? What else did you try?” I told her about the various tricks I used in the booster seat, as well as a few other approaches I had tried:

  • Tried a bottle with handles so that he can try and feed himself
  • Fed him sitting up (supporting his back/neck)
  • Tried feeding in the baby carrier

The lactation consultant then asked “does your wife have a fast letdown?” I confirmed that she does, and the consultant said that oftentimes children of women with fast letdowns have trouble with bottles, since a frequent goal of artificial nipple design is to slow down the flow in order to avoid children preferring bottle to breast. The lactation consultant had heard good things about the Comotomo bottle; supposedly the shape and flow of the bottle was the closest approximation of a human breast. She hadn’t used a Comotomo herself, and didn’t have one available at the center, but she did have a faster, squishier nipple available that she thought we should try as an experiment.

Then it was time for the training portion of our session – she asked “do you want me to watch you or do you want to watch me?” I told her I would like to watch her feed my little bottle refuser. She filled one of her bottles with the soft nipple and let it sit in a bowl of warm water while she got to know Micah a bit. Then as she brought the bottle to him he pursed his lips shut and turned away. Each time she waited a minute or so before reoffering. Over the course of a half-hour I watched her slowly get Micah to consume 4.5oz. Her general approach was to try and distract him from the bottle and then have it almost sneak up on him. It was generally effective, though she had to change up her approach almost constantly and she commented to me “he’s smart, you always have to do something new – try wearing fake glasses and other disguises.”

It was therapeutic to see a professional going through a lot of the rigmarole that I had been doing, and to confirm that I wasn’t “over-pushing” the bottle (something I’m overly sensitive about). It was also a little demoralizing that there wasn’t much new information for me here. On balance it was a positive visit though, and provided a much needed pep talk as well as a few small tidbits that I hope help our day go better tomorrow.

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You’d never know how much trouble this adorable kiddo was causing…

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