I love breastfeeding Andi. Even thought it hurt me A LOT during the first few weeks of her life when she would attack my boobs like a hungry shark, I still treasured each moment that I fed her. However, as a working mom and a person who is always out and about, I knew I had to eventually get her used to drinking my milk even when I’m not around.
I intended to cup feed Andi because apparently, there is very little or no chance of nipple confusion with cup feeding. It looked fairly easy. During one of our check-ups with Andi’s pedia, she taught Mike how to do it (since he was going to be the one to feed her when I’m away). He aced it and Andi drank the milk from the cup like a real pro!
Success! Or so I thought…
One day, I had to go to a meeting. It was the first time ever that I was going to be away from her, but it was just going to be at the roofdeck of our condo so I wasn’t too worried. Mike and I thought that that would be a good time to “practice” cup feeding because if there were any problems, I could easily just go back to our unit.
About 20 minutes into my meeting, Mike sent me a Viber message to tell me that Andi was crying. No, WAILING. Nonstop. She was spitting out the milk that Mike was feeding her from the cup. When I came back from my meeting, Andi was already asleep, but not in a good way. The poor thing went on a hunger strike and cried herself to sleep. 🙁 What went wrong?? She seemed to be okay with it at the pedia’s office! I think a big part of it had to do with separation anxiety because she knew I was away. Also, Mike said, “She was calm at the pedia’s office. It’s hard to cup feed her when she’s flailing around and crying hysterically.” That’s true. I was really crushed after that incident. It was painful for me, just imagining the ordeal that Andi went through. It was hard for me to picture her crying until she was out of breath, hungry, and confused as to why I was not there to fill her needs. But I was also in pain because I knew that if she continued to refuse eating when I’m not around, I might have to totally let go of my job — my job which I needed more than ever now that I have a baby, my job which I’ve always loved and enjoyed…
…UNLESS maybe I give in to using a bottle.
I didn’t want feeding to be stressful for both Mike and Andi so I agreed to give the bottle a shot. I researched on the best feeding bottles, and found out that Pigeon is the one that is guaranteed to prevent nipple confusion as it enables the baby to replicate the natural sucking motion which they learn to do when they breastfeed. Good thing I already had one lying around at home!
It took a lot of trial and error on our part before we both really got the hang of bottle-feeding. We established a routine. Every night, Mike would thaw my frozen breast milk and feed it to Andi with the goal of making her feel full and putting her to sleep. It was also a ‘bonding’ experience for Mike and Andi, and a way for Andi to associate Mike with food. (Who says only moms can bond with their babies by feeding them? Dads can definitely do it too, thanks to the bottle!) While this was happening, I would leave the room because apparently, babies won’t take milk from the bottle when they can see and smell their moms because they would think “Why should I drink from the bottle when your boob is right there?!”
As we went through our “training,” we were relieved to know that Andi actually didn’t mind drinking from a bottle. However, the problem was when we miscalculated the amount of milk to put in the bottle. At first, we would put 1-3 oz. When she had finished consuming it, she would cry for more. So the next day, we tried 4 ounces. It was still not enough, so we increased it to 5 oz. She seemed happy and content with that. But then there were nights when she would fall asleep after drinking just 1, 2, or 3 oz! My heart broke every time I had to throw away the leftover milk. I worked hard for every drop! I was hoping Mike would use it for his cereal or coffee just so it wouldn’t go to waste but he just refused and said, “No way!”
We had some discoveries along the way. For one, we realized that Andi didn’t mind drinking cold milk. Thank God! That was less work for us since we didn’t need to warm it prior to feeding. However, it should be completely thawed. She once refused to drink the milk because some parts of it were still frozen. We also tried giving her two other bottle brands — Nuk and Farlin — and she didn’t like them. She’s a hardcore Pigeon baby, this one! In fact, we made a name for bottle-feeding time. We call it ‘Pigey Time’ (pronounced Pid-gee) which is like our cutesy way of saying ‘Pigeon Time.’ (P.S. She also has Pur feeding bottles but she only received them recently so I’ll update you and let you know if she likes them)
I decided to cancel all my events while we were bottle-training Andi. (Goodbye, income!) It was a tough decision but I knew she needed me. Eventually, Andi felt more at ease with the bottle, and when we knew she was ‘ready,’ that was also when I felt ready to go back to work.
We continued the routine, no longer to get her used to the bottle but to give me some time to myself. Mike would spend an hour feeding Andi so I can do other things — shower, sleep, do chores, work, basically do whatever I wanted. As a tired new mom, that time to myself, no matter how short, was heaven to me. Nowadays, though, Mike is a lot busier with work so he can’t afford to allot time everyday to bottle-feed. But it’s okay because our ultimate goal for bottle-feeding was really for Andi to eat even when I’m not around.
To me, the bottle means freedom. I am able to go to work, leave the house to do errands, or go out and enjoy myself (this one’s very rare though), all thanks to the bottle!
From our experience in bottle-training Andi, here are the tips we can share:
- Don’t buy too many bottles just yet. Different babies have different preferences for bottles. One brand or kind will not work for all babies. Save your money and test a few brands first before buying too many of one kind right away.
- Start training your baby how to drink from the bottle as early as possible. Don’t make the same mistake I did, which was to “practice” just a few days before I had to go back to work. I had to cancel all my events for an entire month because Andi was not yet ready for the bottle, and I couldn’t leave her until I was already confident that she will be okay. Experts say it’s best to start when the baby is at least 6 weeks old.
- Direct latch whenever possible. Maybe the reason why Andi didn’t have nipple confusion (aside from using a good bottle brand) was because she latches directly most of the time and whenever possible. When I get back from work and she is still awake, I let her latch on to me until she falls asleep.
- Find out your baby’s preferred temperature. Some babies are very particular about how warm or cold their milk is.
- Invest in a sterilizer with a drying function for your sanity’s sake. Having to work, taking care of the baby, managing the house, and everything else — it’s definitely not easy. Washing bottles should be the least of your concerns. It’s such a tedious job to wash, boil water, or stuff the parts in a steam sterilizer, then wait for them to dry. A sterilizer with dryer really saves you a lot of time, and trust me, when you’re a busy mama, every second really matters!
- Don’t go too long without giving the bottle. This is actually my friend’s advice. Her baby was doing fine with the bottle, then she stopped giving it to him for months. By the time she needed him to drink from a bottle again, he didn’t want to anymore because he’s no longer used to it. I’m not sure how long is too long though, and personally, I haven’t experienced this since Andi drinks from the bottle at least thrice a month.
- Pump to replenish. I know, pumping can be such a chore, especially when it’s 3:00 in the morning and all you want to do is sleep. But if you’re going to train your baby to use the bottle, you’re going to need a significant amount of milk to work with, which means you need to pump more milk to replace the ones you’ve used up.
- People also say that the mom should not be around when someone else is bottle-feeding the baby, which is why during the early parts of our bottle-feeding training, I made sure I was out of Andi’s sight (and smell). But one time, I tried feeding her from the bottle myself, and surprisingly, she still drank from it. This baby doesn’t care where her milk comes from or who’s giving it to her, as long as she gets it!
- Ask for permission from your baby to leave. I know it sounds funny, but apparently, it’s not a good idea to “sneak out” if you have to leave your baby because he/she is going to have trust issues. I was told that you need to make them feel that you will be back when you do leave them. You need to say “good bye” to the baby. In my case, I always say “See you later! I’ll be back soon, okay?” Strange that we need to ask for permission (make “paalam” in Tagalog) as if they really are our bosses. Haha!
- Be consistent. Don’t expect your baby to warm up to the bottle after one or two tries. It really does take a lot of practice. Establish a routine and do it regularly so it will be easier for him/her to adjust to it.
What about you? How did you train your baby to bottle-feed? What were your discoveries? 🙂