It doesn’t happen overnight. Consistency is key. Be patient with yourself. Don’t give up. These are all things I tell my clients in regards to getting organized, and they are true. Cliché but true, and so far I have found them to be more than applicable to my status as a new mom. For example, today’s lesson is how to bottle-feed a breastfed baby.
Breastfeeding is hard, especially at first! You want your baby to get a good latch. You want to increase your supply, so you should pump a whole lot in between breastfeeding sessions (aka breastfeeding attempts). You don’t want to interfere with the latch, so don’t offer bottles or pacifiers at the beginning. Do this, do that, now do the exact opposite of all of it. Sigh…
When Mason was born, he was a sleepy baby. And that’s an understatement. The lactation consultant would come in to my hospital room, hand the baby to me after I had unsnapped my gown and gotten into position, the baby would open his mouth, boob would go in and….nothing. He would already be asleep! He would stay awake long enough to open his mouth and that was enough for him to call it a day. As my late father-in-law would say, “You’ve got some life, pal.” But I digress.
It was evident that we had our work cut out for us in regards to breastfeeding, but we took it on enthusiastically. And a sleepy baby (which is otherwise a very good thing) wasn’t the only issue.
One of my nipples is flatter, so that required a nipple shield and a lot more work on Mason’s part for getting a good latch. My milk didn’t come in until the 4th day after he was born, so up until that point (and afterwards of course) our day revolved around breastfeeding attempts and pumping sessions. My husband would do everything he could to help – hand me the baby, wash and dry the pumping supplies, burp the baby, etc. We were an amazing team, and it continued on after we got home from the hospital. #smallvictories
Breastfeeding became easier and easier. With each attempt, Mason latched on faster, it hurt less and eventually I didn’t even have to use the nipple shield. Boom! What an amazing feeling of accomplishment I felt every time Mason would effortlessly latch on and drink away. We were straight up breastfeeding champions, and I was super mom! “I totally got this whole parenting thing,” I thought to myself…naively, of course.
As you’re probably guessing, we didn’t remain on cloud nine for very long but it certainly was nice while we were up there.
Weeks went by. Breastfeeding continued to go so well that I didn’t even have to pump that much. Here and there I would remember to give Mason some breast milk in a bottle. He would drink it and then a few more weeks would go by. About 6 weeks before he was due to start day care, I decided I needed to give him the bottle more so he would be able to go the day without me. That’s when the euphoria of breastfeeding success evaporated like the accomplishment itself was an illusion all along. Mason became so comfortable getting his nourishment directly from the source that he was no longer willing to drink from a bottle. Queue my panic and then the advice I received…
“Don’t worry, your baby won’t starve at day care.”
“He can go hours without eating and might just wait until you pick him up to eat. “
“Or he’ll feed at night more…which will keep you up at night…but he’ll get the calories he needs.”
Oh good, then he’ll be keeping me up at night after I’ve returned to work? That’s all great advice and very comforting. Yeah, none of this is what you want to hear when you’re in the thick of trying to get your breastfed baby to take a bottle.
I write this to you today, because I want to bring hope, relief and an actual solution to those who may be as frustrated as I was (well I’m going to say “frustrated” but the proper description is more like a depleted, overwhelmed, sobbing mess).
THE thing that finally worked wasn’t something I read, found online in my endless Google searches, got from another parent, the doctor, a lactation consultant, the day care provider or anywhere else. It wasn’t how we fed him, where we fed, who fed him, what time we fed him, how hungry he was or wasn’t, what bottle we used or ANY other variable we could think of to change in order to get the tiniest smidgeon of a result. Because believe me, we tried it all.
We tried to bottle-feed him morning, noon and night. We tried when he was hungry and when he wasn’t so hungry. I tried, my husband tried, my mom tried, my step mom tried, my mom’s boyfriend tried. We tried it while holding him in the breastfeeding position in the rocking chair (you know, because tricking him might work). I tried breastfeeding him and then slipping in the bottle while his eyes were closed. We tried while he was in the car seat, and it was in no way similar to the breastfeeding position. We tried 10, yes count them, 10 different bottles! We tried every day, multiple times a day, for almost 6 weeks. We tried. We tried. We tried.
Like I said, we tried everything we could think of.
And then it occurred to me. My nipples are NOTHING like the nipples on the bottles. They aren’t even close, so maybe I need to break out the nipple shield again and use it as some sort of transition device. And guess what. It worked!
THE thing that finally made a difference was the nipple shield, and this is how I did it.
When it was time for Mason to eat, I would let him feed on one side. Then when we moved to the other side, the nipple shield would be there. Although he did suck on it, he wasn’t fond of it and that’s when I slipped in the bottle. Boom!
He was taking it down. Instant relief hit me when this worked the first time, because I finally had something to work on that produced a result. It took some time, but I did this at each feeding session until the nipple shield was no longer necessary and he would just take the bottle.
Now, let me interject a quick side note here. Mason did show a preference for certain bottles from certain people. Yes, you read that correctly. He would only take one kind of bottle from me, and he would only take another bottle from his day care provider. I think it’s safe to say he gets that attention to detail from me (I’m a professional organizer so it does make sense). Anyway, in case it helps you, he would only take the Lansinoh Momma bottle from me and the Dr. Brown’s bottle from the day care lady.
To ensure the continued success of both breastfeeding and bottle-feeding, I would switch between the two throughout the day so he would go with either one. And he does it! He’ll breastfeed, he’ll take the bottle, and anyone can feed him at anytime anywhere and in any position. Also now, with some practice, he’ll even use different bottles. Woohoo! We’re back to feeling like champions…for now. #supermom #supermomfornow
Like I said at the beginning of this article, it doesn’t happen overnight. Consistency is key. Be patient with yourself. Don’t give up…but if you’re at the end of your rope like I was, talk to me. Are you also having this problem with your breastfed baby? What have you tried? What’s not working? Did you try my nipple shield solution? How’d it go? I’m all ears. Leave me a comment and let’s figure this thing out together. :)