My mother still thinks it’s my fault.
After two weeks of blissfully (okay, painfully) nursing my newborn daughter around the clock, it was time to try giving her a bottle of pumped milk. Surely, it would be good for daddy to share in the joy of feeding — and give mama and her sore nips a break. So I strapped on the agricultural grade pump and filled a freshly sterilized baby bottle, handing it off to my husband.
Then someone started crying, and it wasn’t the baby.
I don’t know quite how to explain my reaction. With someone else feeding my baby, I had the strangest sensation of being fired from my job. I felt possessive and anxious. It is my mother’s opinion that my 2-week-old picked up on this anxiety and decided to help me out by NEVER EVER TAKING A BOTTLE EVER.
There were many more attempts at bottle feeding after that day. The next time we tried, I left the house so that not only would I not cry, but the baby wouldn’t be able to smell me, which I’d heard could be an impediment. Even in my absence, the baby politely declined the bottle (i.e. clamped her mouth shut, turned her head and made a grumpy cat face).
Everyone had suggestions for us, starting with our choice of bottles. “You must try Dr. Browns!” one friend evangelized. Another swore by Born Free. Over a period of months, I nearly cleaned out my local Babies ‘R Us, sampling every brand on the market (and I think some bottles that were meant for Corolle dolls). We also varied the nipples, from slow-flow to fast, flat to pointy, mechanical to life-like. No go, no flow.
At our next pediatrician’s appointment, we begged the doctor to give it a try — maybe we were doing something wrong? But even a professional was no match for our boob-lovin’ baby. The doc handed me a list of tips and wished me luck. So we tried different holds: facing away, feeding while walking, feeding while sleepy. Nothing worked, and the baby looked at us like we were crazy, right before lunging at my chest.
I loved my baby but I missed being alone occasionally. My big fantasy was going to the supermarket by myself. I tried the nurse-and-run one afternoon when my husband was home, but I’d barely made it to the frozen food aisle when the phone rang. I heard bitter wailing in the background and could just make out a panicked plea to “Come home now!”
So we kept experimenting. There was a lactation consultant, a post-partum doula and handful of “miracle” babysitters — none of whom could get my daughter to drink from a bottle.
So you know what I did next? I stopped trying. I gave up on me-time and date nights (there’s always next year!) and relaxed into the notion that I would simply be tethered to my baby for the time being. I wasn’t working outside the home, so there was no pressure. I could go with the flow, just like my milk.
And you know what? It wasn’t so bad. Freed from the shackles of the pump, I never had to wash a bottle, pack feeding supplies or worry that I’d run out of milk again. And I became an amazing nursing multi-tasker. I could breastfeed while walking down the street (baby in carrier), while eating a plate of spaghetti (so what if a little sauce dripped on her head?) and even while sleeping.
Now that my daughter’s an independent preschooler whose favorite kind of milk is chocolate, I have to say, I kind of miss being joined at the boob. But if my husband and I ever have another baby, I vow to start bottle practice even earlier, and I definitely won’t cry.
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