Taking the Aversion Out of Bottle-Aversion: Step-by-Step Bottle (Re)Introduction

A return to work, a medical procedure, visits at Grandma’s, date nights, a shred of autonomy… there are countless reasons why a breastfeeding parent would need to introduce (or re-introduce) Baby to bottle. The problem: bottle-aversion is not uncommon and, man, it’s a pain!

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Two of my three children were bottle-averse. Like any sleep-deprived, anxious mom, there were times I worried and wondered if they’d ever accept a bottle. But, in time, they did accept the bottle. All it took was a step-by-step process of introduction. This same method has worked like a charm for friends, fellow pumping moms, and milk recipients with whom I’ve shared this.

If you have tried (re)introducing the bottle to your baby but it’s just not working, take a few steps back, regroup, talk yourself off of the anxiety ledge, then see if this process works for your bottle-averse babe. It’s worth a shot!

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STEP 1: CALL IN BACK-UP.

What you’ll need:

– A caregiver who is not the breastfeeder

What you’ll do:

Ideally the non-nursing parent or another caregiver would be the one to introduce Baby to bottle. Mom and her much-preferred breast buffet should not even be in the home during the introduction. Mom can go for a mini-stroll, nap in the car, sit on the front stoop… just not immediately available. Babies are smarter than we give them credit for. Heck, if someone handed you a plate of reheated leftovers while holding a tray of freshly made food, which would you pick?

Take the fresh meal out of the equation and make the leftovers (aka: pumped breastmilk) the only option. Of course if another caregiver is not available, the following steps can absolutely be employed by the breastfeeding parent; it just might require a bit more stamina.

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STEP 2: PUMP IT. WARM IT. DIP IT.

What you’ll need:

– 1oz freshly expressed breast milk

– 1 baby bottle with nipple

– 1 mug of warm (not hot) water

– Patience

What you’ll do:

When introducing the bottle to Baby, start with just 1oz of freshly pumped breast milk (we’re talking milk that is still at body temperature.) Limiting the introductory amount to 1oz lessens possible waste, because any pumping mom knows crying over spilled breast milk is totally acceptable. While pumping, submerge the bottle nipple in a mug of warm (not hot) water. This will help make the bottle nipple more like the warm, supple human nipple as opposed to a cool, rubbery manmade nipple. Just before feeding Baby the 1oz, remove the bottle nipple from the warming mug and dip the warmed nipple tip into the expressed breast milk. The fresh milk on the warm bottle nipple acts as a “MILK IN HERE!!” flashing arrow sign for Baby. Then try calmly feeding Baby the bottle. If it doesn’t work, relax. Redirect Baby’s attention briefly and give it another attempt or two, but never make the process stressful or unpleasant for Baby. We want this to be a comfortable, cozy, enticing experience.

Once your baby has grown to accept the freshly expressed milk in a bottle, move to step 3.

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STEP 3: CHILL IT. WARM IT. DIP IT.

What you’ll need:

– 1oz refrigerated breast milk (no more than a day old)

– 1 baby bottle with nipple

– 1 mug of warm (not hot) water

– Patience

What you’ll do:

Repeat the same process of warming and dipping the bottle nipple as noted above, but this time add 1oz of warmed, previously refrigerated expressed breast milk (aim for no more than a day old so that milk is still somewhat fresh.)

This transition may take a bit of patience, but keep at it. Be sure to maintain the goal of a positive, peaceful introduction though.

Once Baby accepts previously refrigerated breast milk in a bottle, move to step 4

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STEP 4: FREEZE IT. THAW IT. WARM IT. DIP IT.

What you’ll need:

– 1oz frozen breast milk

– 1 baby bottle with nipple

– 1 mug of warm (not hot) water

– Patience

What you’ll do:

Now that Baby has begun tolerating previously refrigerated milk, it’s time to try previously frozen milk. Pour 1oz of thawed, warmed, previously frozen breast milk into a bottle. Repeat the same bottle nipple warming and dipping from steps 2 and 3. Then, just as before, introduce the bottle to Baby in a comfortable, calm, peaceful manner.

This may take a few attempts. That’s ok. Be patient.

Once previously frozen milk is a go, move on to step 5.

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STEP 5: FREEZE IT. THAW IT. WARM IT. DON’T DIP IT.

What you’ll need:

– 1oz frozen breast milk

– 1 baby bottle with nipple

– 1 mug of warm (not hot) water

What you’ll do:

Since Baby now accepts frozen bottled breast milk, let’s take things up a notch. Let’s ditch the nipple dipping and see if Baby still goes for the milk.

Just as in step 4, you will thaw, warm, and bottle 1oz of previously frozen breast milk. WARM the bottle nipple in the mug of warm water but do not dip the nipple tip in the milk before serving Baby.

In all likelihood, this should be an easy test by comparison since, by now, Baby is aware that bottle nipples like lactating nipples are milk portals.

Once this step is successfully accomplished, move to step 6.

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STEP 6: FREEZE IT. THAW IT. SERVE IT.

What you’ll need:

– 1oz frozen breast milk

– 1 baby bottle with nipple

What you’ll do:

So by now Baby will take any kind of breast milk provided: straight from the tap, fresh and bottled, previously frozen and bottled. Now let’s see if we can ditch the nipple warming.

Thaw, warm, and bottle 1oz of previously frozen breast milk as you have in prior steps. Now, without any bottle nipple prep, see if Baby accepts the bottle. This should be a low-key endeavor, especially if dropping the nipple dipping was an easy undertaking.

Once this has been accomplished, move to step 7.

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STEP 7: TAKE A BOW!

Seriously. You did it!! Go you! Your baby is now able to gain sustenance from human and faux nipples. Congrats!

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Cocoons for Babies: That’s a Thing?

I’ve recently encountered a trend: cocoons for babies. Who knew? The practice recommends that parents create a quiet, soothing womb-like environment for their newborns in order to offer a smoother adjustment for Baby into the world and provide a safe haven from the daily din.

Dimmed lights, calm energy, cozy decor, serenity, hush. A baby cocoon. How precious! How loving! How utterly unattainable for any child but a firstborn in an affluent home.

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Now, I love the concept of preparing a loving, welcoming, unobtrusive environment for the baby-to-be. The neutral decor, the soft fabrics, the gentle atmosphere… how sweet! The planner in me adores the meticulous research and purchasing, arranging and staging that would be entailed. The 6-years ago first-time parent in me sees the beauty and seeming prospect, the adoration- and protection-based desire and demand to create such a space for the anticipated bundle. The mother-of-three in me shudders at the thought of feeling pressured to somehow maintain any sense of zen tranquility in my bustling abode of child chaos. I can only imagine the effort it’d take to silence my entire herd for one morning. It’d be more feasible to ship them off for the baby’s infancy.

Then, I think of myself and my friends with multiple children. Their youngest child — like my own third child — entered into a world of noisy siblings, bright lights, and pinging toys. Yet that youngest child (barring any special needs) is the happiest, most well-adjusted, and adaptable of the bunch!

Babies are precious and beautiful. Babies are noisy and exhausting, messy and stressful, demanding and resilient. As any pediatrician will tell you, babies are tougher than we think. (Have you ever seen an Apgar test conducted or seen a baby birthed vaginally? Then you know they’re sturdy buggers.)

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Do I think putting effort into spinning a warm environment for your cherished offspring is ill-advised? Not entirely. Placing love and excitement, care and appreciation into your baby preparation does nothing but positive things for all involved. If it feels right to you, do it! However, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the task, don’t do it. Eventually your child will regularly be present in the world and, well, the world is not womb-like.

Do I think everyone has the means to create this soothing space? Even with upcycling hacks and thrift store finds, no. Not everyone has the economic, spatial, environmental, or emotional ability to create a womb-like home. Some can, and that’s wonderful, but it in no way puts those children raised outside of the cocoon at a disadvantage.

Do I think creating a quiet, serene home gives the child a leg up? If anything, I’d argue the opposite. I know far more children raised in noisy, stimulus-filled homes who are happier and better adapted to the outside world than those who easily adjusted from quiet, low-stimulus homes to the chattering world. A cocoon is not the only way to ensure a baby feels loved and secure. And, heck, the womb is not silent. There are plenty of stimuli — from stomach churning and inhalation, mom’s road rage shouting and shower singing, Dad’s yelling at the TV and sibling tantruming. Baby has already heard the outside world before ever entering it. Life is loud, inside and out.

Do I think it’s feasible to maintain such an environment? As a mom of three close-in-age children, my response: hahahahahahahahaha… no. Absolutely not. Not in any way. Nope. It’s a lovely gesture rooted in the best and purest intentions of sheltering one’s cherished child from the overwhelming world. The desire, effort, and act are nothing but sweet and commendable. However, making a womb-like home for your child is not the only way to create a safe space for your little one. Your loving arms and healing kisses, you’ll soon find, will serve as such. You needn’t paint the walls “Morning Mist” and hush everyone in your home to make Baby feel loved. Just love Baby, that’s all.

Do I think feeling compelled to maintain a hushed, serene cocoon is problematic? Somewhat. If the endeavor is to envelope the child in love and comfort, beautiful! However, any parent is soon to discover that babies are not quiet or serene… and neither is the world. Does that mean the child should fall asleep to prerecorded audio of Tokyo Street sounds or NYC at rush hour? No. I simply think the pressure to create unnatural, inorganic sensory white space in a bright and loud world is an unattainable goal for parents — especially first-time parents — who are about to enter the wholly noisy, exhausting, stressful, life-upending, relationship-testing, goal-shifting, painful, emotional, rewarding, confusing, ego-obliterating, priceless gift of parenthood. Yet, if the womb-like space — either in creation or practice — enables the parents to better cope with the monumental shift of parenthood, proves agreeable to the baby, and is easily and stresslessly maintained, by all means do it! Just don’t stress yourself — or those dwelling with you — trying to make your home, your life, your world something that it’s not.

You are your child’s sanctuary. Your arms are her safe place. Your breath and heartbeat are his lullabye. You are all the comfort your child needs.

Love your baby. Forget the rest.