The Greater Plan
Before becoming pregnant, I was highly unsure about breastfeeding and whether or not it was for me. While I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I took classes to learn as much as we could. After researching and receiving a lot of outside pressure from doctors and society, I decided to stay open-minded. I would try breastfeeding, and if it didn’t work for me, that would be okay.
I had heard all of the horror stories about the difficulties associated with breastfeeding – moms who struggled through the first few weeks as their babies had issues latching, moms whose milk didn’t come in and their babies were constantly screaming for food, and the time-consuming demand and physical pain that could come along with nursing. Even though I began my breastfeeding journey with only a semi-open mind at best, I was fortunate to not have to experience any of the aforementioned issues (other than a short bout with mastitis due to oversupply during week two of nursing), and in a very short amount of time I became committed to seeing it through for my daughter.
Although I had decided to make the commitment to nursing my baby, I am also human and was literally counting down the days until we could introduce pumped bottles. Nursing a newborn on-demand is very time-consuming and physically exhausting, and I couldn’t wait until I could get some reprieve. I even began storing milk in a deep-freeze in advance so that my husband could help with feedings and so that we could get a babysitter and some much needed time to ourselves.
I took the advice of lactation consultants at my hospital and waited until week three to introduce bottles. They recommended the waiting period so that breastfeeding could become well-established. I did not want to derail the great progress we had made with nursing, so we waited.
When week three came, I was so excited for the baby to begin taking bottles and so ready for a break. As my husband attempted to give her the very first bottle, she chewed around on it and seemed very confused for several minutes… And then the screaming began. Maybe she wasn’t hungry? So, we decided to wait and try again later.
We tried… and tried… and tried that entire week. I began Googling and learned about bottle refusal and babies who don’t take bottles for a multitude of reasons. Wait, babies who don’t take bottles? I surely thought that ALL babies took bottles, no question! SO WRONG.
I started to become overwhelmed and slightly terrified as I fell into the dark rabbit hole that is the Internet. I read articles about babies who never accept bottles and moms who breastfeed exclusively until their babies finally begin to eat solid foods or drink from sippy cups. These moms quit their jobs and never leave their babies for more than a few hours at a time in between feedings. No, this could not be my fate! I would not accept it. I am a determined person, and I vowed to try everything until our baby girl would take her bottle.
As the first week passed and my child wanted nothing to do with a bottle, I missed out on a friend’s wedding and I felt completely defeated. I started to question why I decided to breastfeed in the first place. I dismissed that thought as I knew the reasons why I made the choice, and I then began to question why I didn’t just introduce a pumped bottle to her immediately. So many thoughts and “what if’s” were constantly floating through my mind.
My husband saw my extreme frustration and was just as determined as I was to get this stubborn child to take a bottle. We purchased a plethora of bottles that were marketed as “best for breastfed babies.” We tried every single bottle that we were suckered into believing would be the solution for this annoying problem.
In addition to our collection of bottles, we tried every recommendation we could find. Every mom who said that their babies would not take bottles at any point had me convinced that they just gave up and didn’t try hard enough. I was not going to be categorized with that group of moms who threw in the towel to their tiny bullies. So, we tried everything. We tried feeding her with me out of the room, with me completely gone from the house, with me gone for multiple feedings for a few days in a row so that she might become so hungry and understand that this was her only option. We tried feeding her in every possible position, with different temperatures of milk, and I even tried giving her a bottle myself as a last ditch effort. Our failed attempts were certainly never for lack of trying.
Another week passed with no success as I became increasingly desperate and increasingly annoyed at the amount of milk that I took precious time to pump just to dump down the drain. We scheduled a visit with the lactation consultants, and I was confident this was our solution. They see this type of issue all the time! If the all-knowing Internet couldn’t help us, they would be the ones to come through for us.
As we began the appointment, I explained our problem and was confident we would be tackling the issue right then and there in that office. As I dumped out a bag filled with our ridiculous collection of bottles, the look on the lactation consultant’s face told me we were doing something wrong. She informed us that it was probably even more confusing to the baby to keep offering different bottles. She then selected a standard bottle, and as she and my husband geared up to feed this strong-willed child, I took my seat in the waiting room with my fingers crossed.
Fifteen minutes passed, and as the door opened and I saw the look of regret on my husband’s face, I shrunk down in my seat as my confidence melted away and my eyes began to well up. This was our solution! This was the last ditch effort! Now what?!
As I re-entered the room and consoled my wailing child with a few tears slowly slipping down my own cheek, the lactation consultant explained that some babies never take bottles, and those moms just have to adjust. Wait a second – was I not adjusting my life enough as it was?! What if, God forbid, I weren’t here for her to nurse anymore? She would have to find another way to eat, right?!
As we left the office, tears streaming down my face, I sternly stated to my husband that I would NOT quit my job. I LIKE my job! I need my independence! I will NOT be bullied by this child!
As my anger slowly dissipated a few days later, I called the pediatrician’s office praying that they could offer some form of advice that we hadn’t received yet. They placed a referral to a feeding specialist as a last resort, but told us to hold off and also informed us that if the baby had no issues breastfeeding, and she didn’t appear to have any physical oral issues, then she was refusing the bottle due to preference. We were told to continue trying with the same bottle, which we did… And are still doing.
I can count on one hand how many times my now three month old daughter has taken a bottle. The first time it happened, I knew it wasn’t a miracle and it wasn’t going to change my life because this child is my daughter, and she is clearly already just as stubborn and opinionated as her mama. These few and far between instances have occurred only when she is caught right at the right moment – waking up from a peaceful sleep in an excellent mood without me being present. Sometimes it works, and more often than not, it doesn’t.
What I have learned throughout this process is that time has a funny way of changing your perspective on things. After an initially rocky introduction into parenting, I slowly but surely began to develop an immeasurable bond with my baby. I believe that her bottle refusal was part of a bigger plan so that she and I could develop and strengthen that bond, and so that I could truly relish every second with her because it is already going by all too fast. Though I may joke about it sometimes, I can now say that I truly love this mom life.
I have witnessed my daughter change her mind about many things in these three short months, and I have faith that she will change her mind and begin taking a bottle one day. We will continue to try, but I won’t let it consume my life. I know that this is just a phase of life, and that it won’t last long. I know that one day my daughter will likely be begging to get away from me as most kids eventually grow up and do, so for now I will cherish these precious moments as her life as a baby is passing before my eyes.
**UPDATE: Since writing this entry, my daughter has began the process of slowly, but surely changing her mind about the bottle.