Yes, my baby refuses milk for 10 whole days!! It started with me going back to work after my maternity leave. This was when he was 5 months old last year. You could have imagined my anxiety and worries! Milk is a baby’s staple food. If he doesn’t drink, then what?
I had the privilege of being a full time SAHM taking care of my 3rd newborn for 5 wonderful and enjoyable months. I love to stay at home to take care of my kids. When the day I dreaded most inevitably counted down to zero, there went my 4 months maternity leave and my 1 month annual leave. I had to face the struggle to leave my baby and go back to work. It’s cruel to leave a baby for work when a mother’s greatest joy is breastfeeding the baby, carrying the baby and be with the baby 24/7!
3 weeks before this day, I practised the milk bottle with YT every other day. I had to let him get used to the bottle so that he could have my expressed milk while I was at work. For 3 weeks, all attempts failed. He just refused the bottle. Each attempt could last up to 1 hour but YT did not cry or protest, he simply just played with the teat and refused to suck. I totally agree with the books and experts and all: Mother and Milk Bottle just do not go well together for fully breastfed babies.
Come the first day of work, I called home and heard my baby crying in the background. He refused the milk bottle and was crying profusely. My heart broke and I really wanted to fly back home to offer him my breasts. My mother-in-law, who was taking care of him could, in the end, managed a pathetic 50ml of milk for one feeding session and similarly for a second session. And that’s all the baby drank for that day! 100ml! The milk intake was insufficient. Lots of expressed breast milk was wasted. He was given brown rice cereal for a meal and it was able to satisfy him for 3 hours. Then it lasted till I was home 12 hours later to offer him his favourite breasts. Poor boy.
Come the second day of work, I was afraid to call back to hear that he was not drinking. We changed different teats, tried Pigeon normal and soft teats, tried Avent teats and tried Tommee Tippee teats (which had claimed many awards for being the next best thing to a breast). We tried stopping brown rice cereal, hoping he would be hungry enough to drink from a milk bottle. When I called home again, my mother-in-law feedbacked that the baby cried, drank little, cried and for one session, he drank 100+ ml. This was an achievement and we hoped this could be repeated on the 3rd day.
That night when I looked at the baby, he seemed to have lost weight and lost his “michelin man” chubby arms and legs. He only had 50-100ml for the entire 12 hours I was away from home. He seemed tired due to the daytime crying. I was really guilty and felt terrible.
On the 3rd day of work, I called a lactation consultant. She said 5-month-olds are hard to train to wean off the breast to bottle as they begin to have a mind of their own to make a choice. She suggested sippy cups and use of straws. I have heard of babies who never use a milk bottle and graduate to a sippy cup. But I doubt it works on my baby. Nevertheless, the moment I hanged up the call, I wanted to take a half day leave to rush down in a cab to buy sippy cups. Then, I stopped to reflect on my baby’s progress for those few days. Well, it seemed that he had some improvement each day. In fact, he was making up for lost feeds in the day by waking up to drink more at night. It was really tiring for me, but I was more than happy to have him suck on my milk for as many times as he likes as long as he drinks. Maybe I should give him more time instead of introducing new sippy cup spouts which may confuse him with a new thing to learn yet again. I did not call back that afternoon. When I returned home, baby YT was sleeping well and my mother-in-law feedbacked that he did suck continuously albeit only 40ml each time and each feed was divided into few smaller feeds. YT was making good progress and for the first time I felt a bit better.
Then, on the 4th day on, it was a trial and error attempt with each feeding session. On some days, he drank more (150ml in 12 hours), on some days, he drank less (100ml in 12 hours). We decided to stick to just one milk bottle to be consistent. It was stressful for the caregivers and stressful for me who was helplessly worrying at the workplace. Everyone tried their own methods to get the baby to drink. My mum came over to try too. In the end, it was Kel who claimed the credit.
After what seemed like 10 months, on the 10th day, the baby decided to drink a 150ml full feed from the milk bottle at ONE go! It was Kel who fed him. You should have seen his smirk look. Finally, the baby succumbed to the bottle. I was happy, and also sad to think he might have given up fighting for his basic rights to his mother’s breasts. Aren’t mothers supposed to just stay home to nurse and care for the baby? Why does the society leave us little choice but to leave our young kids for more bread on the table? To all SAHMs who have the luxury to stay home to care for your kids, I envy you beyond words.
Throughout the 10 days of bottle-feeding battles, I was in a frantic search for solutions to get my baby to drink from the bottle. I found some lactation advice and tried on all of them. Here are the advice that I would love to share with all mums who face the same madness and mums who have decided to wean off their child from the breasts:
1) Use the same teat for all attempts. It is not the teat that matters most, it’s more of the baby’s choice and decision to drink from a bottle.
2) Don’t call home repeatedly. You will undermine the caregiver’s confidence in the attempts.
3) Don’t feed the baby when he is crying profusely. Wait a while, distract the baby until he is calm, then try again.
4) Don’t feed the baby when he is very hungry. Start when he is calm.
5) The baby is trying to adjust, so give him time and be very, very patient.
If ever we decide on a 4th baby, I would quit my job to care for my baby 24/7 and breastfeed for as long as he/she likes. The heartache of forcing the baby from breasts to a milk bottle is too much for me to bear. Nowadays it is a norm for mothers to work. Unlike our parents generation where most mums stayed at home to take care of kids, we now have to have double income for a more comfortable life. If I were to be a SAHM, adjustments will have to be made to the family to survive on sole income. But I am sure the kids would choose their mother to be home with them over any other privileges anytime.
Have you face milk bottle woes before? How did you overcome it?
I would love to know your story! Share with me in the comments!