My Baby Hates the Bottle, Now What?: My Breastfeeding Journey
Updated: Apr 19, 2019
My boobs have had a long four months.
While I was pregnant, I'd often get asked whether I intended to breast feed. In addition to that being a super personal question (which, truth be told, didn't bother me -- but another mama could be rightfully annoyed by it), I just didn't know.
"I'd like to breastfeed if I can," I'd answer. "But I'm not putting pressure on myself. We'll see what happens when the time comes."
Let me say this for the record: I believe that fed is best. However you can get your little one happy, healthy and gaining, I tip my hat to you! This is my journey.
I was a breastfed baby for the first six months of my life. At that point, my mom was a single mother, fighting a custody battle and working to make ends meet. I was eventually switched to formula by necessity. I also witnessed my step mother struggle to breastfeed my baby sister, who had trouble latching. I remember seeing her cry and overhearing my dad tell her that it was OK, and this was exactly why formula existed. I mention both of these cases because they certainly had an impact on my own expectations (or lack thereof) when it came to myself.
Everly and I spent our first two days together in the hospital, surrounded by helpful nurses. All modesty went out the window as we learned to breastfeed, as any first-time mom will tell you. Everly wasn't great at latching, but she wasn't bad at it either. This was a whole new world for us both.
When she was four days old, we had our first appointment with her pediatrician. That morning, my chest felt a little heavier than usual, but certainly not engorged or hard. I remember saying to my husband, "I don't get it. This is definitely not as bad as everyone says it is." Ohhhhhh, I had no idea what was coming.
That morning, the pediatrician was concerned about the amount of weight Everly had lost since birth, but trusted when I said that I thought we were about to turn a corner. She said we didn't need to start formula supplementation yet, but we should to come back in two days for another weigh in.
In the meantime, I was in boobie jail. I was instructed not to pump, but to feed Ev constantly -- as often as she wanted and for as long as she wanted. "She is your pump," doc said.
For two days, Everly nursed nonstop. And when she wasn't nursing, my boobs were engorged, hard as rocks and leaking all over. Fall asleep? Wake up in a puddle of breast milk. What's that on my shirt? Oh, more breast milk. Do you hear something dripping on the floor? Breast milk.
At her follow-up appointment, baby girl had gained six whole ounces in those two days. From then on, we were in the clear to exclusively breast feed and pump to build up my freezer stash.
I was and continue to be so grateful to my body for its ability to nourish Everly outside the womb. I am all too aware that it's not the case for many moms, for a myriad of reasons, so I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be able to do this for her.
That said, I'm also entitled to have a few complaints about this whole thing. Namely: her refusal of bottles.
I was very much looking forward to sharing some of the nighttime feeding duties with Daddy. I was having no problem pumping extra milk, so I planned to wait until she was four weeks old and then let my husband take over at least one feeding each evening while I slept. I was also looking forward to seeing him experience some of that special baby bonding time.
Everly's fourth week came and so did her first bottle. She was starving by the time we got it heated up and she sucked the whole thing down.
"Great!" I thought. "I'm going to get some extra sleep! I'm going to be able to have some wine without guilt! Light at the end of the tunnel, I see you!"
That was the last bottle she took without protest.
Since that day, we have tried every bottle on the market. We've tried giving it to her in different rooms, on bouncy balls, with Mama in the house, with Mama out of the house, with Grandma trying, with Daddy trying, with friends trying. We've tried it daily. Nothing works. She just cries and cries and cries, she'll take a few sips from the bottle, then she'll cry some more.
When she was two months old, I went with my friends on a wine tour. I brought my pump along to diligently keep my supply in tact. I left more milk than Everly could possibly need for one day in the fridge. I left her with multiple bottles and different nipples to try. I left her in the capable hands of both my husband and my mother.
And she cried all day. In the 12 hours that I was away, she took only about four ounces of milk from one bottle.
"Just let her get hungry enough," people said. "She won't let herself starve."
But my stubborn little babe still refused. Talk about MOM GUILT. Coming home with wine in my system (by my estimation, in no state to drive a car or breast feed a baby) and listening to my little one sob is, so far, the worst I've felt as a mother.
So, until I return to work, Everly and I continue to breast feed exclusively. We've talked to our pediatrician and to other experts, and we've tried everything you're "supposed" to do to no avail.
For now, for us, forcing the bottles with pumped milk simply isn't worth the heartache. And while I'd love to have a guilt-free drink on a whim, or to be able to go to the nail salon without watching the clock for her next meal, I know there will come a time that I miss our quiet moments together. I'll miss seeing her sweet eyes looking up at me and feeling her little fingers creep up to wrap around my necklace. I may even miss the times she has slapped me in the face while feeding.
I'm embracing this as a duty and a privilege, but one that's not always fun or easy. Many times I've had to escort her, screaming, to the backseat of my parked car for a feeding because I don't feel like whipping out my boob at a restaurant. I've also nursed her on airplanes, at Disneyland, and in the privacy of her sweet nursery.
I don't know how long our journey will last, but I'm hoping for six months to a year. In the meantime, I will be returning to work soon and we have a huge freezer stash of milk. I'm hopeful that we will make use of it, possibly by adding it to pureed solids, or that it can be given to another baby in need. Again, I'm not putting pressure on myself. We'll see what happens when the time comes.
Mom Needs Merlot