As soldiers of the Dad Army, one of our missions (we have no choice but to accept it) is to become an expert at bottle feeding to assist in some parenting duties. My wife and I recently had our second child and it was time for me to take upon the role of bottle feeding once again. It had been nearly two years since I bottle fed my son. Consequently, I wondered and hoped that it would be easy with my daughter. You know the whole “riding the bike” thing. However, the battle lines were drawn rather quickly.
Battle you say?
Well, the first few times went smooth as my daughter took to the bottle fairly easily. However, last week (at around the 2.5 month mark) my wife was out for the day and I was “daddy in charge.”
Sadly, it was a bigger disaster than when Napoleon tried to invade Russia in 1812!
My daughter wouldn’t take the bottle at all! She fought me tooth and nail. I fought back with agitation and frustration as she tugged on the frayed ends of my sanity. We were both getting upset and no matter what I did or tried it only got worse. The day ended up with an exhausted and hungry baby and an angst-filled father who was ready to grab his own bottle of whatever he could find, down it in an instant and then for good measure, perhaps smash it over his head. Well, you get my point.
Why did this happen? Let me put it in simple terms. Let’s say you were going to go out with some friends for a delicious steak dinner out on the town in New York City …. and You had two options for dinner.
Option A: Sparks Steakhouse. The famed restaurant where mob boss Paul Castellano was gunned down and that presents a menu of mouth-watering main courses and sides that puts a smile on my face and a rumble in my stomach just thinking about it.
Option B: Tad’s Steakhouse. The hole-in-the-wall steak joint near Penn Station where you play Russian roulette with E.coli and food poisoning by consuming their fare.
It’s really no question where you would go to dine.
This analogy works well with newborns. Breast feeding is the greatest and most comforting thing for newborns. They get to eat, they are cozy, warm and they are as close to their mother as humanly possible. When they are first born they are not privy to the difference between a bottle and the breast. However, at around the 2-month mark it is quite common for the baby to reject the bottle. There is really no substitution to nursing and babies certainly don’t want to downgrade to some fake nipple. I did not want to make this a war so it was time to reflect and come up with a meaningful plan.
Babies can read and feel how we physically present ourselves. If we are uptight and tense they sense it and it makes babies extremely uncomfortable. Breast feeding on the other hand is extremely relaxing for the mother and baby. Breastfeeding releases Oxytocin (no, not the addictive pain-killer). According to a popular breastfeeding website, La Leche League International, Oxytocin’s role in breastfeeding includes causing nipple erection, increasing blood flow to the breast and to the mother’s skin (to keep the baby warm), enhancing the expression of instinctual behaviors (in mother and baby), contributing to the flow of nutrients from the blood into the mother’s milk, giving the mother a feeling of calmness, increasing tolerance of pain, and enhancing wound healing. Because of the feelings of calmness and emotional connection Oxytocin generates in the nursing mother, it is often called “the mothering hormone.” Now, enter the bottle-feeder which in more frequent cases these days is Dad. How on earth can we achieve this Zen-like state with a plastic nipple that is supposed to replace the real thing?
So, along with my wife’s diligent research on the internet and my own “aha” findings I came up with what I like to call “The Six Pointers to Keep Calm and Bottle-Feed Your Baby”. (Sponsorship from Six Point Brewery is pending).
1. Set the Mood
Just as we like to set up a romantic atmosphere for our wives we want to set up a calm place to give our baby the bottle. Find a place in the house where it’s quiet, dimly lit and of course has a comfortable chair/couch for you to sit in. You want it to be a different place from where your partner or wife usually breastfeeds. Babies have an uncanny sense of things and if you try and give a bottle in the chair they usually breastfeed in it might throw them off.
Have everything you need handy before you sit down. Burp cloth, bibs, water for you and perhaps a granola bar or Slim Jim (in case you get hungry). Turn off your phone and put the house phone (if you still have one) on mute. You don’t want any distractions during this bottle feeding time (especially from your partner/wife asking you “How’s it going?”). If you have another child in the house, find something to keep them occupied as well. While I don’t promote using the television as a babysitter, there is nothing better than a half-hour of Sid the Science Kid to keep a child occupied. A calm place for bottle feeding is imperative to success.
2. Calm Your Mind and Body
If you are stressed out or not in a poor mindset, you’re setting yourself up for imminent failure. Take a few deep breaths before you sit down with your baby. Put on some calming music (I recommend the soundtrack to Blade Runner Soundtrack by Vangelis) Do whatever you need to do to relax yourself.
3. Smile and Have Fun
When you finally sit down and get situated, look at your baby and smile. This is a wonderful bonding moment between you two and shouldn’t be a stressful war. Sing a quiet song (I like to sing Nutshell by Alice in Chains) or a silly nursery rhyme or limerick. This will put your baby at ease and make it enjoyable for the both of you. Talk to your baby and let them know that this bottle they are about to have is going to be the equivalent of drinking a premium ice cream milkshake. Positivity goes a long way and your baby will sense it (like a Jedi does the force).
4. Be Positively Persistent
Your baby may reject the initial attempts to take the bottle. Be prepared for this and don’t freak out. Persist by holding the bottle gently, but firmly, to your baby’s lips even though they may shake their head and arch away. If it doesn’t work after a few minutes, put the baby and bottle down and move out of sight. Take this time to regroup yourself, keep calm, and remind yourself that it’s not your fault. After a few minutes, return, cuddle with your baby, tell them a funny joke or even make a funny fart sound and again happily offer the bottle. It may take an hour for your baby to drink 4 oounces of milk for the first time, but it will get better over time.
5. Stick to Your Guns
There are more bottles on the market than there are parodies of Carly Rae Jepsen’s summer hit “Call Me Maybe.” (The best one was done by a fellow air guitarist who happened to use my real name). Born-Free, Dr. Browns, Tommie Tippee, Breast-Flow, Playtex, Nurser… the list goes on and on. The key is to continue with the same bottle! Your baby isn’t refusing that particular nipple you are using, they would much prefer mommy’s breast instead. Some babies prefer a quicker flow nipple than others. Once you find a bottle that works, be consistent, and stick with it. Don’t get frustrated and start changing through bottles like Lady Gaga does outfits!
6. Cut Your Losses
There may be a point where your baby will not take the bottle despite all of your loving attempts. Heck, you could set up a Zen-garden with a waterfall; have the milk at 98.6 degrees while Enya (she is actually standing there in the room) sings about the wonderful hue of Caribbean Blue. If the baby doesn’t want the bottle then, leave it be. I would recommend trying at least three times for at least ten minutes each time to get the baby to take the bottle. Now, if your partner or wife is around, DO NOT give the baby to them to breast feed immediately after the failed bottle feeding attempt. This pretty much tells your baby that you’re waving the white flag and that they have won. The best thing to do is to do something else for about 10-15 minutes. You can do tummy time, read a book or even give your baby a bath. This break in the feeding action will disassociate the bottle from the breast.
There you have it Dad Army. I certainly hope this helps….and pretty soon you’ll be able to bottle feed a raccoon.
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