Monday, November 11, 2013

Parenthood: Week 24 – The Bottle

Much in the same way that people have unrealistic expectations about the ease of breastfeeding (which I discussed in this post), I had no idea that learning how to eat from a bottle would be such a challenge for Ollie and I.

In the first week of Ollie’s life he had a combination of breast-feeding and getting formula from a bottle. He took the bottle with minimal effort. Then we dropped the formula and had Ollie exclusively breast feed.

After breast-feeding got established we wanted him to start getting used to a bottle once a day so that other people could feed him. This did not go very well. I would get the milk warmed up, get a bib on him and proceed to try to get him to eat from the bottle. He would immediately start screaming in frustration and any milk that came out of the bottle would dribble down his chin.

So we tried different bottles. At some point we had  five different bottles we were rotating through. One time I kept switching bottles during one feeding in the vain hope that one would click. That was a bad strategy that only produced more tears from Ollie.

Our doctor told us to stop trying different bottle. He said most of the differences are gimmicky, just choose one and stick with it.  So we did.

Slowly things started to work. We figured out a couple things that helped. If Ollie was very hungry then a bottle would be a bad idea. He needed to be hungry but not to the point that he was really uncomfortable. The process I started to use with Ollie was to stick my finger in his mouth and get him to suck on it. Then I stuck the nipple of the bottle in his mouth without any milk flowing in it and got him to suck on that. At this point I gently tilted the bottle so a little milk filled the nipple.

At first, he got like two or three sucks, then couldn’t deal with the speed of the milk so I would tilt the bottle the other way to stop the flow of milk. Sometimes I could only get two or three good sucks before he got frustrated so I just stopped.

I did this every day, for about a month before I could stick the bottle in the mouth and he would immediately start eating.

No one told me that this process was going to be so arduous. There was a lot of crying from Ollie and a lot of frustration from me but we worked through it. One of things that was especially hard for Diana was that she would not be in the room. Usually she would be on the other side of the house while I gave Ollie a bottle so she wouldn’t distract him. Diana had to resist the urge to intervene when Ollie would scream as I tried to feed him.

She stayed away every time, no matter how frustrated Ollie got, she wouldn’t get involved until I asked for her help.  This was tough for her but the space she gave me meant the world to me as a father and a partner.

Teaching Ollie how to take a bottle seems like a distant memory.  It was so hard at the time and so stressful, but all of that is gone now when I feed him.  That's the greatest reward as a parent.  Something about Ollie and what he does now, makes the struggles of the past evaporate.

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