We're in a pickle.
According to all the "books" our babies are suppose to be off bottles by the time they are 12-months old. According to our pediatrician ... it's OK if they stay on them past their 1-year birthday ... just so long as they are off them by the time they are 18-months old.
Guess What? We'll be 18-months old in ... 3 days ... and I'd have better luck getting our kids potty trained then I would getting them weaned from the bottle in 72 short hours. I am BLOWING it big time when it comes to meeting this critical *deadline*.
Why ... it seems like just yesterday, our babies were first learning to drink from a bottle, in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Although I think that the babies are definitely attached to their bottles, I can't help but think that maybe I am also attached to my babies - being attached to those bottles. Once the bottles are gone ... it's one more peg on the reality board that my babies are growing up.
It wasn't until they were two weeks old (33 weeks old, gestational age) that they ever made their first attempt at a bottle. Up until that point, all of their nutrition had been received via a gavage tube (a line that went down their nose in to their tummy for feeding). The first two photos I've posted - are Charlie feeding William his very first bottle at 2 weeks of age. I can't believe what a little guy he was ... or how fast the time has gone!
Feeding our babies was such a scary time in the beginning. Because they were born 9 weeks premature, we had to monitor their oxygen levels when they would take a bottle. Sometimes, they'd forget to breathe, their oxygen levels would drop and monitors would start going off all around us. Of course, this would send us in to a major panic. One time in particular, Carolyn turned a frightful purple and we had nurses running over and administering oxygen. Since that time, the babies have come a long way. They became pros at bottles ... they became pros at breastfeeding ... they got the hang of the Podee (hands-free) feeding system ... and then, were able to hold their bottles, all by themselves. We went from giving the babies 6 cc's at a feeding to over 10 oz (300 cc's) at a pop.
Bottles. They have been such a fundamental part of our existence for the past year and a half. We had to always make sure we had clean bottles and nipples available. That there was a sufficient supply of expressed breastmilk or formula on hand ... and that, of course, we never left the house without having a surplus of bottles and supplies with us. Once we discovered the Podee system - our lives were transformed. We could feed all three babies at once and whenever, wherever ... in their stroller, bouncy chairs, bumbo chairs. To this day - I still believe that our Podee bottles were one of the most critical pieces of baby equipment our first year. Now, we are at the point of getting rid of the bottles altogether - and well, it's a battle. For them - and for us.
It's not to say that we haven't tried to wean the babies from a bottle. We have. We've tried really, really hard. We've gone through every different brand of sippy cup on the market. We've tried the ones with and without handles ... nuby cups, straw cups, cups with flip lids and little cups covered in animals and bright colors.
Sure, the babies love their sippy cups ... for juice and water. Put milk in that same sippy cup and quickly take cover - - because they will fling that cup right back at you with enough force to put out an eye. They have a look on their face that clearly says "Hey FOOL ... what are you trying to pull?! Milk belongs in a bottle. Now make it right or we're going to SCREAM!!!"
I weaned the girls from breastfeeding about 2 months ago. William was weaned from nursing back in October. The weaning from breastfeeding was a lot easier for them, then I expected ... and it was much harder for me, then I expected. (I'll save my emotional and physical trauma of weaning from bf'ing for another post.)
This past weekend, we had a BBQ and invited some friends over. They brought their 12-month old baby girl and I was astonished when they told me that she had been "off the bottle" for the past 2 months. When I asked how they accomplished this amazing feat ... they told me that "she just didn't want it anymore." HUH?!
Our kids LOVE their bottle. Especially William. I'm convinced that his body composition is 98% Vitamin D Whole Milk. The girls are pretty good eaters - - they'll try everything that we put in front of them. William on the other hand, and the majority of the time - - will either barely pick - - or not touch, any of the food that I put on his tray. He will hold out, very patiently, for his warm bottle that he knows is coming soon. Unless of course it is a snail, dead earthworm or crayon ... he isn't too nuts over solid foods.
After everyone was fully weaned from breastfeeding is when we first attempted to introduce milk from a sippy cup. We decided one morning that today would be the day to ditch the bottle, cold turkey. Since we are taking 4 bottles a day ... we decided to start with the morning bottle. Milk that is normally heated up and given in a bottle - - was put in a sippy cup, cold. When they refused the cup ... we tried again at lunch. Again we had a VETO from all three babies. During the afternoon "snack" we tried a third time. By this point - we had 3 kids that were on the verge of hysteria because they hadn't had their warm milk in a bottle.
As we were rounding the bedtime hour ... and tried with sippy cups one last time ... all three babies cracked simultaneously. It was an awful sight. I felt so terrible, so cruel and wrought with guilt. I transferred all the sippy cups to bottles ... heated them up nice and warm ... and gave them to the babies. It was a beautiful sight. They love their bottles. They love me. All is good in the world. Charlie looked at me with a scowl ... how are we suppose to do this?!?
When that first attempt failed so miserably ... we decided that we'd let them keep their bottles for a little bit longer. Maybe they were mourning the loss of the breast - - so to throw weaning the bottle, too ... was overload.
So, we tried weaning again this past week. It didn't go any better then the first time we tried. After 30 minutes of crying, I cracked. Everyone had warm milk in a bottle and happiness was restored. I know the argument for getting the babies off a bottle. I think it has to do with their teeth.
Now here comes my desperate plea of rationalization ....
We don't put our kids to bed with bottles. They get four bottles a day, with milk.
We brush their teeth at night before they go to sleep.
We have their first dentist appointment scheduled for next month, and the dentist, I'm sure - will tell us that we are doing a good job with their dental hygiene. At THIS age.
If we start dropping bottles ... I am not very optimistic that they are going to get the milk requirement (24 oz a day) that they need via their sippy cup.
I wish somebody could tell me, why I can't keep my babies on bottles until they are old enough for me to reason with them. I can't help but wonder if this whole thing of getting rid of the bottle by such-and-such date ... isn't just some crazy American thing because we are trying to get our kids to grow up faster than they should. Or need to. For Pete's Sake ... they're only ONE! Could you take a bottle away from this child??? If you answered yes ... would you please do it for me? I really don't have the heart. At this rate, I'll be loading them on the school bus for 1st grade with a lunch box and ... bottle.
(***Edited: if you came to this site from a search on the internet - we were ultimately successful with weaning. To learn how we transitioned our babies from bottles to sippy cups in less than 3 days, check the April 2006 archives.***)