A friend and I were talking the other day about the struggles of getting our babes to take bottles so we can get out of the house some times. This particular friend was actually the second person to ever give Little Man a bottle, when we needed to go to Mr Fair’s office holiday party and Little Man was about 6 months old. And that was only the third bottle he’d ever had. Yes, you read that right – three bottles in six months. Lady Fair, as it happens, has only been offered a bottle once in her 5 months skin side.
Advice for new moms about bottles is confusing. On the one hand if we choose to breastfeed we know to avoid them for about the first 6 weeks in order to establish a good relationship of feeding at the breast, as well as a good supply. Of course, we all know that by then our babies know better than to accept a boob imposter. But since we’re made to so firmly believe that a baby should or even must take a bottle from time to time, we go through a lot of stress getting baby to accept a bottle.
I decided not to.
Here’s the deal: I HATE pumping. It’s not so bad now that I have mega supply from tandem nursing, but when Little Man was new my pumping efforts would produce meager results at best. It made me doubt my supply, leading to a week of anxious feedings counting swallows and constant head rubs to determine if his fontanelle was sunken from dehydration. Needless to say, there is no spa treatment rejuvenating enough to warrant all of that. And of course all of this is before the stress of stalling a hungry baby while we heated milk, which seemed especially silly since I was in the next room literally full of the fresh, preheated version. And even once we got it going, he was so not impressed. Cue more crying and the eventual unhooking of the nursing bra to solve the problem.
But I still needed and wanted some time to do grown up stuff, so I had to find some ways to make it work without bottles. Here’s how I did it.
1) Mark the calendar
The first thing I did was remind myself that the season of my baby’s constant need for me was short. By the time I really started to feel the need for some time away he was already halfway to starting solids. (I know everyone’s threshold is different though). The solid food stage is great for two reasons:
First, it’s a whole new opportunity to introduce mommy-milk in a cup or bottle. So if your little one didn’t drink the Koolaid (in the non merderous-cult sense of course) the first time, don’t worry you get another chance.
The other thing that’s great about it is, even if they don’t eat much at a time, it’s still probably enough to prevent gnawing hunger pangs in the absence of your boobs, so you don’t need to worry so much about bottle acceptance.
2) Max out those intervals
When you think about it, there’s actually a lot you can do in the 2 hour window between feeds. You can get a hair cut, read a couple of chapters of a book, or sit in a bath until your toes prune and the water turns cold. There are lots of options. So really, the key is to max out those intervals. To assist this, my doula gave me a great piece of advice: “top up”. Even though you (hopefully!) feed on cue, you can always offer a breast just before you go out. If they don’t want it, they won’t latch. If they latch, you just bought yourself a longer interval so go max it out!
3) Attach and go
This may not be true for every woman, but I really never craved the absence of my babies, rather what I wanted was the addition of adult-oriented activities into my day. Attachment parenting tools and practices really facilitated that. Thanks to babywearing, I’ve been able to go to movies, pubs, weddings and conferences without having to leave baby home with a bottle and babysitter or sit alone in the corner guarding a car seat. Since we parent our kids to sleep, we also know that we can have an unusually late night, or go on vacation without spending a week afterwards getting back onto a book-prescribed evening regimen. I’ve had my doses of intelligent conversation (or not, depending on the adult I’m speaking with!) and adventure without having to do the bottle thing.
4) Make it a family affair
When all of the above tactics failed what we did was have Mr Fair (or an alternate caregiver) come along for the “mommy’s time” ride. The instances that are springing to mind here are the postpartum clothes shopping trips. Believe me, that’s a task no woman can accomplish in under 2 hours and if you figure out how to try on tops with a sleeping baby strapped to you please let me know. I could have put it off, but who wants to look like a deflated balloon in too-big clothes for the better part of a year? So we packed up the fam and hit to the mall together. Dad took charge of the baby, and I got to peruse the racks in peace, looking for clothes to fit my new rack. When feeding time hit, we’d grab a bench and I’d do my booby duty, then go back to my shopping time.
So if your kid isn’t into the bottle thing, try not to sweat it. There are ways to still have an adult life, you just need to get a bit creative.
Veteran mammas, what were your tricks for fitting in me time?