“If she won’t take the medicine with a syringe, try putting it in the bottle. Some babies will chug it, because they’re hungry”, the kind lady at the hospital told us prior to discharge. She went over all the instructions on how to care for our baby who was now officially being treated for cluster seizures. our sweet girl had been through enough. We were ready to go home.
In the next couple of days, we found giving our baby medication 2 times a day was very challenging. She would block the medicine with her tongue and would cry. If she could just understand this is for her good, I thought. Out of desperation, we followed the recommendation and placed the medicine in the bottle. She didn’t go for it. Then, we tried mixing it with milk. Then, more milk. Then, chocolate milk. Nothing. We ended up having to still give her the medication via syringe, but now we had a new problem: she would no longer take a bottle. She no longer trusted her bottle and was too smart to be fooled. This was a big problem for a 9 month old that was so petite that she wasn’t even on the growth chart. And a problem for a baby whose mom had to work part time.
Everything was fine when I was home. But feeding her when I was at work became like trying to solve the Rubik’s Cube in the dark. She was taking the saying “breast is best” a bit too far. We consulted her doctors, who reassured us to not panic and that she’ll eat if she’s hungry. We tried everything they suggested and even ideas of our own: different family members feeding her, tried both formula and breast milk, bought new expensive bottles with the large nipples, tried various sippy cups that looked nothing like bottles. I even tried doing the switcheroo. You know, where you, in the middle of nursing, try to have baby unlatch and then latch to the bottle. Nope. She would push the bottle away in her sleep and continue nursing.
Then, I thought of a great idea. I will slowly expose her to bottle feeding until she’s no longer turned off from the bottle. If it works for phobias, systematic desensitization has to work with a baby terrified of drinking from her bottle. I got this! I gave her the bottle nipples without the bottle attached to play with. Overtime, success. Then, gave her the nipple with the ring attached. After a while, success. Then, attached it to an empty bottle. Success. “Look, she’s happy with her bottle”, patting myself on the back. I’m one bad mama. As soon as a little milk went in it, she would push it away and not go near it. Attempt after attempt. She would not go for it. Systematic desensitization fail. She would not forget her betrayal.
In the meantime, I was driving home on breaks just to nurse her and was spreading out my work schedule even more throughout the week. Talk about anxiety knowing your baby is probably hungry but only wants you. And you’re not home. We introduced more baby cereal and baby food, which wasn’t her favorite, but she was willing to eat some from a spoon. Other than that, she would wait until she heard my voice when I got home. Right when she would sense my presence came the hysterics. Talk about working mom guilt! “If I could only stay home!”, I cried.
Out of desperation, my husband thought of his great idea. It was no therapy technique I’ve ever studied and definitely not in any text book I’ve ever read. He took his T-shirt and cut a hole big enough for the nipple of her bottle to go through. “Hey, if it works for Mom, it’s got to work for Dad”, he thought. He got the milk ready, placed the bottle in his t-shirt, brought baby up to his chest, and she started to happily drink her milk. Success. He was on his way to being hailed Dad Of The Year. The Superest Superdad There Ever Was. That was until the bottle suddenly slipped through the hole and freaked our baby girl out, causing her to be even more disgusted by her bottle. At least, he gave it a shot.
This story would have ended nicely if Superdad swept in and saved the day. But sometimes in the world of parenting, we try everything, and things don’t quite resolve so easily. We aren’t handed a book with all the answers, but we end up writing the book and write a different one for each child. Sometimes, we just have to hang in there, creatively use our resources, and be patient. And just hope and pray. We cannot demand that our children just get with the program, because sometimes they don’t understand the program. Instead of expecting our children to rise up to our level of understanding, we have to kindly reach down to their level and lovingly see life from their point of view. She eventually warmed back up to the bottle and took every feeding while I was gone. I took away from that experience some priceless lessons I’ll never forget: never ever mess with a baby’s bottle, and I’m a much better parent than I think I am.