There are a lot of times I wish I had started this blog when Ava was much younger because experiences like these would have been fresh in my mind and writing about it would actually have been a great way to decompress from all the stress it caused me. I always knew that I wanted to breastfeed Ava, my goal was to do it for six months. As a new mom, I think I was so anxious about her nursing that I wanted to do everything right, we had some latch issues early on that were resolved by a lactation consultant (they even make house calls if necessary, just FYI). After my supply came in, Ava and I got into a good groove with nursing and I didn’t want to mess that up. I had read that you shouldn’t introduce a pacifier or a bottle before 4-6 weeks to prevent nipple confusion. I did pump a few times early on so that my mom could feed Ava when I had to leave the house, but she probably only had two bottles in her first six weeks of life and she didn’t seem to have a problem going back and forth. So, I carried on nursing her and didn’t bother with anymore bottles, just to be on the safe side. By six weeks, I figured I should maybe start having her take a bottle a day in preparation for my return to work (or so I thought). I had been pumping from about 3-4 weeks post-partum to build up a freezer supply. And guess what. She would not take a bottle. I kept trying and she wasn’t having it. The minute I put the bottle nipple in her mouth she wouldn’t even try to feed from it. I didn’t understand, she had done it twice before!
So our journey to getting Ava to take a bottle began. I think we bought every single bottle available on the market (yes, those are all the bottles we tried in the picture above). Including a bottle called the Mimijumi, which is legit shaped like a breast (as you can see, I’m not joking). I tried warming the milk, giving her freshly pumped milk, putting a little breastmilk on the nipple, latex nipples, silicone nipples, having M/my mom/his mom/etc. try to feed her. I started to get some anxiety because at the time I was expected to be going back to work in almost a month’s time, but how could I leave her if she wasn’t going to eat? I actually ended up extending my maternity leave by another month because I realized that this issue was not going to be resolved easily. I spent countless hours on the internet looking for answers. This is part of the reason I’m writing this post (at 3:43 AM, another night of insomnia), it wasn’t easy finding answers beyond the norm.
I’d finally stumbled upon a post on IBBM, or Intermittent Bottle By Mom. What you do is start off by nursing with a bottle ready at hand, then intermittently pausing the breastfeeding to offer the bottle. If the baby refuses, no biggie, if baby takes it then, awesome! I would do this a few times during each feeding, switching back and forth between breast and bottle until eventually she would actually suck on the bottle nipple. I did this with Ava for about a week, I think it kind of ‘tricked’ her into accepting the bottle because she was already into the ‘nursing rhythm’ so it was a smoother transition because she was already into the feeding. After a doing that daily for a week, I began offering her the bottle right away while she was still in the nursing position and she started to just feed. I was so thankful! It took a few more weeks before she was on the bottle full-time. For awhile I still had to feed her in the nursing/sidelying position because she would freak out if I tried to cradle her and feed her! But, eventually she came around to that too.
I always wonder if we had tried IBBM from the get-go if we would have saved ourselves all the money we wasted on trying every bottle on the market. We ended up using the Avent Classic bottles and they aren’t anything super fancy. It was definitely a journey with Ava through all her feeding issues (she also ended up having silent reflux which I talk about here), but we got through it. And now we have a super independent toddler who resists me feeding her every chance she gets. I should have known how headstrong Ava would be after seeing how resistant she was to the bottle!
I hope this post helps another stressed-out mom out there struggling to get her baby to accept the bottle. If you’re reading, I’ve been there and I promise, you’ll get through it. Even if this exact method isn’t the answer, in hindsight this debacle wasn’t as bad as it was in the moment and you will look back and laugh, especially when you start rooting through your cabinets looking for that baby bottle that’s shaped like a boob. I showed M and we laughed together about all the craziness of that time. I can’t believe I actually tried to feed Ava using that bottle! When you’re a desperate, sleep deprived mom, you’ll try anything. But before you go back to Babies R Us to look for the next bottle to test, try out the IBBM method first and see if you can save that cash for diapers.