Farewell, bottles

Lina has hit a major new milestone. We just marked one week of absolutely no bottles. She is drinking all her fluids from straw and sippy cups.

Infant feedings were painful with both my babies. Corin has his own story of excruciatingly difficult feedings and nearly a full year of exclusive pumping so he could enjoy the benefits of breast milk. Lina started out pretty well with breastfeeding but didn’t have the oral muscle tone to get what she needed. Even the bottle was a long, hard struggle. You may remember the anguish of trying to find a bottle she would take, and then the many, many months of difficult feedings where she leaked out as much milk as she took in (again, poor oral muscle tone). I once more found myself tethered to that loathsome but necessary pump. We jury-rigged latex nipples to make them faster-flow as she got older, and then those got old and stretched out and we jury-rigged some more, until all of a sudden she would take the silicone Avent bottles we’d used with Corin, and life got easier. Then began the LONG process of introducing about two dozen different types of sippy cups. We saw a feeding therapist a couple times, but Lina really just needed time and practice.

Ultimately, she has been successful with the exact same cups Corin preferred – the Munchkin straw cups and the Avent soft spout cups with the no-spill valve removed. At first, she made a huge mess drinking from them. We would have to hold a towel under her chin to avoid soaking her entire body. But in the last few weeks, those oral muscles have strengthened, the coordination came together, and she is drinking milk and water with very little spillage. She holds the cup herself and handles the whole thing like a pro (except for that whole throwing the cup thing).

The last step was figuring out how to deliver her thyroid medication. It had always gone in her morning bottle, and my finicky girl won’t eat applesauce or yogurt. Thanks to a great suggestion from grandma, we tried mixing it into a little pudding, and wa-lah – farewell, bottles.

As she cruises around the house behind her push toy, I’m realizing that my baby is very quickly disappearing. There has been something nice about her babyhood taking a little slower pace, but it may have lulled me into forgetting that she really is growing up so fast. She will be turning two in exactly a month. TWO!! She is fiercely independent, on the go and into everything. A few days ago, she discovered she can remove the HVAC vent covers and stuff things down the vents. I pulled several shoes out of the duct yesterday. This is unlikely to end well. But then she crawls to me, pulls up on my legs, puts her arms up, and wraps her arms tight around my neck as I hold her close, and I almost stop breathing to better savor the feeling.

And so goes the parental dance, celebrating the milestones with pride while mourning the loss of a little one who is every day a little bigger and a little more independent.

Although, I’m not going to lie: I don’t miss those bottles.

Driven to the bottle(s)

After a series of stressful and frustrating experimentations, it appears we have finally found a bottle that works for Lina. To be clear, she still leaks milk out of her  mouth as she drinks – a LOT of milk. It’s something we’ll be talking about with the early intervention teacher at our first therapy appointment this week. (It is thoroughly depressing to see her burp cloths soaked in my hard-won breast milk. Not to mention the laundry!) But we at least have her off the disposable nipples they sent home from the NICU, and she is able to latch appropriately onto the bottle and get enough to sustain steady weight gain. She is now just over 9 lb.

So, in case it’s helpful to anyone facing similar issues, here are the bottles we tried:

  • Disposable Similac regular flow nipples from the NICU (which we washed and reused for a good 5 or 6 weeks), paired with the Medela pump milk collection bottles – These latex-type nipples worked great for the first several weeks, but as she got bigger and stronger, the flow was much too slow. Feedings were taking an hour, and she was getting frustrated and tired trying to get the milk out of the one tiny hole. These nipples are not made in any other flow level. We tried poking larger holes in them with a heated needle but could not seem to get the size right and worried a bit about continuing to use what were supposed to be disposable nipples.
  • Dr. Brown’s glass bottles with newborn flow nipples – The shape is the same as the Similac nipples, but these are silicone rather than latex. She has refused these and any other silicone nipples. The texture seems to really throw her off.
  • Avent bottles (which Corin used) – Silicone nipples again, and a less familiar shape. Soundly rejected.
  • Playtex Nurser with Drop-Ins – This system can be used with either silicone or latex nipples. We tried both the slow and fast flow latex options. She did better with them than any of the silicone nipples, but these were extremely soft and a different shape than what she was used to, and she did not seem to latch onto them effectively. She had some okay feedings but was inconsistent and would have some really terrible ones, as well. We gave up on these after a few days.
  • Gerber First Essentials bottles and latex three-hole nipples – FINALLY, the solution. They are identical in shape to the disposable Similac nipples, so she latched great and took to them right away. The flow is some faster but not too fast, and feedings are down to an average of about 30 -35 minutes. Bonus: They are cheap! Three 5 oz. bottles were about $5 or $6 at Wal-Mart, and a pack of six latex nipples was maybe $3. Also, these are a standard size, so the nipples also fit on the Medela milk collection bottles and a couple of random glass Evenflo bottles we had on hand. Only downside: They do not seem to make the latex nipples in a fast flow, so I’m not sure what we’ll do if/when she outgrows the medium flow.

It was a difficult process, but thankfully we have something that seems to be working, and she is gaining weight steadily. We give her about 4 1/2 to 5 oz. six (occasionally seven) times a day. She is sleeping 5-7 hours at night. We have a pediatrician appointment on Wednesday, so hopefully he’ll be happy with her weight gain.