There really are pros and cons when your baby refuses a bottle or pacifier. At 18 months old, I appreciate not having my daughter reliant on a binky or paci to comfort her. It is freeing not to worry about whether or not she dropped it on the ground, or having her scream when she can’t find it. I in no way am putting down the moms who do have babies using pacifiers, in fact, I often wished mine did!
The moment we returned home with our newborn, she took well to breastfeeding. I was still a bit leery of possible nipple confusion, so I kept the bottle and pacifier away as suggested for 4 weeks. Looking back, that was probably too long. By the time we attempted to introduce either of those elements, Ladybug absolutely refused. She only wanted the breast and no trick in the book would change that. As time went on, this became increasingly frustrating as it halted my independence, and return to the working world. I was fortunate to have employers (I had multiple jobs to return to) that welcomed baby with open arms. She’d come along to the office with me and I was able to nurse her on demand. That worked well for a bit, although it was hard to focus on work tasks when I had to break every hour or so to nurse and change Ladybug. But all of that is another story for another day. The point is, I was never able to get away from my baby girl for longer than an hour or so which made for schedule conflicts and one stressed out, overworked mommy.
After reading and speaking with our pediatrician, we decided to skip the bottle concept and try a sippy cup. Obviously, a standard sippy cup was a bit too advanced for my then 3 month old, so I found a transition sippy which seemed to be a good alternative. The spout somewhat resembled a nipple, yet wasn’t close enough to try and fool Ladybug. She still had to suck to retrieve milk, and there were handles which she enjoyed playing with. So finally we had found a solution…or had we? Although she would drink from the cup, she wouldn’t equate it with comfort and eventually treated it more as a chew toy. And oddly enough, I found that she preferred formula to breast milk in her cup. Perhaps this was her way of distinguishing between meal and comfort, I’m still not sure. So while we had this option for daily intervals, it still wasn’t a solution at nap or bedtime where mom was the only milk and comfort source.
By about 6 months, I had just kind of learned to accept this as the norm. I planned functions and daily events around Ladybug’s feedings and ultimately had to become a pro at public nursing. I even resigned from one of my jobs because it became too stressful and inconvenient with baby in tow. It seemed that this was just how it would be and I figured that maybe by the time she was eating more table foods it would change. But of course, my daughter was not and still isn’t a good eater. And by that, I mean she is highly sensitive and picky with solids making breast milk her preferred source of nutrition. Giving in and nursing often felt natural and healthy for her, especially given the circumstances. However, I was beginning to feel completely tied down and just plain sad. I needed freedom!
Shortly after Ladybug’s first birthday, things began to change. She had a few teeth now and was given the “okay” from her pediatrician to eat pretty much anything. So my husband and I introduced several foods and found a few favorites. Once we established solid meals, her nursing sessions were fewer and far between and she took to her sippy cups much better. Only one problem remained, the nursing to sleep. I knew I had to change this, but how? The thought of never getting out for a date night with my husband or even getting a simple night off when I’m ill made for a excellent motivation. The need to not ween, but get her to a place where she could self soothe would free me up here and there. So I started reading up on various “sleep training” methods, and have slowly began the process.
Present day, I can say we have made so much progress, yet have a few more hurdles ahead. I am not one to let my girl cry it out and I feel that because she is already 18 months old, that may be too stressful for her. So I plan to continue to work without a bottle, paci or breast and get this little darling to sleep independently. I hope you mommas out there in my shoes can take comfort in knowing that there are other babies out there who have self-soothing issues and may be sensitive to anything other than mommy. You are not alone! And things will get better. Routine, age and research seem to be the keys to a low-stress solution. But I won’t know for sure until my sweet girl is able to lull herself to sleep without mommy. And selfishly, a huge part of me will miss being her one and only.