Category Archives: bottle feeding

My Life in Sippy Cups

There are so many ways to measure life with a baby. The most obvious is in months, but then there’s also inches or pounds. I always liked to measure time by the number of teeth my wee one had, but with his last molar coming in, I guess that’s no longer really an option. Diaper size is always a good one, too. But until recently, I hadn’t considered that time could also be measured in ounces.

I was having having a stroller happy hour with my oldest-and-dearest friend and her 9-month-old baby girl a few weeks ago when the topic of sippy cups came up. We discussed everything from introducing the sippy cup to when to kill the bottle all together. Moms always want to know what brands other moms are using. So, of course, we debated the pros and cons of a number of sippy cup brands.

So, when I took stock of the past 15 months in PBA-free plastic, here’s what it looked like:

Sadly, this is not the full spectrum. I definitely experimented with a number of additional sippy cups, to include those with straws, caps, and even a Nuby one that had this weird but kind of cool lip spout. But these were the go-to sippy cups that I would more or less get psyched about when I opened the dishwasher and realized that they were clean.

A number of mommies asked me how I ended up deciding on a bottle brand. Fifteen months into this whole kid thing and I think back to how much I agonized over selecting a bottle brand. I read all sorts of reviews and finally settled on Avent. It was highly rated in the book Baby Bargains, mostly because it was PBA free; was supposedly proven to reduce gas, fussiness, and colic; came in 4-, 9-, and 11-ounce bottles; and was cheaper than Dr. Brown’s or Born Free bottles. (I’ll also add that they are a heck of a lot easier to clean than, say, Dr. Brown’s with that tube thing that runs down the center of the bottle.) The big drawback was that they have this separate seal piece that you need to make sure is inserted or the milk runs everywhere; however, they started making bottles that have a longer collar so they don’t need a seal, but you kind of have to look for them. (Hint: They have a slightly yellowish, medicinal hue to the bottle. Why? No idea. But they are awesome.)

And, as an aside, in case you were wondering, I never got higher than a 3 for nipple size, so I wouldn’t waste your money on a bunch of nipples, if I were a soon-to-be mommmy again.

Baby graduated from the 4-ouncer to the 9-ouncer somewhere around the five-month mark and then again to the 11-ouncer around the eight-month mark. I’m a little torn on how I feel about the 11-ounce bottles. By the time he was able to consumer a whole one, he was onto a first sippy cup, so I really only used the big bottles when I was trying to pack a lot of ounces relatively compactly. So, is the 11-ouncer necessary? Probably not. But it did make life a little easier from time to time.

Baby’s first sippy cup was a Munchkin Mighty Grip 8-ounce Trainer Cup. I’m not sure exactly why I picked that one over any other one. Maybe it was that it looked relatively simple but not cheap and didn’t have any sort of Dora or Cars designs on it. But this sippy cup was great. My wee one transitioned beautifully to it thanks to a super pliable spout. (I also tried the Munchkin Mighty Grip 10-ounce Flip Straw Cup, but it was a little advanced at the time and even now, despite the cool design, it’s not one of baby’s preferred cups.) The downer with this cup, however, is that if you are lazy–like me–and sometimes throw it in the dishwasher without totally taking the top apart, the spout piece can become misaligned and, yes, you will have milk all over the place.

Speaking of milk all over the place, at about 9 months, my kid figured out that because of the Munchkin trainer’s super bendy spout, if he pushed down on it, the milk would flow. All over him, all over the counter, all over the floor, all over the car seat, all over the car door–and that was lots of fun. Needless to say, I soon found myself on a mission to find a replacement.

During one of my mom’s visits around this time, she purchased a couple of Playtex Lil’ Gripper Spout Cups. Personally, I thought they looked cheap, even a little ghetto, and all I could think about was tampons when I saw them in the drawer. Baby hated them even more than I did. He’d scream and throw them on the floor. In retrospect, they were probably just a little too advanced for him at that stage; he couldn’t handle the totally hard spout and would get frustrated because he wasn’t getting his milk fast enough for his liking. So, because I would rather clean up spilled milk than have a mommy meltdown thanks to a hysterical baby, I dealt with the Munchkin messes for awhile after that.

It was about three more months before I tried the Playtex First Sipster. And once I had it, I wished I had found it months before because these cups are awesome. The drinking spout is the perfect combination of hard form and yet still has some squishy give when pressure is applied. The end result is a fantastic transition cup where baby can both learn to slurp milk into his mouth and also still bite down on the spout to release the milk, similar to a bottle. The bonus is that the spout is still rigid enough that there’s no squeeze-induced spillage. But spillage can occasionally still occur if the clear plastic seals on the inside of the top aren’t in their proper position. (I’ve found that out the hard way.)

It wasn’t long–just a matter of a few weeks–after I found the First Sipster that baby was able to handle the Lil’ Gripper once again, so that victory was a little short lived. But that was okay, in a way, too, because the First Sipster’s smaller size meant lots of refills for my thirsty one. And now, the Lil Gripper is really the sippy cup I reach for when we’re on the move.

But it’s clear that after this great search for the ultimate sippy cup, the sippy cup days are numbered. At 15-months, my wee one is happy to drink out of a cup when mealtime rolls around. I bought some of those First Years Take & Toss 10-ounce Straw Cups, mainly because I love the Take & Toss spoons, and they’ve worked out okay. My kid doesn’t really care for the straw other than to take it out and chuck it on the floor and the top doesn’t really prevent spills, so I just fill it up about a quarter of the way. He wraps his two mitts around the cup and goes for it while I stand at the ready with a paper towel for any misfires into the mouth.

While the end of the sippy cup era is in sight, I find I’m the one really not ready to give the sippy cup the old heave-ho. I absolutely need it to keep my car and my kitchen at least somewhat clean. But it is funny to take stock of how big a place ye olde sippy cup has had in my life over the past year and change. I would’ve never thought I’d care so much about a silly little cup.

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Filed under babies, bottle feeding, daily life, feeding, first year, food, formula, infants, sippy cups

When Your Kid Quits You Cold Turkey

Baby is going to turn one next week. It’s definitely cause for celebration, but part of me has been wishing it wouldn’t come so soon. I’ve been doing okay as a baby momma, but I don’t know about a toddler momma.

Aside from the bittersweet-ness of such milestones and my somewhat irrational fear of being unable to handle the challenges of a toddler, one of the things that I’ve been stressing about in hitting the 12-month mark is what to do about breastfeeding. Stop or keep going?

I never really pictured myself as a breastfeeding mommy. And I’d venture a guess that most of my family and friends are still shocked that I’ve lasted this long. I started out just wanting to make it to three months. Then three became six, six became nine, and all of a sudden I’m at the end of the year and still breastfeeding.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking more and more that I’m done. Not to mention that my husband is pretty much just weirded out by the idea of breastfeeding any longer; at 9 months, he thought baby looked too big and strangely out of place in my arms for a feeding. But more than that, I’ve been feeling like I want a little bit more of my life back. I’m tired of staying up an extra half hour at night (or worse, getting up a half hour early) to pump, traveling with a cooler, and always feeling self-conscious when nursing in public.

But I was also feeling a little sad and perhaps even guilty about stopping. Breastfeeding is not only such a healthy thing for the baby, but it’s such a special bond between baby and mommy. Nursing forces you to take the time to slow down and hold your baby close. And you can’t do that without always seeing your baby for the special little jewel that he (or she) is.

Turns out my anxiety over this was perhaps a little overblown because for as much as I was weighing my choices, I really didn’t have a choice in the matter. Last Friday baby up and decided he didn’t want to nurse and that was it. Dumped. Kicked to the curb. Dropped like a bad habit. For however many ways there are to say it, he was over me.

I’m not going to lie. My feelings were hurt.

I couldn’t believe that this was the end of breastfeeding road for baby and me. I tried for two days after that to get baby to nurse–unsuccessfully as it turned out. Baby was not going back on his decision no matter how tired, hungry, or upset he got in those two days. (I have to admit I admire his conviction.)

Maybe part of him knew that I was feeling ready, so he just decided to make things easy for me. I like thinking that, that we have been so in synch with each other that we were actually growing and changing together. But it’s also hard not to view it as a critical first step in his independence.

I keep thinking about something I read somewhere recently about how parental love is the only relationship where loving means growing apart rather than together. I wish I knew the exact quote because it’s so true. Being a parent means loving your kid enough to give them the skills and strength to go out and do their own thing. How simultaneously beautiful and heartbreaking is that irony?

And that’s why I can still manage to shed a couple of tears over the fact that I’m no longer a breastfeeding mommy, even though I was ready to quit in the first place.

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Filed under babies, bottle feeding, breastfeeding, daily life, emotions, feeding, first year, formula, infants, lactation, moms, nursing, parenting

Growing Up Foodie

Food, glorious, food. That pretty much sums up my take on eating.

Food is completely at the center of my family life. It’s not only what most of us spend our free time doing–we garden, we read food magazines and Web sites, and we watch foodie TV shows like “Iron Chef”–but it’s the reason we get together. From backyard barbecues and fish frys to Thanskgiving and Sunday dinners, bring the food and the family will show up. The act of designing, preparing, cooking, presenting, and sharing  a meal is our most comfortable expression of love.

So, given the starring role food plays in my family’s life, you can imagine how ecstatic I was when I took baby to the doctor for his four-month check up and he said I could start introducing solids–rice cereal, oatmeal, and a first fruit and veggie. Happy, happy, joy, joy!

Now, it might seem a little early, if you believe a lot of what you read. Lots of expert sources say to refrain from introducing solids until six months of age. But I really felt baby was ready. He’d more than doubled his birth weight–he’s pushing 18 pounds already–and if that rule of thumb wasn’t enough, he was definitely starting to get very interested in whatever I was eating. I caught him eyeballing an apple a few weeks ago with such desire that I held the gnawed-on core up to his face so he could smell it, if not get a little taste on his lips.

So, it was with much glee that I hit the solid food aisle in Target for baby’s first meal. What was it going to be? Plain old rice cereal? Oatmeal with bananas? Rice cereal with fruits? I wanted to buy them all, but I settled on two boxes–one big one of the plain old rice cereal and a smaller one of oatmeal with bananas.

Once home, I immediately put baby into his bouncer chair and I busted out a bib for its inaugural dirtying. While some mommy-friends suggested putting some cereal in a bottle at first, I decided to live a little dangerously and opt for a first spoon feeding.

Here’s the first-hand account of how it went:

It was so fun! And I couldn’t believe how quickly he caught on. After three feeding attempts, he pretty much got it (you’ll see clips from five feeding frenzies in the video). It was such an exciting moment that I found myself cheering, rather loudly as it would seem from the unedited versions of the video, when baby would take a big swallow or (better yet) actually grab my hand and try to pull the spoon into his mouth on his own.

I’ve never felt better about making a bigger deal out of a smaller thing.

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A Pig Pen in the Play Pen

Baby had his first play date the other day. Play might be a bit of an exaggeration. More like lie-on-a-Boppy-next-to-another-baby date. But it was fun, mostly because it was a chance for the moms to get out of the house, eat some spinach dip with pita chips, and vent.

But as the four of us moms snapped pics, laughed about how the kids looked like their dads, I had an awful realization: My kid is the dirty kid.

Look:

Mr. Un-clean

I guess I should have considered changing his outfit before the photo shoot rather than after. I didn’t realize it was so obviously bad.

Baby has always been a spitter-upper. My mom (and pretty much any other mom-like woman over the age of 60) is convinced he spits up because I give him a bottle cold. Like right-out-of-the-fridge cold. The pediatrician looked at me like I had 10 heads when I asked her if this was true. But even without doctor’s confirmation that it was indeed a motherhood myth, I knew cold milk was the unlikely root since he would spit up after nursing, too.

For whatever the reason, I can count on baby to make at least three wardrobe changes in a day because of spit up. (Diaper blow outs are another animal altogether.)

But as a mom, I have pretty much stopped noticing how nasty spitting up is. In my head, I know it’s gross, but it’s so expected now that I don’t even sweat it. I just make sure I have at least two cloths within arm’s reach at any time for mop up. And when I say cloths, I mean those flannel receiving blankets most people use to wrap up their kids; plain old burp cloths can’t really handle this kid’s volume.

My husband reminds me occasionally of how nasty it is by gagging like Vince Vaughn in the scene from the 2008 classic Four Christmases when a baby vomits on Reese Witherspoon. (As an aside, I highly recommend it for people like us who have divorced families; you’ll likely appreciate the humor more than those with unbroken families.) Here’s the clip, in case you haven’t seen it:

But it’s not until you see a picture of your kid like the one above that it really hits home. Now I worry that he’s going to evolve from the dirty baby at the play date to the dirty kid in school. God, I hope not.

But this baby is a magnet for dirt. Despite daily baths and constant trimming, it’s always a battle to keep his nails clean, for example. I mean, really, how do infants get dirt under their toenails? What’s it going to be like when he’s crawling? Do people start giving their kids multiple baths a day? That seems a little excessive.

But the one comfort I take is that he’s a boy. I don’t think many people really expect boys to stay clean very long, so maybe mine won’t look as exceptionally stained as he does today.

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Look, Mom, No Hands!

So, I’m into Week 3 of working out of the home office–a.k.a. my dining room table–and I feel like I might be embarking on a new career as an efficiency expert.

It’s a lot to juggle–an infant and a job–so I’ve got my mornings planned and organized right down to the minute so that I can take care of baby (and husband and animals) and get my work done. I know exactly in which order to do my morning tasks so that it takes less time to do them. For example, I always throw a load of laundry in the washer when I feed the cats or take the dog out for his walk through the back gate so I can take the recyclables and trash out.

So, in my quest for efficiency and efficacy, I started thinking about the time I spend pumping. This is usually a 30-minute, twice-a-day activity, during which I do nothing more strenuous than press the “next page” button on my Kindle. (Incidentally, the Kindle is the greatest thing to make the time pass when pumping or nursing; I’ve read more books in the past three months than in the past three years.) In addition to the Kindle, I generally have my Blackberry right next to me so I can check my e-mail. (I wasn’t kidding when I said I was all about efficiency.)

Now, responding to any messages with a more than a one-line answer  was a little awkward since I only could type with one hand. The other hand was basically useless because I needed it to hold the plastic flanges tight to my chest to keep the suction going.

That’s not bad multi-tasking, but I thought I could do better. So, I busted out this hands-free pumping contraption that a friend of mine gave me. She never used it, but thought I might give it a whirl. (I’m not sure if that says anything about me or not…)

At any rate, this thing is called the Pumpin’ Pal. First off, seriously? Who names these products? Ranks right up there with the My Brest Friend nursing pillow in that there’s nothing cute about the name or the product.

But I digress. Basically it’s made out of this cord-like material that reminds me of what older people attach to their bifocals so they don’t lose them. You pretty much put the cord around your neck and in cats-in-the-cradle-like fashion it attaches to a skinny, antennae-like flexible stick that holds the pump’s flanges place.

Or at least that’s what it’s supposed to do.

Let me say that my first attempts at using this thing were a little rough. My husband came downstairs one morning to find me at the dining room table with my shirt off and this thing twisted around my neck. I was hunched over with my forehead nearly on my keyboard, trying to get the flanges to stay suctioned so I could sit back with comfort and go through my inbox, as promised on the packaging.

It wasn’t a pretty start to the experiment, but I persevered and finally got to the point where I was more or less hands free. A piece of advice for soon-to-be and newbie pumpers looking to try this at home: The trick is to hold on to the flanges in the contraption until there’s about an ounce of milk in them; the milk gives them some weight, which helps them suction on for the long haul. Also sitting straight up and pushing your chest out definitely helps, too.

Although I finally achieved success with my Pumpin’ Pal, I started researching to find out if there were other hands-free aids that might be more secure. There are, but I don’t see them as any less disturbing than what I’ve got. It’s a case where fashion and function will never meet.

A Picture of Perfection?

Take for example, this model, pictured at left. Oh, to count the ways that this photo is perturbing. I saw this and was trying to imagine myself using this while trying to maintain a shred of professionalism. I mean, who would actually try to make or answer a phone call while pumping? The sound of the pump is more of a groan than a whisper, so there’s no doubt in my mind that the person on the other line could hear it doing its job in the background. (Curiously, the one I use sounds a little bit like the adults in the Charlie Brown cartoons–wanh whan, wanh wanh, wanh wanh…) How awkward would that be to explain?

“Excuse me, could you repeat the question? I didn’t hear you. There’s some background noise. Are you driving or at a coffee shop or something?”

“Uh, no, it’s just my breast pump. I’m multi-tasking.”

The other issue I have with the photo–besides the fact that the woman is also smiling–is her outfit. I don’t see any bra, camisole, or tank top scrunched up around her neck or pulled down around her waistband, where mine usually are when I’m pumping. So, this begs the question: Does she wear this thing under her sweater or does she just wear the sweater with  nothing underneath? Because the idea of leaving mom boobs unleashed might be as troublesome as the idea of wearing this thing as a full-time undergarment.

Of course, I’m not full time in an office anymore, so I probably shouldn’t really worry so much about the logistics of using one of these things when wearing anything nicer than jeans and a t-shirt. But probably more important, I should just come to grips with the fact that short of someone inventing a Bluetooth for boobs tomorrow, I’m going to have to just take a timeout from my to-do-list of a life if I need to pump. I was getting pretty good at one-handed typing anyway.

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The Bottomless Pit of a Baby: Part II

As a newbie mom, I have not stopped worrying about whether baby is getting enough to eat. This is of course ironic because I’ve got a baby that qualifies as a chunker on my hands.

Tomorrow baby turns three months old, and although I don’t know exactly how much he weighs, I know he’s a load. At last check–his two-month check-up–baby was encroaching on the 15-pound mark. And judging by how tight some of his onesies are across his belly, he’s not slowing down. A week ago I was amusing myself by doing shoulder raises with him and the next day (sadly) I was sore.

Whereas during his first few weeks of life, I stressed about whether I would produce milk period, these days I’m worrying about whether I will be able to keep up with the eating machine that is my son. So far so good, but every time I’m in the formula aisle at Target, I wonder if I should pick up some formula just in case. And then I think, “Just in case of what?” At this point, nothing seems to be broken, so why am I trying to fix it?

But there’s this little fear in the back of my mind that I’m not going to be able to keep up with his rapacious appetite. All it takes to remind me is watching baby suck down a 4 oz. bottle in what feels like record time. Left up to him, he’d prefer to take it in one fell gulp. At three months of age, my baby actually gets annoyed with me when I try to remove a bottle from his lips before it’s empty and he’s sucking air.

An Impulse Buy

So, the other day, I did it. I actually bought formula basically out of fear. I bought four 8 oz. cans of Enfamil Premium Lipil. What that means, I don’t know. All I know is that these cans were the only ones on the shelf that didn’t list high fructose corn syrup (or solids, which is even freakier) in the ingredients. (Two mommy-friends warned me about this; otherwise, I wouldn’t have even bothered to look.)

And even though they’ve been sitting in my pantry for the past week–and probably will sit there for many more weeks to come–somehow I feel better. I have no intention of using them, but there’s security in knowing that I’ve got back-up.

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The White Gold Rush

We’re nearing the end of World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1-7, so I figured it’s probably an appropriate show of support to post an update on how my own babe-to-boob experience is going. If it’s any indication, we now refer to breastmilk as white gold.

I’ve passed the two-month mark and as you might guess from my lack of recent posts on the subject, no news is good news. It was a bit stressful in the beginning because quite simply I didn’t know what I was doing. But it wasn’t too long–maybe a couple weeks–before I hit a stride that I was comfortable with.

For me, that meant going against everything I’d read and introducing a bottle early–like within the first week of bringing baby home. I felt kind of guilty about it for some crazy reason, but it wasn’t too long before I realized that pumping and bottling totally enhanced the quality of life for me with the wee one. I felt more mobile–all I needed was my mini cooler pack full of breast milk and I was good to go. And it felt like I got more free time (if there is such a thing once you have a kid) in between feedings where I could get essential tasks like paying bills, doing laundry, and getting myself together done.

The best I can figure on that one is that baby eats more from a bottle in a single sitting than from the boob and, therefore, sleeps a bit longer. In fact, I credit the two 4 0z. bottles that baby downs around 9pm every night for getting him to sleeping through the night. (As an aside, that’s been so wonderful. So wonderful that I’m afraid that it’s too good to be true. The thought of going backwards is really depressing.)

Now, just to clarify, I’m not pumping exclusively, although I’m fascinated by the couple of mommies who I know who’ve gone that route. (Sometimes pumping  feels so time consuming.) I still nurse, but only for a few–usually two or three–feedings a day. The rest of baby’s feedings are given by bottle because they’re given on the go, anywhere from a park bench to a parking lot. (Turns out having a baby hasn’t slowed me down much; I just carry more luggage.)

But the one thing that comes with pumping is a heightened sense of how precious whatever expressed milk you have is. The first time you open up the mini cooler to find out the top to one of your bottles wasn’t screwed on tightly sucks, plain and simple. You feel so cheated because you worked so hard to produce that milk and it’s gone but baby didn’t benefit from it. (You get the same feeling when you have to pump and dump, only it’s worse because you feel intentionally wasteful.)

And there’s always this worry that you won’t have enough bottles to keep baby satisfied while you’re running around doing your thing. That’s a real concern if grandma is babysitting, but it’s really not that big of a deal if you’re busy with baby; after all, you can still nurse at any time, even if you’d prefer not to in public. In the case of a wailing baby emergency, it’s nice that you’ve got that option.

For newbie moms considering going this route, here are a few things that I’ve learned that have totally helped me out:

  • Start early. So-called nipple confusion, the idea that baby will never take the breast once the bottle is introduced, is largely a farce. However, there is now more evidence that mommies can wait too long to introduce an artificial nipple, making for a rough go down the road. For me, I introduced the bottle very early and have found that my wee one goes from breast to bottle seemlessly.
  • Go slow flow.Milk comes out faster from a bottle than the boob, so you probably want to go with a slow-flow nipple that’s made especially for newborns. The slower flow best simulates breastfeeding, forcing the wee one to suck pretty hard. Not only is this good for developing the mouth muscles and reducing dribbles, but it helps babies switch from breast to bottle a little easier. However, you really

    Baby's Favorite Bottles

    need to check out the packages to make sure you’ve got the right nipple. For example, I use Avent bottles. (I love them, by the way; they’re PBA free, reasonably priced, and you can buy a converter kit that works with just about any pump, allowing you to pump directly into the bottle from which you’ll feed.) The newborn nipple is labeled with a 0+ versus a stage 1 nipple, which is good for 0 to 3 months. I’ve noticed similar labeling issues with other bottle manufacturers.

  • Pump en primero. This is by far the best piece of advice I can give pumping mommies–pump before you nurse not after. I had started experimenting with this technique when a friend of mine mentioned it as a great way of building up a milk supply, especially when returning to work. When I pumped after a feeding, I was able to get out maybe a couple of ounces per boob after what felt like forever. When I pump before I nurse, I end up with double that stored up in about the same amount of time. And baby’s not suffering for it. Turns out that babies are impressive little suckers and are able to out milk a breast pump. And if I was ever in doubt, I could check for a mini milk moustache on baby when nursing. (He never disappointed.)

Those are by far the best tips I can give any mommies going for the bottle in the near term, but I saw a few more in the article “Breast & Bottle” in the August issue of Parenting. Check it out here.

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