Monday, February 13, 2012

Cups: the new bottles

This morning, I've been packing up Baby Seal's teeny-tiny baby stuff to give to a friend-of-a-friend who is expecting twins. Oh, the little tiny shirts and babygrows (could she really have ever fitted inside those?). The Miracle Blanket I could never figure out how to use. The Japanese diaper covers that I innocently used with the tabs the wrong way round for the first month.

And then there were the bottles--unused, because these were the ones I had bought in a fit of desperation when she was three months old and had decided that bottles were evil. "Buy lots of different bottles and try them out," I was advised when I posted online for tips. I did. She refused to let any of them near her mouth. After a few sessions that felt more like attempts at waterboarding than anything else, I gave up, encouraged by online voices pointing out that you could spoonfeed breastmilk in the meantime, and that babies could take cups as early as six months. My mother, however, was dismayed when I said I was going straight to cups. "They don't drink as much from cups. And babies need to suck; it's a comfort thing for them." Hmmm... my baby seemed to find bottlefeeding more of a battleground than a comfort zone, but there you are...

Of course, babies being what they are, when I took Baby Seal back to my parents' place for a visit at 9 months old she found a dusty old bottle lying at the back of a drawer and started sucking on it, whereupon my mother filled it up with water and gave it to her. "Look, she's drinking from a bottle!" said my mother triumphantly. "Bit pointless now, though," I pointed out, since she was getting towards the age when you are supposed to be getting them off the bottle anyway. "Nonsense," said my mother. "Babies like bottles! Look at your sister's kids--they continued to have a bottle as part of the bedtime ritual till they were over two! I don't know why you girls nowadays seem to want to get rid of the bottles in such a hurry."

There does seem to be more a move nowadays towards nixing bottles early or skipping them altogether and moving to sippy cups within the first year--not necessarily out of dire necessity because baby is a bottle-hater, but as a choice among formula feeders and breastfeeders whose babies take bottles happily. I wonder why that is. Maybe sippies are better designed nowadays--the soft-spout ones, for example, are less intimidating to a younger baby. I suppose many parents are also attracted by the unspoken rule that you need to sterilize bottles but not sippies.

But perhaps another reason is the kind of vague stigma that seems to have attached itself to bottles in general. Take, for example, the bizarre outcry in New Zealand over All Black player Piri Wipu appearing in a public health advert in which he hed his six-month-old from a bottle; the fact that we don't even know what's in the bottle, the fact that men can't breastfeed, dammit, the fact that the baby was six months old and most breastfed babies that age are having at least the occasional bottle or sippy, didn't stop the NZ La Leche League spazzing over the fact that a (dum dum DAHHH) bottle was being shown in an advert.

There's no doubt that among some of the more extreme lactivist circles, bottles themselves seem to be regarded with deep suspicion, hedged about with lots of "Well, if you absolutely must abandon your precious infant to some boobless freak of a co-parent leave baby with your husband..." and talk about the wonders of cup-, syringe-, dropper-, finger- or spoon-feeding breastmilk into baby's mouth instead (the funny thing is that many of the same people who are adamantly opposed to spoonfeeding solid food are convinced that this is a superior way to administer breastmilk). All these methods certainly have a place as a temporary way to feed a baby while you are getting breastfeeding established, or as a last resort if your baby is convinced that bottles are instruments of torture (raises hand), but I've seen more than one lactivist advocate using these feeding methods long-term, as an alternative to the bottle. As someone who had to ask her long-suffering mother-in-law to mess around with spoon-feeding and cup-feeding breastmilk, all I can say is that the advantages of such methods can be overstated <Yours Truly pauses to black out hideous memories of her screaming baby thrashing about demonically and knocking containers of painstakingly expressed liquid gold all over the floor>. Can you imagine finding a non-family member willing to do this?

Of course, the inefficiency of such methods is probably the whole point, since the basic thinking of Jack Newman and his ilk seems to be that preferably your baby will be consuming almost nothing at daycare anyway, and making up for it by nursing all night long instead, but that's a subject for another post. Given that the Jack Newman page I linked to also suggests a movie theater for an ideal first outing with baby (good Gawd), and hints grimly that if your teenager is surly about spending time with the rest of the family it's probably because you left her with a babysitter and a bottle to go to a wedding or something when she was a few months old, I'll be taking his views with a pinch of salt.... and advising my new friend-of-a-friend that whatever feeding method she chooses for her twinsies, getting them used to a bottle early on is a good idea.

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