Our new neighbors have a little boy a couple days younger than Lioness. The first time they saw Lioness drinking her bottle, the mom said, “look at you go girl, drinking your bottle like a champ! Lucky Mama! My son still won’t take a bottle and nurses all night long.”
It is the first time anyone has ever been jealous of my feeding situation. I didn’t know how to respond. Our neighbor did not know the whole story. It has taken us 9 months to get to this point. Feeding this kid has been a full-time job.
The first 6 months, I spent about 4 hours a day (or 25-30 hours a week) feeding the baby.
I also pumped milk 7-8 times a day. That’s about 25 hours a week. Fortunately I am skilled in time-management and multitasking. Sometimes fed the baby while making milk, so I probably kept the “milk time” down to less than 40 hours a week. That way I had some free time to feed myself and my toddler. Not to mention, clean my house once in a while.
When Lioness was 6 months old, we dropped the midnight milk party. That used to take 1 and 1/2 hours, so it was pretty nice to start sleeping though the night! No more getting up in the middle of the night to set up and milk pump, and warm a bottle. Trying to guess if the baby would just drink an ounce and go back to sleep, or drink 4 ounces and be angry when the milk was gone. She still wakes up really early, maybe once week. But I put her in bed next to me, and she goes back to sleep till it’s actually morning.
For the past three months, I only make milk 5 times a day! The baby is too grabby to sit on my lap, so I use 3 of those times to spoon feed the baby. I spend an additional 1 and 1/2 hours a day feeding her bottle. That comes to 4 hours a day, which is still 28 hours a week of “milk time.” But it feels a lot less time-consuming than it used to be.
Now lets talk about the process of feeding the baby.
For the first few days Lioness was on a feeding tube in the NICU. Then we spent 3 weeks using the habberman bottle. That took intense focus, watching the baby’s pattern of suck-swallow-breath, suck-swallow-breath. Squeezing the bottle to shoot milk in her mouth as she was sucking, and not while she was trying to breath.
At one month old, we switched to the Dr Brown’s bottle, with a special pressurized valve. Now the baby was in control of shooting milk into her mouth every time she bites down on the bottle nipple. Feeding went great for about a month.
We realized, due to Lioness bitting the bottle nipple, those wear out and then she has a hard time eating. For optimal feeding she needs two new bottle nipples every 7-10 days. Which means we have been through about 60 bottle nipples, which is a $70 investment. That is not counting the cost of bottles, milk storage bags, and all the other milk-related items.
At 2 months old, Lioness caught a cold and coughed till she puked for a week. She wasn’t gaining weight, so we had to add a scoop of formula to her bottles. After much research, I bought organic goat-milk formula. But it gave her diaoreah, which is counter-productive for weight-gain. I stopped using formula, but she had gotten used to drinking thicker milk, so now she had issues choking on normal milk.
Thus began the ridiculous “avocado milk” experiment. I figured out the perfect ratio was 1/2 cup avocado blended with 8oz of milk, spread out into 1 ice cube tray. Then thaw 3 “avocado cubes” per 8oz bottle of milk. I had to pour the milk through a mesh strainer. Because sometimes there were little pieces of avocado which would get stuck in the bottle valve making it impossible for the baby to get milk out.
When Lioness was 6 and 1/2 months old, she finally started using a normal bottle (no pressurized valve) filled with just mama’s milk. Now life was really great! For the past 3 months, feeding has been going well. As long as I heat the bottle to the perfect temperature of slightly warmer than room temperature. We even stopped having weekly weight-check appointments. Although we still weigh her monthly and have PT and Speech therapy once a month. So we still have appointments 3 out of 4 Thursdays a month.
I had been hoping to make and freeze enough extra milk in the first 6-7 months. So I could quit eventually pumping and she’d have enough milk to last until after her cleft-palate surgery (at 12 or 13 months). I did fill the chest freezer with milk. However, Lioness didn’t like the flavor or consistency weirdness which happens when milk is frozen and thawed. But after a couple months of mixing fresh with frozen, I finally have her drinking just frozen milk.
According to my mathematical calculations, if I keep making milk at least 4 times a day, plus all the milk in the freezer, we should have enough milk to last until just after her first birthday. At which point, she’ll have cleft-palate surgery and then she can eat finger foods!
Lioness finally started holding her own bottle, which is pretty exciting! Now she can feed her starving self while I make breakfast for my starving toddler! So yes, look at her go, drinking her bottle like a champ!