I had planned on weaning my son from the bottle roughly around the time of my death. I took a bottle until I was 2.5, and my husband thinks he may have had one until he was 4. We are both fine–why wouldn’t we be? What magic wand waved on our first birthdays made one of his and my favorite activities suddenly harmful?
I loved his bottle. He loved his bottle. He liked to fondle it while muttering it’s name (Baba, obviously). He like to talk about it, stroke it, and think about it. I loved when he cuddled in my arms, waking up for the morning or from a nap in a half-dazed state with the bottle in his mouth. I love the snuggling and the closeness, the mutual bliss. Stroking his hair and face as he eats, his look of utter contentment, the smell of the coconut milk and almond milk blend we use now that he’s outgrown the worst smelling hypoallergenic formula ever–I loved all of it.
I was talking to another mom during daycare pickup a few weeks ago and we agreed we were going to keep our kids on the bottle as long as possible. We’d both given up breastfeeding after our maternity leaves (I had to go on a medicine that rendered my meager breastmilk risky) and we didn’t see breastfeeding mothers being forced to end THEIR nutritious cuddling. It was terrible enough that we had to stop breastfeeding–now just because our kids were over 1, we were going to have to stop bottle feeding too? The pediatrician said it was bad for his teeth–but we brushed his teeth, how bad could it be?
At the baby’s one year checkup, the pediatrician said we should start to wean him off the bottle. “Oh, OK.” I said, not having cemented my feelings about bottle feeding forever yet. We kept returning to the pediatrician in the upcoming weeks. “He might be able to give it up, but I don’t think I am,” I said, when asked why there was still a bottle in my hand, and a baby chanting its name (along with the name of Elmo–one day I will understand how my kid found out about Elmo in a house without a TV, but in the meantime, I am mystified).
One Thursday night the baby was particularly clingy, and my husband left to run an errand without preparing the post-bath bottle. “I can put you down to make a bottle, or I can just hug you and stroke your back,” I said to the baby. He wrapped his arms around me and fell almost instantly asleep.
He whimpered and cried throughout the night and woke up wretchedly miserable. The sight of his morning toast spread with jam and cut into triangles made him scream (admittedly, due to his food allergies it was gluten free bread–but still, not scream-worthy). The pediatrician on duty the next morning told us his ear infection hadn’t been killed by the 10 day course of antibiotics that he’d previously had, and it was time to bring out the second line of antibiotics. She said the bottle was likely not helping his ears. I finally saw a reason to wean him off the bottle that made sense to me.
A month and an antibiotic shot later my son’s ear is once again infected (and as I write this, mine feel like they are too, and I haven’t drunk from a bottle in years), but he is off the bottle for good. I gave him his last two bottles on a trip to New York City–he stopped drinking both halfway through and shared the remainder with his stuffed Elmo. He agrees with me that it’s very nice to cradle those we love and feed them–he just thinks Elmo is the baby in our household. Fortunately, Elmo’s ears are in excellent shape and he has no teeth to worry about, so this seems like a fine plan. Maybe the baby will let me hug him sometimes while he cradles Elmo?