Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Magic Blue Cup: bottling the baby

The little bottles that couldn't
Yesterday, I escaped. 

I ditched the pajama pants, handed the baby to my husband, and ran away to the hairdressing salon for the first time in nearly seven months for a rescue haircut with the works.

An entree of chit chat and gossip mags and coffee. A generous main course  cut and colour, moisture treatment, and a divine curly blow wave. A dessert plate of eyebrow wax and shaping in the beauty room, and a handful of lollipops to go. Delish.

The adventure was as restorative for the soul as it was for the split ends, and washed away the lingering remnants of banana smoosh and several months of frump and frizz and fuzz. 

I've been hanging out to go the hairdressers since Buggy was born. Despite having missed the fashion gene (and the makeup gene, and the cooking gene, and the ironing gene ...) I fell hard for the girly universe of the hairdressing salon long ago. There's something about the combination of spritzed hairspray, trash mags and the roar of the hairdryer that works for my particular soul.

Over the past five and a half months I have spent several of my nine spare minutes staring despondently at my decaying and fraying mane in the mirror, dreaming of breaking out of the laundry and eloping to the salon. 

But for almost all of those five and a half months, there has been a significant road block firmly planted (and growing roots) between my house and the hairdressers: the baby's obstinate refusal to take a bottle.

This roadblock has been intensely frustrating, for all the usual reasons, and because it came on the back of Buggy's initial obstinate refusal to breastfeed

After finally conquering her newborn breastfeeding demons, Bug became an impressive and thirsty little breastfeeder who would feed anywhere, anyhow, anytime. I even fed her with great success standing up in a packed family pub during the Sunday afternoon band session.

Thinking we had finally cracked the elusive code and worked out the feeding caper, I allowed myself to relax into breastfeeding. I stopped timing feeds like an Olympic hopeful during a morning train session, and started to tune in more to the baby herself. 

It was going swimmingly, until - and isn't there always an until moment floating around in the mummy universe - I decided to express some milk and give her a bottle so I could go out for an hour or two. Nope, no, totally not happening. There was writhing and squirming and spitting, but not even the remotest flicker of a suck. 

Holding the full bottle in bewilderment, the truth dawned hard and fast on this weary mummy: as Buggy's familiarity with breastfeeding had grown, her interest in drinking from the bottle had completely diminished.

Now, don't get me wrong. I think breastfeeding is great. My daughter and I worked damn hard to make breastfeeding work, and getting to a stage where we could feed comfortably was one of the biggest and boldest achievements of my personal life to date. Breastfeeding is healthy and cost effective and comforting, and delivers a mother-daughter bond I never even imagined possible.

That said, though, breastfeeding does not allow you to pop out for a counter lunch or go to town for a romantic anniversary dinner with heels and a few sauvignon blancs. It does not allow you to get shitfaced at a rock concert, or drink copious mugs of coffee, or take a necessary course of antibiotics without instigating a serious university level research project and smothering yourself in yoghurt. Or go the hairdressers sans baby. 

I know there are millions of women across the world and across the ages who have, and do, and will, exclusively breastfeed. Some through necessity, some through want, and many through a combination of both. These women are strong and incredible and awesomely awe-inspiring, and they possess more superpowers than Spiderman, Catwoman, Inspector Gadget, Dr Who and Astroboy combined (and for this child of the 80's, that is the ultimate accolade!)

I wish I had those superpowers, I really do. But I just don't. In order to preserve my sanity, I need to be able to take a break from breastfeeding every so often. I need to be able to sleep in once every now and then, be able to go out to grown-up places with grown-up people and have grown-up conversations, and be able to take a few hours here and there to just be myself and do some 'me' things while Buggy hangs out with her Dad.

There is also this mummy sense buried inside me that needs to know that there is backup, so that if worst comes to worst and I get tangled up with disaster or illness or serious misfortune, my baby will be able to pick up a bottle or a sippy cup and keep on going and growing without me.

So, you can see, Buggy's cool disengagement with the bottle had quite an abrupt impact on my mumdays. In the space of just that one failed bottle, I realised that my backup had fallen out the window and 'me' time had retreated to the corner to lick its wounds and feel sorry for itself.

And so began Operation Bottle the Baby, an intensive and mummy-draining fight against bottle apathy. We have purchased enough bottles to build and float our own family-sized raft, but we still ain't floating anywhere on the bottle sea.

The array is quite mind boggling: large and petite, short and tall, angled and curved, latex and silicone, slow and fast, expensive and economical, long teat and wide teat, clear and frosted, coloured and plain, anti-colic and standard.

Then there are the sippy cups: handles and sans handles, soft spout and hard spout, spill and non-spill, valve and free-flow, small and super-sized, single spout and three-sixty degree valves, round mouthpiece and rectangular mouthpiece, upright and angled hold, generic and branded.

We've also tangoed with open cups, big and small and a Babushka style line up in-between. We have had a smidgen of cup success, but it's slow going and there are only so many times a day you can wipe down the baby and change her outfit before you realise you're on a road to nowhere. 

We've tried using a spoon/food device traditionally used for baby mush to pour milk into her mouth (which was funny but not necessarily fun) and we've tried using a straw cup designed for toddlers.  We've tried plastic food pouches with hard plastic spouts, and even bowls in place of cups. 

After nearly four months of banging our heads against the proverbial wall, my husband and I reached a point last week where we were very close to giving up on the baby ever taking anything but the boob. Then, while we were teetering on the cusp of giving up and reappropriating the bottle collection into a fort on the lounge room floor, we chanced upon the magic blue cup. 

This magical drinking device looks like most other plastic sippy cups in my kitchen draw and available on the contemporary market (and trust me, I should know!) Cylindrical body, chunky handles, screw top lid, hard plastic spout. Your usual, run of the mill, milk-carting-and-hopefully-sipping container. 

But for some inexplicable reason, this little cup works for our exasperated little family. The baby not only likes to pick it up and play with it, but she also likes to drink from it - in that regard, it's miraculous! Buggy obviously sees something that we mere adults don't, but she's not giving away the secret just yet. And while I would dearly love to know what she sees, I'm just happy that she does. 

Of course, magic doesn't necessarily equal instantaneous perfection. We have some fine-tuning to do, and there is still a great deal of stylistic drinking flair and hand-to-mouth aiming to be acquired. Plus there are still moments when Buggy mistakes the spout for a teething toy and chews, chews, chews like her life depends on it. 

Perfection can come later. I'm just happy that the baby can drink from a cup some of the time, my husband can feed his daughter, and I can get a blow wave and some lollipops every six to eight weeks again. That's magic. 

M x

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