They say that nature has induced all women with selective amnesia. Which is why all the aches and pains of pregnancy, labor, delivery and raising an infant are so easily and so quickly forgotten and the only thing that we remember are all the precious joyful moments about having a little baby. Which is why after a few years pass, we are all ready to have another baby all over again! Well, I ain't complaining at all coz inspite of all the aches and pains, having and raising a little baby is truly a pleasure beyond any other in my opinion. Agreed you have days when you are ready to pull your hair out and wonder what in the world were you thinking before giving birth to this little monster ;) But when that "little tiny monster" looks into your eyes and throws one of their lovely smiles, all the frustration is gone and your heart just melts.
Anyway...I digress. The intention of this post is for me to document a few key milestones before my amnesia sets in and all of those first few months are a blur. I am noticing that is already happening when my friends who are new mommies call me with questions and I cannot seem to give them exact details inspite of me just having gone through this a year ago. Strange isn't it? Is it pregnancy induced stupidity (which apparently lasts forever) or is it this natural amnesia setting in that makes you forget all the sleepless nights and all the endless research we did on issues that now seem mundane such as nipple confusion, baby acne, nursing positions, storing breast milk, etc.
So, before amnesia sets in, here I go with a few basic questions I have been asked lately and a few general items that might slip my mind later...
Q. When did I switch my little one from breast milk to formula?
A. The first time we gave her formula was when she was 9.5 months old and that was because we were flying with her for the first time ever and I wanted to be able to give her the bottle in the flight. Storing and preparing formula was much more convenient in the journey and during our stay at Detroit (we were visiting my friend N for a long weekend) so I got her to taste and get used to formula. Although it turned out that the amount of breast milk I carried with me to the trip was sufficient enough and I did not have to pump at all that weekend. Which reminds me that the pumping session I did just before leaving home to board that Detroit flight was the last time I pumped. And even I didn't know that would be my last expressing of bm when I was doing it. Strange na? In any case, when I started formula, I gave her a bottle of 1/4 formula and 3/4 bm to get her used to the taste. Gradually in a week or two, I decreased the amount of bm and increased the amount of formula in the bottle until she got used to the new taste.
Q. How and when did my little one wean off completely from nursing?
A. As explained above, my baby was pretty much weaned during the day when she was around 11 months or so. She did get breast milk through a bottle though from the packets I stored for her in the freezer until around 10.5 months or so. The only time she would nurse from me was at nights to go to bed and when she woke up due to hunger and needed my milk and my comfort to go back to sleep. Since I had stopped pumping at 9.5 months, I reduced my nursing sessions to only nights. I must mention here that nature is a beautiful thing - it only produces the amount of milk that is being consumed. So I still had milk supply to fulfill her night time sessions. I wanted to continue this through our big move to India to make it a little easier on her through this transition...and I am glad I did coz she needed this comfort (and the antibodies that bm provides) to adjust to all the travel and the new life here in India. Once we were finally settled in our new home in Bangalore (N was 13 months then), I started cutting down on the night time feeding frequency too. So I gave her a bottle to go to bed and only nursed when she woke up during the night. Gradually when she was around 14.5 months, I realized that the amount of milk she got through nursing when she woke up at nights was not enough to put her back to sleep. So she was still getting up hungry and crying after the nursing session too. And that is when I brought it to a complete stop and chose to give her a bottle of cow's milk at nights too. By this time she was already off formula and on cow's milk during the day. So this is how I weaned my little precious off breast milk and off nursing.
Q. When did I start her on a bottle? My baby does not take the bottle at all.
A. We were constantly told by our pediatricians and lactation consultants to introduce a bottle at the right age - any earlier and they might have nipple confusion and any later and they risk a chance of bottle aversion (preferring the breast and refusing the bottle). So we were told to start introducing the bottle between 4-6 weeks of age once breastfeeding is well established.
Q. How and when did you get her to sleep through the night without her waking for milk in between?
A. We had missed the boat on teaching the baby to sleep through the night before they learn to sit up by letting them "cry it out". This is mostly on purpose since we just did not believe a little one needs to go through so much grief and trauma to sleep. In any case, now that she was old enough to stand up and always needed a bottle of milk to go back to sleep, one of the tips we were given at this age was to give them warm water instead of milk when they get up in the middle of the night. So when she was 14.5 months old, I had weaned her off completely from nursing. But she was getting up atleast twice in the night for milk and I would have to carry her to the kitchen, warm the bottle of milk and then feed it to her every night atleast twice. When I finally started to get tired of this routine at around 15 months or so, I started keeping a bottle of warm water by my bedside. And so at the 2am feeds, I gave her that instead of milk. Obviously she resisted, cried and was a little frustrated for a week but I did not give in. Even if that meant me rocking her for an hour to lull her back to sleep. I fought it through and sure enough after a week or so of this persistence, she decided its not worth it to get up for milk after all :-) So the only feed left was at 5am when I lovingly got up and gave her the bottle of milk. Around a month later when I learnt that milk at night can cause tooth decay in babies, I started the effort to wean her off the 5 am bottle as well. This was obviously not as easy as the 2 am one so instead of water, I gave her a bottle of 1/2 milk and 1/2 water. She hated that and refused it at times or had an ounce of it at times and went back to sleep. This effort is still ongoing so I will update you when I am done with it. But this is essentially the way that worked for me to encourage her to sleep through the night. I think the most helpful article that helped me work on this was the one in the book "What to Expect in the Toddler Years" where they do a great job of explaining how this is a vicious circle of demand and supply. Baby knows that if she demands, she will always get the supply of milk at night. So you have to basically break this circle by cutting down on supply - either gradually or cold turkey is up to you.
Q. My 1 year old baby eats veggies in khichdi but how do I make sure he is taking enough fruits in a day?
A. When N was 1 year old, I stopped steaming, blending and pureeing fruits for her. She enjoyed eating fruits as is. I used to cut and peel apple slices coz she did not like the peel and she ate them happily. Her grandpa used to peel orange slices, deseed them and even take out their inner peel and offer. She also ate pomegranate though I was scared of those seeds initially but she ended up loving pomegranate. We offered most fruits such as papaya, banana, grape halves etc. just as is - no stewing or anything. Like my pediatrician says, babies' preferences keep changing. So don't worry too much - just give him what they seems to like.
Will update with more FAQs as and when I remember...