Oliver has been hitting the bottle hard lately, often consuming up to five drinks in a single day. What started as a harmless recreational habit has morphed into a full-blown, wake mommy and daddy up in the middle of the night screaming for more addiction. And as his sleep deprived, I’ll do anything to get you to go back to sleep mother, I often give in to his demands.
For the longest time I told myself it wasn’t that big of a deal—he’ll grow out of it eventually, right? At twelve months old, that white lie was somewhat believable. At eighteen months old, it’s morphed into straight-up denial.
Since admitting the problem is the first step toward solving it, I’ll say it. Oliver is a bottleaholic. And I, his mother, am his bottle-wielding dealer.
A few weeks ago, my husband and I came close to weaning Oliver off the bottle for good. After scouring the internet for weaning advice, we made a valiant one-hour stand, replacing his milk bottle with a cute, animal-adorned sippy cup, but were met with so much screaming that we decided it was easier to shamefully facilitate his addiction than intervene.
If you think the mother-child bond is strong, it’s nothing compared to the level of attachment Oliver has for his bottle. If that thing could also cook his lunch and change his diaper, I’m pretty sure I’d be out of a job.
After our first failure, I began searching for other like-minded, bottle-feeding mommies. Sitting in bed at night, my computer perched on my lap, I would read a message board comment to my husband. “See, this lady said her kid is five and still drinks out of a bottle.” Or my favorite, “this person says that your baby is only a baby for a short while and we shouldn’t be so quick to make him grow up.”
Meanwhile, Oliver’s dependency on his bottle just got worse. Shortly after recovering from his month-long illness, which in a previous post I fondly referred to as Coldmagedon 2014, he started to demand his bottle more and more, especially in the middle of the night.
A few nights ago, as I lay in bed on the brink of tears, listening to Oliver cry for what must have been the thousandth time that night (no exaggeration on that number), I thought to myself, so this is what it feels like to hit rock bottom. But then I remembered the other half at that expression—you can only go up from here. I’ll amend that to say at least it can’t get worse, because at the moment I wasn’t really sure how it was going to get better.
The next morning my husband and I mutually decided that we were going to go cold-turkey on the bottles. We were just done. No amount of screaming, hitting, kicking, whimpering, whining, or cute little scrunchy faces was going to get us to change our minds. I gathered all the bottles, tucked them away in Oliver’s closet, and drove to Babies R’ Us where I proceeded to clear the store out of every sippy cup style they had to offer.
When I handed Oliver his milk-filled sippy cup later that day, he looked at me like I was handing him a cup of poison and angrily pushed the cup away.
“But Oliver,” I said in my sweetest, most nurturing voice possible, “this is a special big boy cup just for you. Yum. Yum. Yum.” I pretended to take a sip.
Oliver grabbed the cup, screamed, and threw it on the floor. I grabbed sippy cup model number two and tried again. Then number three. Then number four. And so on until the kitchen floor became a mine field of sippy cups waiting to spew their milky contents from their questionably “spill-proof” lids.
After freaking out about Oliver’s hydration level, calcium and protein intake, caloric needs, and my inability to comfort the screaming being in front of me, I did the only thing I could. I decided to give it time. I’d give Oliver a week to adjust to his new bottleless existence and then reassess.
The following week felt like a scene from a bad Western film—Oliver and I facing off, guns drawn, waiting for the other person to flinch. Neither of us was willing to surrender. By week’s end, with no progress made beyond a couple sips he took one day during a moment of weakness, we called a stalemate. I wasn’t willing to give him a bottle. He wasn’t willing to drink milk out of anything other than a bottle.
And who can blame him really? This was the first real loss his 18-month-old self had really experienced in life, or at least the first one he was cognizant of.
The interesting thing about weaning Oliver is that in the end, it was a lot less stressful than I imagined it to be. Yes, there was some screaming. Yes, there were tears. Yes, there were some nights he probably went to bed a little thirsty. But at week’s end he was still a happy, thriving toddler. In fact, he was a toddler that was eating more actual food, waking up less at night, and having a lot less digestive issues. And here I thought I’d be dealing with a starving kid who would never ever sleep again without his trusty bottle.
Could it be I was more attached than him?
Maybe Oliver will eventually waive the white flag and drink milk from a cup. Maybe he won’t. Luckily for me, I’ve come to realize that milk isn’t the Holy Grail of toddler nutrition, and I can still meet all his nutritional needs with a balanced diet.
For now I’m counting this as a success! Goodness knows I’ll need this win under my belt when round two, mommy versus binky begins.
For those wishing to replicate my weaning tactics, I give you my 12-step program.
The 12 Steps
1) Admit your child is a bottle-aholic!
2) Admit your child is a bottle-aholic because you facilitated it.
3) Sulk for a few weeks and deny the problem.
4) Allow the problem to get worse.
5) Scour the internet for ways to wean your child.
6) Fail at your weak first attempt to kick the habit.
7) Become overwhelmed and scour the internet for other people to commiserate with.
8) Allow the problem to get worse.
9) Hit rock bottom.
10) Go cold-turkey.
10b) (Added per my husband’s request) Spend an entire day telling your husband you aren’t giving him bottles while you secretly give him bottles because weaning is hard. Feel guilty about lying, come clean, and actually go cold-turkey the following day.
11) Live through a week of tantrums, but stand your ground.
12) Celebrate! Your child is no longer a bottle-aholic
After completing the 12-step program:
1) Kick yourself for not going cold turkey to begin with.
2) Realize your child has a bunch of other bad habits your should work on breaking.
3) Return to sulking and denying—let’s deal with one thing at a time.