As I mentioned a couple posts ago, I was fascinated reading over my posts from when Jacob was about the age Carter is now, and recalling how the weaning process went back then. It was obviously a very different scenario than where we are right now. Back then I was over a year into nursing, getting to the end of having to pump at work and slowly dropping feedings. We had supplemented a bit with formula all along once Jacob started daycare, and that's what he had at mealtime later on, as well. We started transitioning him over to milk right when he turned one, and in general things were very smooth and pretty natural. It was actually a pretty great experience overall.
This time around we've got about 10 months and dozens of cans of expensive formula under our belts in the formula feeding world. It's been a very different experience, and while I appreciated breastfeeding the first time around, I do think formula feeding was far less stressful for me, in so many ways. Yes, I cringed every time I hit "Submit" on another Target.com order for four cans of formula, but I'm thankful I haven't spent the last 10 months battling my body or awkwardly hiding from Jacob or trying to time things just so. That's not to say I wouldn't have gladly done it again had going dairy-free not been such a challenge (ironic, though, considering the big change we had a few months later...but thank goodness I'm not juggling both!), but in this instance it worked out fine.
However, this time things feel decidedly less natural (surprise!) and I feel like I have no idea how to wean. To be fair, there are certain complications this time around. First, knowing for sure that Carter had a cow's milk protein intolerance has made transitioning much more of a process. For a while I was convinced he was having similar reactions to dairy as he was to rice, but whether that was just circumstances (stomach bug, congestion causing ill-timed coughing fits, reflux--all leading to large spit-ups) or a legitimate issue that has since gone away, I'm not sure. So finding the right time to test out dairy took a lot longer and involved a lot more courage. Even now we're dealing with some insecurity. Earlier this week, Carter threw up a little two nights in a row after his night bottle. I was concerned yet again that he was reacting to the milk I was putting in his bottle, but in the end it appears it was because Wegmans didn't flavor his nightly reflux medicine. It's a note in their system but apparently easy to pass over. He used to fight me on it all the time, but in the couple months since we've been getting it flavored, apparently he's acquired a complete aversion to it. It made him gag, which then primed him to throw up later. Since we took it back and got it flavored he's been fine, so I guess that was it. Bullet dodged, for sure.
Another issue is that Carter is already awfully skinny. He's tall (nearly 29.75 inches--50th percentile) but he's thin (17 lbs. 12 oz. - between the 5th and 10th percentile), and I worry about any changes causing him to lose weight. Everything in my head is saying, "More calories!" but around this age the goal is usually to start dropping feedings and replacing it with table food. But based on what I can get in his mouth in an average table food meal vs. a bottle feeding, I feel like he's going to be missing out. I know kids eat when they're hungry, but Jacob never really cared much about food and could probably go much longer without eating than would be wise. Carter has generally been much better with eating, though the last few days have been a challenge. I'm not sure if he's getting sick of the same foods, or if something else is bothering him, like his molars or, again--God forbid--the whole milk I've been putting in his bottles. Perhaps his birthday cake spoiled him forever and steamed veggies just don't cut it! But prior to this week, he'd been amazing. He loves meat, ate most veggies that I put in front of him, and could probably down as many pieces of cereal or yogurt melts as I could offer. I gave him yogurt last Saturday, too, and he downed the entire thing in a few minutes. I couldn't shovel it in fast enough. Of course, he refused the exact same stuff on Monday, so again, no idea what's happening there.
We've made some headway this week on having him drink milk at mealtimes, but he is still having trouble with the angle he has to hold the sippy cup. I may try a straw cup, but I'm not sure if he'll pick that up, either. I know he still loves his bottles, and I swear he just wants to do it that way more than anything.
One of the funny things that I realized while reading my old posts is that nursing provided a lot more motivation to stop than bottle feeding. Right now the big drawback of bottle feeding is washing bottles each night. But with nursing, stopping brought the prospect of being done with lugging around my pump, not having to wash pump parts AND bottles each night, and getting my body back for real. Normal bras, normal birth control, and no more engorgement. All of that was much more enticing. Finishing up nursing and bottle feeding both bring an end to a special bond. Even though bottle feeding isn't quite as intimate as nursing, I still love my nightly snuggle with Carter as he drinks his bottle. I love how eager he is to eat and how he holds his own bottle, and I worry about how much he will miss his bottles when we try to transition away from them. In both cases the night feeding will probably be the last to go, but this time around weaning off of the other ones is really vexing me a bit because he loves them so much.
I have noticed lately that he doesn't always want to drink his full bottle. Often he will leave an ounce or two behind, which almost never used to happen. So that tells me that he's slowly transitioning into needing less at a sitting. That's fine, but again, I worry about withholding enough nourishment from him overall, and I just don't feel like I'm equipped with the right combination of volume, variety, and nutrition for him to replace the milk. Now that we're mostly past baby-specific foods I don't feel so oppressed by the rice intolerance, but then again, I'm still forced to make him separate dinners from us because most of what we eat has rice due to the gluten-free limitations we have. So instead of being able to use our dinners as inspiration for giving him new things, I feel like I have a very specific group of foods he can eat and we're sort of stuck there until the rice intolerance passes. I really wish we could test it out, but I can't willingly make him sick. Not yet, at least.
Anyway, it's just amazing to me how different this process is this time around, for so many reasons. I've said from the beginning how different my two kids are, and this is no exception. While I don't exactly love our limitations this time around, and contrary to how this post probably sounds, I think I'm still taking things in stride pretty well. I guess I figure we'll get there eventually because these sorts of things always seem to work themselves out. Even if it's not exactly at the best time, we will get there when we're all ready. Every kid is different, and Carter will get there in the end, even if he takes a much different path than his brother. I won't miss the formula itself, nor the bottle washing every night, but life will never be the same once our nighttime snuggle feeding gives way to a big boy bedtime. Sigh.