When did it become a rule that once a child turns a year old, giving them formula from a bottle is frowned upon? We recently celebrated our daughter's 1 year birthday. And before I even had time to absorb the fact that our baby is now a 1-year-old (I mean, where the hell did that first year go?), I was being encouraged to stop giving her the bottle. Immediately.
I had planned to breastfeed my child for at least six months. I had actually hoped to be one of those moms who could breastfeed for a full year, although I questioned my level of dedication at being able to stick with it for that long. I know I would've felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment and pride if I had been able to do so. But then the whole cancer-chemotherapy thing got in the way.
Fortunately, I found a milk donor who was able to provide donor breastmilk for the first three month's of Maggie's life. As a supplement to the donor milk, and as her primary source of sustenance once we stopped receiving donor breastmilk, we gave our daughter formula in a bottle.
As our daughter has gotten older and started eating baby food, then table food, the amount of formula she takes in a day has lessened. She has gone from taking 32 or so ounces of formula in a day to maybe 16 ounces. But she still takes a bottle at night before bed, and usually one in the afternoon when we pick her up from daycare.
From the beginning, we provided her teachers at Montessori daycare with bottles and formula to give Maggie throughout the day as appropriate. We noticed that as she ate more table food, the amount of formula she consumed during the day declined. But she would still take a few ounces a couple of times during the day as a supplement to solid food.
When we took our daughter to the pediatrician for her one-year check-up, her doctor told us that she'd like to see Maggie weaned off of formula and the bottle by her 15-month check-up. The reasons she gave were that, now that Maggie has a few (six, to be exact) teeth, a bottle was not great for her teeth, nor was falling asleep after immediately consuming formula (without brushing her teeth). Although it seemed like a big step, this made sense to us.
She also said that she felt it was time to gradually introduce into Maggie's diet some form of milk as a replacement for formula. (We're opting for goat's milk rather than cow's milk, because we feel it's easier for humans to digest.) Again, this made sense. I felt a bit of melancholy at the thought of our little girl passing such a big milestone, but I was glad we had three months for all of us to adjust to the change. I could handle it.
Then, at school the following week, Maggie's teacher (whom we love, by the way) very kindly and gently told us that, now that she was 1, they were going to stop giving her the bottle at school. "What you do at home is your business," she said, "but we're going to stop giving them to her here."
Now, I'd be lying if I said this didn't create some anxiety for me. The thought of my daughter being denied a bottle before she was ready was unsettling. I also didn't like the idea of anyone telling us how and when we would wean our daughter. After all, some moms choose to breastfeed their children long past a year, right? And no one tells them what to do.
More than a week has passed since the conversation with the teacher, and we've had time to better process the information. I've spoken with other moms and done my own research. What I now realize is that Maggie already began the weaning process, on her own. And once I brought goat's milk to school for Maggie instead of formula, there were no problems. Her daily report simply notated "milk" instead of "formula". The transition, very fortunately, has been relatively seamless. If she had a problem with it, it would be a different story.
We still give her bottles at night and sometimes in the morning. But we're noticing that she is less interested in them and often tosses them aside. We also notice that she usually seems just as happy with a cup or a glass.
So maybe I was the one who had the problem with the idea of weaning. After all, if my child doesn't mind, why should I?
I don't ever want to hold back my child because I'm not ready for her to move forward. I want her to be able to progress on her own, with no hindrances from me. It all just goes by so quickly, sometimes I want it to slow down. But above all else, I want my child to thrive and succeed.
I know she won't be a baby forever. But she'll always be my baby.
Images via Mark Montgomery