Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Crying Over Spilled Milk

Sorry to leave you all hanging! I do have a birth story I'm working on, but am waiting for some final touches (aka pictures). So in the meantime, I shall relate to you the last week or so of our new lives.

Keeping you healthy

Our little guy was born at a healthy 7lbs 4oz. He was perfect, healthy, and happy. Everyone tells you breastfeeding is about the hardest thing in the world. Immediately after he was put on my chest, I knew we were ready to start the journey.

Here's the thing about hospitals: they are terrible, awful places. You are constantly interrupted by nurses pushing on your stomach with all their might, poking the baby with needles and cold thermometers, and there is a constant beeping coming from other patients using their call buttons. Not to mention the fact that our hospital was under major renovation during our banging and pounding all day. I have a few prego friends who read this blog, so ladies don't forget to pack ear plugs for you and dad/coaches in your hospital bag!

The other thing about hospitals is that they are these wonderful, magical places. A fantasy land where nurses change your baby's dirty diaper for you. You have consant access to help with breastfeeding. Nurses swaddle your little one tightly and keep him/her warm and comfortable. If you need a break for a shower, someone is always there and willing to watch your baby. This is so easy! We were ready to take our baby out into the world and bring him home!

Until Day 2.

On Day 2 babies have serious tummy issues. Their stomachs have been filled with amniotic fluid and mom has been providing all nutrition for 9 months (or in my case 10 months). When you start introducing foods, it is no wonder their little tummies start acting up. Not to mention the fact that colostrum (first milk before the actual breast milk comes in) has a laxative effect. On day 2, Little Everett was so sick and fussy that I couldn't get him to eat ANYTHING. The poor little guy was so famished that my heart was breaking. He was crying and fussy all day, and by 9:00pm Jeff and I were upset ourselves. I put water on a pacifier and put it in his mouth over and over again because his little mouth was dry as a bone. The pediatrician in the hospital gave us a bit of formula for "just in case" moments, and we made the executive decision to give him an ounce or so. I was afraid he would not want to drink out of a bottle. However, my little Piglet drank up the liquid willingly and immediately calmed down. My heart skipped a beat!

"Jeff, is this why people give up on breastfeeding?"

My hungry little guy at the end of Day 2. Is your heart breaking yet?

The next morning we had our first checkup with the pediatrcian. She weighed him and was immediatly concerned. He was obviously dehydrated: not urinating, dry mouth, jaundiced, had red liquid instead of urine (they call this chalk dust urine). On top of that he had lost 11% of his birth weight (10% is when doctors start getting concerned). In addition, immediately after delivery, all my pregnancy symptoms went away (YAY!). This included my attrocious appetite. Not only was Everett not getting enough nutrition, but neither was I getting enough to make feeding a success. I won't complain about a doctor telling me to eat more so...We were instructed that after each feeding, we needed to feed him an extra ounce to get him back up to birth weight. This meant I was either to pump or offer formula after every breastfeeding session.

Okay, so I guess I need to start pumping immediately! Since there need to be 8-10 feedings in a day, here is what my schedule looked like:
  • Breastfeed Everett
  • Change his diaper
  • Offer 1oz of pumped milk
  • Pump breasts
  • Frantically get something to feed myself while Everett sleeps
  • Clean pump parts and bottles
  • Go to the bathroom (if there's time)
  • Wake up Everett and change his diaper
  • Start over again
Sleep when your baby is sleeping? Sure.

Now let's talk about pumping. Since my milk hadn't come in, I could only get an ounce or so of colostrum during each pump. After 20 minutes of humiliating work, this was immediately used during the next feeding. There is nothing worse than sitting up by yourself in the middle of the night pumping, thinking to yourself how inadequate of a mother you are because you cannot give your baby what he needs, the pump shouting at you "let-down. let-down. let-down. let-down. let-down." I wish my milk would let down!

After a couple days on this schedule, Everett started getting used to how easy it is to take a bottle. He got fussy at each feeding. Whenever I tried to latch him on, he would kick his legs and flail his arms around, knocking off my nipple shield (google it if you want to know) and screaming at the top of his lungs. My middle-of-the-night pumping sessions turned into me sitting on the couch alone with the sound of "latch-on. latch-on. latch-on. latch-on. latch-on." Our patience and sanity quickly started to deteriorate.

When my milk finally came in, I was incredibly excited because this meant I only had to pump twice a day rather than after every feeding. But Everett was still incredibly fussy when I tried to latch him. He wiggled out of his swaddle, pounded himself in the face with his fists, and scratched at my chest with his little nails. With the pump on a higher setting I began to hear "wig-gle-worm. wig-gle-worm. wig-gle-worm. wig-gle-worm. wig-gle-worm."

After a week of all this, I can assure you it HAS gotten easier. I've consulted with 2 lactation specialists since we left the hospital, kept on the schedule diligently, and worked hard to show Everett that my titties are a happy place. We are quickly getting to know each other. He likes being swaddled, but likes his hands to be free. He likes it when I hold his bottom close to my chest while he's feeding. He does better during night feedings if I let him wake me up to eat, and not the other way around. He loves being cuddled and feeling my skin against his. Now about 50%-75% of our feedings are a resounding success. Still not good enough odds to risk nursing in public, but definitely an improvement. At his second weigh-in, his condition improved markedly. The pediatrician suggested we continue our current schedule for at least another week (dammit!), and told us to keep up the good work. So in week 2, we can focus on keeping Piglet happy.

Despite the hard work, I never really minded all the sacrifices we made over this last week. I would do anything for Everett, including fighting a battle to give him what he needs and deserves.

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