It is not a good feeling to have your baby’s doctor look at you and say, “No weight gain in a week … ” I know this now to be a very unsettling, upsetting thing to hear.
It was Thursday, and just that morning my mom and boys had taken off for their 10-day adventure up in Washington. I was looking forward to some alone time with Connor, to relax, rest and get to know this newest Little Guy.
But also on that day, we were to go to a follow-up appointment. He was 10-days old and even though I was hoping for a quick and simple appointment, I was worried about his weight. I knew he was still tiny … I knew that there was something not quite right with his weight going into this appointment. After he was weighed, my heart sunk. Between then and a week prior he’d actually lost weight, going from 7 lb 2 oz down to about 7 lb. His doctor (who is mine as well) remained calm and encouraging saying that it was okay, that we’d figure out what was going on, and we’d get him going in the right direction. But my hormonal mama-bear instincts were ready to erupt in an outpouring of emotion and tears and questions. “Don’t worry… ” she said, but she’s seen me through pretty hard times and after staring at me for a moment added, “You’re going to worry, aren’t you?”
“Yep,” I said. “I already do, constantly.”
Three days prior, I’d taken Connor in for a repeat bilirubin test because I felt like his skin was just getting more and more yellow, his poos were green, and he was super-duper sleepy. The test did show jaundice but not at a high enough level to warrant going under the lights, so I was told to just keep feeding him a lot and that it would eventually flush itself out.
The tricky thing about that is that a jaundice baby is so very sleepy that it can make them a very pokey eater, making it really challenging to get in enough food to both flush out the jaundice and to make the baby grow and thrive. Connor was not growing and despite was his sweet little smile would tell you, he wasn’t thriving either.
Let’s back up a little further.
I went into this life with another newborn a bit arrogantly I realize now. “Nope, I don’t need to watch the video about newborns” I told the nurses … they agreed … “This is your fourth … not your first rodeo!” they said. “Nope, I don’t need you to watch me nurse” I told the lactation specialist … she asked, “Did you nurse your other babies?” “Yes,” I said … “my 3rd nursed for nearly 2 years…” So, she let me be and left me with some info which I tucked away, sure I wouldn’t need it.
I’d nursed all 3 of my boys with no complications at all … if anything, I had more than enough milk and they ate to their little stomachs’ content, never needing a bottle or supplement (except Kaden when he was a preemie in the NICU). So, I never gave a second thought to whether or not nursing would ‘work’ this time around.
Enter the jaundice and maybe the fact that Connor was a teeny bit early being born in the 37th week. Enter in my distractions and ‘business’ of trying to stay active in my family’s life and all the coming and going of events and appointments. Enter in finally having a baby that liked to sleep and probably occasionally savoring that too much and letting him go a little too long between feedings. Enter in the fact that really … I’m a new mom all over again. Three babies don’t mean much when there is a 7 year gap between the 4th.
Fast forward back to his 10-day follow-up then. Our doctor told me to contact the lactation specialists at the hospital and to return on Monday for a weigh in and then on Thursday for another follow-up. After I left her office I went right to the pharmacy and got some Mother’s Milk Tea, called Lactation and left a message and then drove home with crocodile tears impairing my vision.
I felt so stupid … I felt like I’d been starving my baby.
Thankfully, even though it was after hours, Lactation called me shortly after I got home and we scheduled an appointment for the next afternoon. I proceeded to try to nurse Connor for the rest of the evening but with my eyes opened now to know that we had a nursing issue on our hands, I saw that he slept and pretend nursed a lot of the time. I’d mess with his feet, undress him, change his diaper but as soon as he’d latch on, he was off into a comfy dreamland.
Frantic to just know that he was getting something into his belly, Matt went to the store to get some formula. While he was gone, the boys called from my parents’ house and I couldn’t even handle the conversation because I was such a wreck. Poor, sweet boys … to be 300 miles away from me and hearing me in that state, they were so worried and I couldn’t even pretend to be okay for their sake. After hanging up, I just bawled. I missed them and I was starving my baby and I was failing at the one thing that I figured would actually come easily.
Matt came back with some Similac bottles and all my care about having an exclusively breastfed baby screeched to a halt as I watched him down a 2oz bottle of formula. He was so hungry! And afterward, he was so content. None of the rooting and fussing that we’d had after every feeding over the past week. As defeated as I felt, I also felt so happy knowing he had a full tummy. Finally.
But still … I thought we’d been doing okay with feedings so the irrational me started wondering if there was something else going on, preventing him from gaining. Preventing him from thriving.
The next day, Matt and I took Connor to our Lactation Appointment where our consultant weighed him in only a clean diaper before and after I’ve nursed him. The issue became apparent … sweet boy only got 10ml from each side. He needed a total of about 90 at this point. He was only barely getting enough to sustain him, but not nearly enough to grow him.
This lactation consultant was amazing. She was so attentive and patient and so very reassuring. She told me of her own struggles with this exact same thing with her 10th child, and with that told me not to blame myself. “If I, a lactation nurse could experience this with my 10th child, it can happen to anyone!” she told me. She told me nothing had been done to harm my sweet boy… that he would bounce back and out of this, that he would thrive and grow, and that we’d get on track with nursing.
I left that appointment feeling encouraged and hopeful. And also with a new plan of attack for feedings. I’d nurse for 15 minutes on each side, then give him 2 oz of supplement (I had some pumped breast milk at home already, but we also did have to do a few more Similac bottles) and then pump. Every 3 hours. The goal at this point, I was told, was to build up my milk supply and to make sure he was fed adequately. This would in turn flush out the jaundice, increase his awake time and strength and therefore improve his efficiency at nursing. Bing, bang, boom.
So, that’s what we’ve been doing for 2 weeks now. The jaundice seems to have moved out, he’s awake more, and is having the ‘right’ poops. He quickly gained 4 oz (going from 6lb 13 oz at the lactation appointment to 7lb 2 oz 4 days later) and then put on another 4 oz between Monday and Wednesday! I’m eating lots of steel-cut oats and flax seed as that’s supposed to bolster milk supply and also drinking over 100 oz of water a day.
Having the boys gone during this time was really such a blessing. I found myself missing them terribly, but at the same time it was so helpful to be able to be completely focused on this schedule with Connor, being able to relax as much as possible (being stressed impacts milk supply, evidently) and also to be able to not worry about being discrete when nursing or pumping!
At this point, I’m pumping with a double electronic pump just a few times a day, and getting about 5 oz total, which is a huge improvement from where I started. I’m still needing to give Connor pumped milk after he nurses, though, so I’m still not totally sure why he’s not getting all he needs directly from me (since I know it is there since I pump it out right afterward) or how exactly we’ll get to the point when he can. I’d love to be able to store away the pump and be done with needing it, but I’m going to keep on keeping on with it until I get the go ahead from my Lactation consultant.
And even then, I may still continue to pump every now and again, because as precious as it is to be the one nursing and feeding my baby, is is extremely precious to watch this going on …
… and pretty handy to be able to bring along a pumped bottle when we’re out and about just in case Connor gets hungry. I’m thankful to find little positives like that, and to have a husband that reminds me of the little bit of ‘freedom’ this gives me. None of our other boys would take a bottle so that sort of bound me to them for a year and a half to 2 years. He reminded me that I can go out on little individual dates with the big boys if I want, leaving Connor and the others with him and a bottle. ♥ You can imagine how that touching offer made me cry. 😉