Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Twelve Weeks =/= Suddenly Easy

Sorry for the lack of posts. I've had some discouraging days (and nights) and wanted to wait until I felt a little bit more positive before posting. However, in the interest of honesty for my daughter to read someday (or perhaps for me to look back and laugh?), here's what's been going on.

After Sunday's power-pumping day, I'm sad to say I haven't found the time to pump even once. On Tuesday, a nutritionist was the guest speaker at Healthy Beginnings, and she told us about a hundred times how important it was to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months. She emphasized how this would drastically improve baby's immune system and greatly reduce the chance of allergies. This all-or-nothing attitude really pisses me off because guess what, I blew the "exclusive" breastfeeding when Gwen was 10 days old and we started with the SNS. Maybe that was because I was a lazy mom who didn't care about my daughter's immune system? No wait, I remember, it was because she'd gotten the stupid Norovirus and was too tired to eat and had thus lost 9 ounces after birth and she needed formula to survive. Yeah, that was it.

Anyway, I came home from that feeling like crap because really, all any mother wants is to be able to provide for her child, and when you can't do that you already feel inadequate, and the last thing you need is someone putting Exclusive Breastfeeding on a pedestal like anyone who supplements is doing less than their best.

Weight Gain
Still not where it should be. I am now vigilant about weighing her twice a week, and she gained only half an ounce in five days (should have been between 3 and 8 ounces). That second weigh-in was on the same day as the nutritionist's talk at Healthy Beginnings so I really felt awful. I was totally being pulled in two directions: Gwen needs to eat (because she's not gaining weight) but she needs to eat breastmilk (because it's better than formula). So if she nursed and seemed satisfied I wouldn't offer a bottle, instead patting myself on the back and thinking I had managed to feed her adequately without compromising the Exclusive Breastfeeding mantra. Meanwhile she clearly wasn't getting enough because she was not gaining weight.

I will be the first to say: we are very, very lucky with Gwen's sleep. She has on occasion slept as long as 10 or 11 hours (very rarely!), and even when the nights are shorter she usually only wakes up once (Knock on ever-lovin' wood). The problem is getting her to sleep, which seems to be getting more difficult lately. She used to go down fairly easily, between 6 and 7pm, but nowadays we start putting her to bed at 7 and sometimes we are still rocking and shushing her by 10pm. She will drift off in our laps, we put her in the crib, and she sleeps for 20 minutes or so before waking up and crying, at which point we start all over. It's incredibly frustrating. I have been starting to really dread her bedtime. As soon as she wakes up from her afternoon nap, my stomach knots up and my body tenses in anticipation of the horrible evening ahead.

Chris noticed that when we kept her up later, say 9 or 10pm, she actually slept 7 or 8 hours, so for a couple of nights we kept her up late. But that makes my day as a mom horrifically long. I really look forward to the time when she goes to bed and I can be a wife or just an individual: having time with Chris, having time to myself, getting a few things done or just killing time on the web. (And let's not forget the damn pumping session.)

This may or may not tie in to the sleep issue. Gwen has been a lot fussier lately than she had been in her first 2.5 months of life (she is 12 weeks today). I had thought things were supposed to get easier at 3 months, so to have things getting harder instead seems doubly unfair. Anyway, she yowls like a cat being mutilated, with tears rolling down her face, her legs stiff as boards and her little tummy rock-hard. Here is a brief summary of advice I have received on this topic:

"It's gas. You should eliminate dairy from your diet/eliminate vegetables from your diet/track your diet and her screaming for a few days and figure out what's bugging her/give her Ovol/give her colic tablets/give her gripe water/stop giving her formula/change her formula/stop giving her Vitamin D/put up with it because it's a sign of an immature digestive system."

"It's colic. You should make her comfortable by massaging her tummy/trying reflexology/putting her on a vibrating mat/putting her in the swing/doing the flying angel hold/swaddling her/bouncing her/bending and bicycling her legs."
"It's just a stage. You can't solve it, so you should just put her somewhere safe and go somewhere that you can't hear the crying for at least 10 minutes every day."

(Bolded things, by the way, are the ones we have tried so far.)

So what are we doing about all these frustrating issues? I won't call these 'solutions', but they are perhaps 'survival mechanisms'. Gwen's survival, that is.

Weight Gain
Obviously I have to offer a bottle at every feeding, even if Gwen only takes a few sips. Formula is not so expensive that we can't afford to waste a bit of it, and she desperately needs to chunk out. I have people guessing her age at 6-8 weeks old, then when I say she's nearly 3 months they ask if she was a preemie. Bring on the formula.

After a lot of thought, I finally figured out what I want to do about this. I was getting exhausted trying to keep up with breastfeeding, pumping, and bottle feeding, and if I have to be more on top of offering her a bottle every time, something's got to go. For a while, it looked like the solution was to give up breastfeeding, but I'm not ready to do that. Finally, the solution revealed itself to me. A few months ago when I bought the pump, it was to ensure myself some freedom: so that I could go out for a couple of hours while Chris or his mom looked after Gwen. But as soon as the supply issue worsened, the pump instead became a cruel taskmaster, and I felt chained to it; trying to pump 3 or 4 times a day in order to increase supply, which completely took over my day and made me feel incredibly stressed about our daily routine. I need to go back to that feeling of freedom. From now on, I pump a few evenings a week and/or during Gwen's morning nap, just enough to ensure a couple feedings for me to get out of the house a bit. Much more sane.

Chris and I have made a deal as of a few nights ago and continuing until further notice. I will do everything else for Gwen - feeding, diapering, administering Ovol, pumping and preparing bottles, laundry and so on - as long as he will put her to sleep at night. I already have the chore of getting her to sleep during the day, I am just out of resources when it comes to getting her to sleep at night. We also agreed that he would put her to bed earlyish, like 7 or 8. Strange as it sounds, I'd rather have the 4am wakeup than a sleep from 10-6 if it means I can have a couple hours off in the evening. So far this is working well (for me, at least!).

This is the one we don't have any idea on, yet - or rather, we have so many ideas we are not sure which one to pursue. We are so scattered that it's hard to follow any one course of action long enough to see if it's having an effect, and Gwen's screams don't exactly have a positive effect on our reasoning abilities. Starting tomorrow I am going to change her formula, and if by next week nothing has changed I think I'm going to take her to the doctor (so I can get ten more ideas about what to try).

So, that's about the state of things. We are puzzling our way through the post-partum phase with a lot of trial and error. We still have our senses of humour, fortunately, and we are still working together - we make a good team. It's also amazing to have the support and encouragement from our families and friends who give us advice, commisserate, and above all remind us that this will all pass.


sarapants said...

It doesn't hurt that she's SO DAMN CUTE!

Amberism said...

hee! What sarapants said :).

I was just thinking, I wonder if part of her fussiness now is that she's hungry? I know this sounds crazy, but now that she's getting some formula, she gets full. She knows what full feels like, so now when she's NOT full she's all "woman, get me some food?".

ah, its all such a guessing game.

With Callum (who I had to offer a bottle of formula to after every feed too) I switched to soy - Baby's Only Organic Soy Forumla, I got it from my naturalopath. I noticed a difference in stuffiness, and in gas pains. But like I said this afternoon, I don't really rescommend soy formula - I was supplementing and felt that in the small doses he got it was ok - 12 ozs/day (and my naturopath reccomended it!) but doing the research... I dunno... with Claire I decided to deal with the gas pains of regular formula. That said, Claire handling the formula really well so its easy for me to say.

and I hear ya on the pump thing. Haven't turned mine own in a couple of weeks.

Kat said...

I want you to know that I read your very eloquent description of your latest ups and downs and I offer you my joy and my sympathy. She is so damn cute. Im happy that you and Chris are working as a team.

kitt16201 said...

My son had terrible eczema and allergies. He is six and we still see the allergist. Did I mention he was exclusively breastfed for eight months? So that blows that theory out of the water!
Don't feel guilty if you have to supplement. By the time Gwen is six months, this will be a cakewalk. Surviving those first few months is hard!


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