Saturday, April 09, 2005

Battle of the Breast

I'm sorry I've been absent. It's been a rough few days.

Jack is not eating and it has me upset. The first few days in the hospital, he just wanted to sleep. He didn't want to eat at all. The pediatrician wasn't worried and I wasn't too much either. I had the baby nurses all over me, grabbing my nipple, forcing it into his mouth, undressing him and wiping him with cold towels trying to get him irritated enough to suck. But he wouldn't latch, and if he did he would take only a suck or two then stop and thrust his tongue to come off. It became a challenge among the nurses to see who could get him to nurse. One wasn't even assigned but came in because she said she'd never failed... and she did. She couldn't believe it.

We came home Thursday afternoon and since then he's had only one real wet diaper. We've changed him more times which have been damp at best but not wet. No dirty ones. None. The hospital said he had two which were the black meconium, but I didn't see them. I have my doubts about them too, but what a strange thing that would be to fib about so I guess it must be true.

At night, he sleeps maybe 15 minutes at a time at most. The rest of the time he is crying. I have milk, with the swollen engorgement and now chapped nipples. I will be dripping milk while trying to get him to latch. He cries and fights and turns his head and is just relentless. Once I get him to finally latch, it's about 3 sucks then pushes off and screams. Repeat, repeat, repeat. I burp him frequently to take breaks between the screaming. He will calm while I hold him vertical, and maybe take a mini nap, but then he starts crying again. Back to the breast and the battle. Lather rinse repeat.

During the day, he sleeps, but of course he's always held during the day. I try to wake him to feed every two hours, which then starts the crying cycle again until he cries himself back asleep. He cries when he's hungry, cries during the feeding, and eventually cries himself into exhaustion.

And it's killing me. I feel like an immense failure. With Janie, everything was so easy. She rarely cried. If she did, I would just feed her, burp her or change her and she'd immediately stop. She took to breastfeeding really easily and would eat until she would fall asleep. He cries more in one night than she did her whole first year.

He's very jaundice, which is normal except that it usually goes away as the baby nurses and poos. Since he's not eating much and hasn't made any dirties, he's just getting worse. Both yesterday and today we had to take him back into the hospital for blood tests to check his bilirubin levels to see how jaundiced he is. Each day his level is worsening, getting closer to that magic 20 where it is supposed to be especially bad. Today it was 18.7. We've got to bring him back in tomorrow. I'm not sure what will happen at 20, hopefully just the billi lights, but I think the jaundice is more of a result of the feeding issue than the main issue.

I love my pediatrician. He called me today about the results and to see how last night was. He then called again tonight to see how he's doing. He asked me to bring him into his office tomorrow morning (Sunday) when he's done with rounds to weigh him and check him out. At his appointment yesterday he weighed 8lbs 5oz, down a whole pound. Usually a baby loses 5-10% in the first few days which is then easily gained back. Losing a whole pound is more than 10%, and I suspect he's still losing.

It's all very scary and frustrating. Of course my emotions are already on edge being post partum, but this feeding thing has got me. It is the mother who breastfeeds and so I am really feeling all this. I am also the only one up with him all night. What can Matt really do since he can't breastfeed him and that's mainly what our time is spent on? It's amazing because he will sleep and snore through all of the screaming, which bores down to my very soul. During the day Matt will hold him, but with our daughter his job was always diaper duty and since Jack's not wetting or soiling, he's kind of been out of a job.

This afternoon at the pediatrician's request, I pumped. I could only get about 2 1/2 oz which to me means that I'm starting to dry up. We battled with him with the bottle this evening. He does take it better than the breast, but it's not easy. He fights and cries and chokes and has to be constantly burped which he does loudly and has several for just a few swallows. It makes me feel better because you can see that he's eating, but makes me feel worse because I'm giving him a bottle instead of a breast. (And at one point while I was doing this the cooking show actually started talking about breastfeeding and how simple and natural and perfect it was while showing these babies contentedly latching and feeding and being held and lightly touched by their mothers and I wanted to throw my shoe at the TV.) The pediatrician recommended that I continue the bottle tonight, so I pumped again, got another 2 1/2 oz, which he's had 1 oz already, although it took awhile. I'm willing to try. It's hard to concede, to not give him the breast, but I'll do whatever it takes. Actually, it makes me think of Julie at A Little Pregnant although I can't make this seem witty in any way. Just hard, very very hard.

So wish me luck tonight as I need it. I need all reserves of my patience and to give up my desires for how things should be. They just aren't.

And I wouldn't give him up for the world. He really is beautiful. Sure, the sound of his crying is not music to my ears right now. The birds aren't singing to me in the morning and my general attitude is pretty down. But during the day, when he's peacefully sleeping, I look down at his sweet face and I can't get enough. He really is beautiful.

I'll have to post his birth story later. Forgive me if my posting are sporadic. I am either battling with him over the feedings or I'm just rocking with him and enjoying a quiet moment with him. I know that as long as he is eating something he will be okay. There are worser things, this is just what we've got to face today. I wish it were different and I remind myself that it will get better. It will. I don't see any college kids who cry and choke on their pizza.

Thank you all for the congratulations. I really, really, really appreciate your kind words right now. It really has helped, especially because I've felt so sad and horrible today.


Anonymous claudia said...

First of all, congratulations! I'm so glad you have your little boy with you now.

I'm delurking because Jack reminds me of my son - David was also a really bad nurser in the beginning and lost weight alarmingly. He also had severe jaundice. He didn't sleep, he fussed, he didn't eat. What a joy!

I did get the best advice ever by my midwife, though: don't worry about the feedings. The babies with jaundice are weak and sick and don't want to nurse. Keep him outside or in natural light as much as possible (no direct sun, of course) and be patient. We packed David into a vibrating bouncer and left him outside all day (it was a very hot July). It took about a week and then he got better and all of sudden, he nursed like a champ. He's now 21 months old and much sturdier than his older brother. It's really true - once they get over the jaundice, they start feeding better.

Hang in there, and I hope this goes over quickly!

1:31 AM  
Anonymous Thalia said...

Given I'm in infertility hell I don't have any baby experience here to offer, so all I wanted to say was hang in there and don't beat yourself up about this.

4:28 AM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Sorry to hear you are having such a rough time of it. My son also had jaundice, but after a week he was feeling better and doing great. We also spent a lot of time sitting in the sunlight with him since the pedia. told us that helps with the bilirubin count. I now have a extremely active healthy 20 month old son :) So hang in there, things will get easier soon :) Congrats again, will you be posting a picture when you get a chance?

5:10 AM  
Anonymous Julie said...

Thinking of you. I am very much here if you need to rail.

7:00 AM  
Anonymous Julie said...

Thinking of you. I am very much here if you need to rail.

7:00 AM  
Anonymous Menita said...

Oh Pazel, I am so sorry you are having such a rough time. I hope it gets better for you both - in the meantime I'll be hanging out here, keeping company.
And look, you've got Julie available for railing!
Big hugs,

7:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds horribly hard. I feel for you. Well done for even trying. much love xx


8:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I am so sorry for your troubles. I have two children and am due with my third in May. Here's the best assvice I can give:
1) If you put a Kleenex in the diaper it's much easier to tell if there was urine or not. Cloth are the easiest when you are worried about urine output, but if you are not already doing that now is *not* the time to start.
2) Breastfeeding is a relationship. Jack Henry sounds like he sucks at both breast and bottle feeding - so that means you can absolve yourself of all the guilt you've been heaping on your own head. Please go easy on yourself. Hormones don't help either, I know.
3) I understand your panic. I think you are right to feel that way. He's gotta eat for the jaundice and for the fluid. Don't let a day go by until he is urinating well without getting him seen by the doctor. If you think he is worse later in the day, see the doctor again. If you have to, go to the E.R. Stay in their faces. You and your husband are your child's only advocates.
4) Okay, don't laugh. Whether or not the nurses at the hospital were successful, I would find a really good L.C. and have her come to the house daily until Jack Henry got it. My L.C. has a portable scale to make sure the baby is gaining and all sorts of other tricks - positioning, supplemental nursing system, finger feeding etc. Not all L.C.s or baby nurses are created equal. Some really blow.
5) God knows, I am a breastfeeding advocate - I bf my daughter for 3.5 years and my son who is 2.5 hasn't weaned yet - but, giving the bottle when it is necessary for a baby such as Jack Henry is not a sin, nor does it mean that you are a failure. Also, I doubt that you are drying up yet, although you probably do need to encourage your supply and get those breasts properly emptied before you get plugged ducts and/or mastitis. If you don't have a pump as good as a Pump in Style of your own, I would rent a hospital grade pump today, now, and get those breasts emptied out in a hurry. Remember that when you are upset and tense it's really hard to pump a decent amount.
6) The sun is great for jaundice, but the feeding is very necessary too, so sun only is not going to cut it. If you are using the sun, remember to open up the top of his sleepers and expose more skin than just his face.
I hope and I pray that you do not end up back at the hospital with little Jack Henry and that things turn around quickly for you guys. If he is admitted, please don't blame yourself. You are doing a really good job and it is a really hard one, especially after major surgery. Love and hope to you all.
Heather Ann

9:38 AM  
Blogger Cricket said...

I realize you're frustrated and tired. Oh, how I relate. Most of the following is about relating, but it does include a suggestion or two that you, of course, may disregard, with anything being said only to try to help.

I called my son, "My butterscotch baby." It makes them sleepy, they don't want to eat. My son had a jaw clenching thing, too, to where the only thing we could do was literally shove a bottle in his mouth (he was tiny, dropped to 5lb 1 oz - over 10% loss - at discharge).

As I've said before, I pumped for 8 months b/c I wanted breastmilk for him, even if it was by bottle. I realize how awful it sounds, but when a baby won't eat, sometimes you have to do that mean stuff - shove in a bottle, keep awake, flick foot, undress, fan, bounce - anything to get food in and jaundice out. But I would worry about dry diapers primarily.

Also, since you're using a bottle for now and he has burps/gas, consider putting a squirt of the the anti-gas stuff in every bottle. That made us a much quieter home, he was so much more comfortable with cherry flavored breastmilk. (joke)

9:48 AM  
Blogger chris said...

Congrats on the new baby. Have you considered a Finger Feeder? Medela makes a good one. Basically, it's a plastic container of milk attached to a thin, flexible tube that you wrap around your finger with a small amount of the tube sticking out at the end of your finger. You then put your finger in the baby's mouth and the baby is fed that way, since most babies like to suck on a finger for comfort. It's a great way to avoid nipple confusion since the way they suck on your finger is similar to the way they suck on a nipple, plus, since you're finger isn't plastic, they don't associate plastic with food. It's not a perfect solution but it can get you through a week or two of feeding issues while you work on things and keep the baby fed. They're about $40.00 and you can get them from most lactation consultants who sell Medela products. I used one for weeks with my son--things eventually did work out. Good luck whatever you choose.

6:52 PM  
Blogger The Lioness said...

Oh Pazel, I'm so sorry! I hope he gets better soon and starts feeding normally. Sending you latching, quiet thoughts.

1:01 AM  

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