I REALLY hate when people just tell me to solve a problem by "relaxing." When we were trying to get pregnant, that was a phrase worth murdering over. I mean, seriously, if someone told you they had a blocked artery and were on the verge of having a heart attack, would you tell them "relax and it will go away?" Sometimes, there are real problems and "relaxing" just doesn't make them go away (especially when "stress" isn't the root of the problem). When we were trying to get pregnant, if I had just "relaxed" instead of actively seeking help, we still wouldn't be parents. I don't think seeking help and answers is stressing . . . it is being proactive.
Well, now that I have a baby, my current challenge relates to Micah's eating issues. We have a real problem - it isn't being caused by stress, so I'm fairly certain that "relaxing" won't fix the problem. Problem #1 - Micah doesn't latch well or nurse efficiently. So, we have to use a nipple shield to get him to latch, but he still doesn't nurse efficiently. As a result, we have Problem #2 - a low milk supply. Because he doesn't nurse efficiently, my milk supply is low -which makes it more difficult for him to nurse efficiently. Can you see the catch-22 we have? Then, add in Problem #3 - Micah doesn't have appropriate hunger cues. When left to his own devices, because of the inefficient nursing, he will nurse himself into a state of exhaustion . . . at which point, he is in such deep sleep that he won't wake up to let us know he is hungry and nurse again. Because he doesn't then nurse often enough and efficiently, it affects my milk supply, so then I don't have enough to feed him when he is nursing, etc., etc.
So, I'm in this endless cycle. I can't just follow his cues and let him feed on demand, because he doesn't demand enough, and I don't make enough. We need to increase demand to increase supply, but he isn't capable of increasing his demand. So, I have to help him get the energy to increase the demand. We have to limit his nursing sessions so he doesn't get so exhausted, and we have to help him nurse more efficiently by using techniques like breast compression so he can maximize output in the shorter time. I have to pump after each feeding to increase demand, and I have to actively wake him up and make sure he is eating at least 8 times/day (some say 10-12, but hey - I'm lucky if I can get this guy to eat 8x/day).
Now, the next problem. He also has to gain weight at an appropriate rate - which requires a certain caloric intake. Since I don't make enough milk, we have to supplement with whatever pumped breast milk we can get plus formula. So - a rational person asks how much formula, right? Well, we can't "use the baby" as our guide - he'll fall asleep after a feed even if he hasn't eaten enough . . . and stay asleep for 4-5 hours. So, the only other thing we can do is go by number of ounces of intake. How do you determine how much a nursing baby is getting? Well, you have to weigh him before and after each feed. And, unlike formula-fed babies, a nursing baby can take in vastly different amounts of breast milk with each feed. Micah can take in anywhere from 1 ounce to 2.5 ounces in a feeding on the breast. If he gets 2.5, I do not have to supplement, but if he only gets 1 ounce, I need to supplement. Hard to just "relax" and "wing it" with that kind of range. We tried to just offer him bottles and see if he would take them. The answer is, he will - even if he ISN'T hungry. If he is full and he over-eats, he then vomits, which also isn't good for him.
So, we are stuck in this awful cycle. Or I should say I am stuck in this cycle. Feeding Micah is a real chore, and I have no clear feedback for how much and what he needs. I cannot trust his cues because apparently, he has been suppressing his hunger cues due to exhaustion and self-preservation. So, somehow I need to get him to latch better, nurse better, and increase my supply, and to do this, he needs to be adequately fed NOW, and I have to figure out what that means with no cues from him. And to do all that, the only guide I have is how many ounces he is taking in at each feeding. How, exactly, am I supposed to just "relax?" If I don't pump after each feeding, my supply crashes. If I don't weigh him, I don't know how much to supplement him. If I'm by myself, the process of feeding Micah is horribly challenging - nursing now takes 30-40 minutes, then the diaper change, and the weight checks, and the bottle supplement, and the pumping (and try pumping with a baby who wants to be held after being fed). It just isn't easy to do all alone. But hey . . . maybe if I just relaxed, the baby wouldn't cry, my boobs would pump themselves, he will miraculously start latching and nursing efficiently, and my supply will overnight reach the sustainable level.
Okay - I have to go walk and feed the dog so I can undress the baby, weigh the baby, nurse the baby, weigh the baby, change the baby's diaper, re-dress the baby, bottle supplement the baby, burp the baby, get the baby to relax, and then pump. That ought to leave me about 20 minutes before I start all over again . . . is that enough time to "relax?"
Don't get me wrong . . . I love being a mom - but I wish feeding him wasn't so complicated. We've been doing this routine for one week, and I just don't think this is a workable long-term solution. And please . . . no lectures about just formula feeding or whatever else you think the solution is.
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