The “leaping out of bed” for middle-of-the-night feedings phase has passed. Leaping has been replaced with rolling, crawling, dragging, accompanied by groaning and complaining, and preceded by fervently whispering into the darkness, “Please go back to sleep. Please go back to sleep.”

I still love seeing my baby again after a couple of hours sleep, still love pressing my cheek against her soft hair while I carry her into the nursery, looking into her bright eyes as I change her diaper, and chuckling with D at her open mouth drooping against his shoulder as she drifts back off to sleep.

But the novelty of waking up for nearly an hour twice a night has definitely worn off. I am tired, and more than slightly terrified of how things are going to go once D has to return to work in a week and a half. This is hard enough now, with another person to fetch things when one of us is trapped in the recliner with an eating baby or has one arm incapacitated clutching a screaming baby, or to take care of the baby while one cooks dinner or takes a shower.

Making things more complicated has been the fact that Ruby is what the book What to Expect the First Year dubs an “excited ineffective” nurser. Before she was born, I wasn’t too sure how comfortable I would be with the whole breastfeeding thing, but once she was here, it was just different than I expected. Better. It seemed natural and simple enough, and she caught on pretty well.

Because she was so big at birth, the nurses recommended we supplement with formula at first, and then she lost 10 percent of her body weight before leaving the hospital and was slightly jaundiced, so her pediatrician insisted we continue with the formula.

By the time we’d been home a few days, Ruby had figured out bottles were way easier, and we’d figured out our baby inherited her mama’s impatience. Every time (EVERY. TIME.) I tried to breastfeed, Ruby would immediately start screaming and snorting, while kicking and punching at me with the strong arms and legs I grew to know so well when she was still in utero. This would go on for as long as 20-30 minutes, while we tried everything to get her to latch, including taking the edge off her hunger with a little formula. Offer the bottle, and she’d go right back to her usual bright-eyed self and settle into her eating pose – hands balled under her chin, legs stretched out, feet crossed or pressed together heel to heel.

Usually, eventually, she would latch, but the process was stressful and frustrating at the best of times and especially trying at 2 a.m., when all we wanted was to go back to sleep.

The night before her two-week pediatrician appointment, I was up with her alone trying to feed her, and she was screaming, as she always does, and in between attempts, crying pitifully because she was hungry and she could smell food, and here she was in Mama’s arms, and Mama was denying her. Daddy and the bottle were able every time to soothe her, and all she ever did in my arms was scream.

That’s the way it felt to me, anyway. Nursing was supposed to be the best thing for her, and here we were, both of us crying and frustrated and unhappy.

Finally, I broke down and gave her a bottle of formula, by which time I was so exhausted I kept having to shake myself awake to keep her bottle upright. At her next feeding, I let D take over entirely.

By the next morning, I’d just about decided to give up on nursing. At her two-week appointment, I described our troubles to the pediatrician, who said it took both of her children three or four weeks to get the hang of nursing and that she is “pro-mommy” but recommends people stick with breastfeeding for a month. She wanted us to come back for another weigh-in in a week and gave us some tips on how to improve the situation, and I agreed to try it at least one more week and see how it goes.

Meanwhile, that same afternoon, we realized I had mastitis, so I spent most of the rest of the day and the next in the recliner, feverish and sore, breastfeeding every two hours, complete with screaming fits on Ruby’s part and tears on mine. It never got any better. Every time was still a struggle.

At some point, we noticed Ruby was getting hoarse, which made me feel all the worse. I decided we should just bottle feed her that night, so we could all get more rest. We both got up with her, and D fed her while I pumped. It went so well – was so stress-free and faster, too – that we decided to continue our break and pump and bottle feed her the next day, too.

Today, we were supposed to go back to nursing, but I haven’t had the courage to dive back into it yet. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe not. I hate to give up if she’s only a few days away from catching on, and then we’d get the “easy” breastfeeding experience we’re supposed to have, complete with all the benefits. But I don’t know how long I can go on torturing us all to achieve it.

The jury is still out.

posted by K | filed under Grumpy Bear, Misfortune, Ruby | 9 Comments


9 Responses to “Excited Ineffective”

  1. Tana on June 17th, 2010 9:21 pm

    Hang in there. Nursing is hard work (in the beginning). I swear it took me like at least 3-4 weeks to feel like I really got it down. But, once my baby finally figured everything out it was much better. Don’t beat yourself up, you are really trying hard and that’s what counts. And if the pumping and feeding is working that’s great too. There are a lot of women that are doing that nowadays. The important part is for your baby to eat, if it means she ends up on formula, so be it. Best of luck. Your Ruby is a doll.

  2. amanda on June 18th, 2010 9:17 am

    I just wanted you to know that you’re not cheating Ruby out of anything if you decide to start pumping and giving her bottles, or if you continue to supplement with formula. Some babies just have a harder time with it. My sister in laws and I both pumped and gave bottles (one sis-in-law did it for an entire year) and all of our kids are fine! I switched both kids to formula around 4 mths and they are both fine. In fact, Alex gained weight much better on the formula (which seemed easier for him to digest with his reflux) than he ever did with breast milk. The most important thing is to get through these first few months in a way that makes you the least amount of crazy possible. Feel free to email me if you want to talk about it more. Just listen to your gut- you know what is the best for Ruby. If that is the bottle, then great!

  3. Teresa on June 18th, 2010 12:07 pm

    I had one easy to feed baby and one like Ruby who was impatient with breast feeding after he had a bottle. I will say the breast fed baby was easier to wean than the bottle fed baby. You have to do what is right for your baby and you, but personally found breast feeding was wonderful.

  4. Jodi on June 18th, 2010 6:11 pm

    There is nothing wrong with pumping and giving her the bottle of breastmilk. She is still getting the health benefits of breastmilk and not reducing both of you to tears.

    Good luck with your decision!

  5. Kathy on June 18th, 2010 7:53 pm

    All of the above is great advice! Don’t get stressed out, do what is best for both you and Ruby! She’ll be fine.

  6. Jillbert on June 18th, 2010 9:07 pm

    Breastfeeding is not always easy. The best advice I ever got was to take it one day at a time. When you reach the point at which you feel you can no longer do it, stop. And feel no guilt about stopping since you gave it your best shot. You may find out that things improve and you’ll nurse Ruby for a long time or you may find out that bottle feeding works best for her and you. It’s OK either way. What’s important is that she’s fed and thriving.

  7. Annette on June 19th, 2010 12:21 am

    Breastfeeding is great, but you can be flexible too. My last baby had a horrible time breathing while nursing. She wouldn’t. It wasn’t pretty.

    I ended up pumping and giving her a bottle of breast milk instead. It actually turned out to be pretty cool, cause I put myself on an 8 hour schedule, and pumped 8+ ounces each time, and fed her her four ounce bottle every 3-4 hours. It only took me a little while to pump, once I got the schedule down, and anyone could give her the bottle when she was hungry. (Just be sure to not microwave it!)

    It ended up being a win-win. Both of us got the benefits of breastfeeding(cheaper, better for both of us), and my hubby and older children could be more involved in her feeding during the day. She’s 12 now and doing just fine!

  8. Lenise on June 22nd, 2010 7:48 pm

    She’s so beautiful!! Congratulations!!

    Nursing is always rough in the beginning. I liked the lack of planning needed, but with each of my three, I was SOOO sore at the start. You’re the parents, you do what you can.

    Enjoy the tiny fingers and toes before they get un-tiny and dirty ;)

  9. Nisreen on August 12th, 2011 3:18 pm

    Hi, I just saw this when searching for “excited ineffective”. My son is 6 weeks and when I read what you have written, it describes all that I went through the first few weeks – both physically and emotionally… I now primarily bottle feed (express milk and give in a bottle)and try to get him to latch on when I feel up to it. I notice that your daughter was born around an year ago, and my question is – what did you end up doing?
    Right now, the pumping every three hours is a bit difficult, but sometimes I wonder whether i should keep trying with my son at the breast when I see his reaction..
    It really helps to know that there are other moms who went through an infant with this kind of personality..
    Thanks a lot,

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