Thursday, July 1st, 2010
I’m crossing my fingers and knocking on wood while I write this post because I’m terrified of jinxing things.
The pediatrician predicted that if we could keep with it, our breastfeeding troubles would be resolved by three or four weeks. I had my doubts. The intensity of Ruby’s loathing for the entire procedure – oh, how enraged was her screaming, how red and rigid was her body – made it difficult to imagine a day when it would magically subside into comfortable acceptance.
By her three-week appointment, we’d gone to almost exclusively pumping/bottle feeding, and when she’d gained up to 9 lbs. 12 oz. (10 oz. in one week) and 21.5 inches long, I felt redeemed. Yes, she was growing – and well – now that we weren’t forcing her to scream for her supper. I was very close to deciding pumping was our path, at least for the first couple of months. We had a routine down – I sat in the glider and pumped while D held Ruby in the rocking chair and fed her a bottle.
But over time, pumping took its toll. It wasn’t difficult, it didn’t hurt, and it didn’t take up that much time – at most an hour and a half per day total – but we couldn’t go anywhere without messing up my pumping schedule, or else having to lug that giant suitcase-o’-pump with us. It killed any spontaneity, and I hated washing all those stupid pump parts constantly. Also, D would be going back to work soon, and I’d have to figure out how to both feed the baby and pump during those dreaded middle-of-the-night feedings.
All this made me start thinking wistfully about breastfeeding. On the doctor’s recommendation, we were still giving it a try once a day, hoping Ruby would catch on. And for a week, at least once a day, she screamed her head off.
Then, the day before she turned four weeks old – not coincidentally, the day before D would be going back to work and I would be handling night feedings alone – I decided to give it a concerted effort. That afternoon she still screamed at first, but the duration wasn’t quite as unbearably long. So the next time she was hungry, I tried again, with slightly better results.
This continued with each feeding, until suddenly it was morning, and she’d gone 17 hours without a bottle. By then, I was worn out from having my first night alone with her – much of it spent in the recliner – so I crashed while D gave her a bottle.
The next time she ate, we were back to square one – the kicking, the screaming, the wrestling and pleading with her just to try, please baby, just TRY. I concluded this must be related to giving her the bottle again, so I resolved to avoid them as much as possible.
The rest of the day went somewhat better. She had two bottles while I was out in town that night, but they didn’t seem to set her back like before. In the three days since that night, she hasn’t had a crying fit at all when presented with the dreaded boob; she’s learned to eat without the nipple shield; and she hasn’t had a bottle either. Instead, she gets this determined, slightly cross-eyed look on her face. I say, “Let’s eat,” and she might struggle a bit to latch on with my help, but then away she goes. I’m even pretty sure my somewhat wimpy supply has picked up to meet her demand, because she’s gained several ounces since last week, and she pees and poops like a champ.
So far, I’m really liking this development. No bottles to wash, no frantically mixing or warming a bottle with one hand while she screams on your other shoulder, no worrying we might run out of food for her if we decide to stay in town longer than anticipated. And even though she’s eating all the time and still waking up twice a night, I don’t feel as sleep-deprived and frazzled as I was when I was pumping, maybe because the middle-of-the-night feedings are way less complicated and require less mental wakefulness.
I still can’t get much of anything done while I’m alone with her here – I’m lucky if I can get half my normal amount of work done on the computer, as I’m stuck typing with one hand half the time (I have discovered copy and paste is especially challenging with one hand). But that’s less about the feeding method than about the fact that when she’s not asleep, this girl wants to be propped upright in someone’s arms, taking in the sights. I’ve tried out the baby sling a couple of times, and it seemed to work well; the only drawback is it adds another layer in this already sticky heat.
In the mean time, she’s growing and learning and changing like mad. She is one month old today, and she’s started focusing on faces a lot, she’s learned to grab my hair and the collar of my shirt, the broken blood vessels in her eyes cleared up, she’s started actually enjoying her bath (or at least, she doesn’t wail hysterically anymore), she can lift her head up and hold it steady for what seems like a long time, she’ll turn her head to check out a new sound, she’s started fitting in her 0-3 months clothes, she wiggles her toes to feel things out while she’s eating and pets your arm with her fingers.
And of course, she’s learned mommy’s boobs aren’t the devil. I still feel stunned that she really did magically figure it out one day. Now if we could just get her to catch on that nighttime is for sleeping …
Edited to add: And not 15 minutes after I finished this post, Ruby rolled over for the first time! I laid her down for tummy time, turned away for a few seconds to fetch her black and white board book, and when I turned back, she was lying on her back! I turned her over to try to get her to do it again, but then she got too mad.