As I sit down to write this post – the second in a three-month series I’m participating in with a handful of blogger mamas – I’m reminded of what people told me would happen (but I denied would ever happen). They’d tell me, “just wait….as soon as you get in a routine, as soon as you’re comfortable, things will change. Babies do that.” I denied it….I thought my children would be as steady as the beating drum. Unchanging. Reliable and set in their routines.
But, no. That’s not how babies are. They’re human, and they have needs, and they are constantly, well, changing. Growing, maturing, needing more food, needing less sleep, etc. This blog post will attempt to tell the story of Zoe’s feeding life. I’m still exclusively nursing Naomi, and the good news is, for me, nursing was a million times easier the second time around. We’ll see about introducing solids….but we’re not there yet 🙂
Nothing about Zoe’s birth went according to my plans. I planned a completely natural birth at my midwives’ birth center. Due to a few complications, I never made it to the natural birth center, Zoe was born in a hospital, and I had an “emergency” c-section. Because I had a fever when I was in labor, the hospital wanted to keep her on antibiotics – just to be safe – for a week. So, although she was a healthy, 12-days-past-due-baby, she was in the NICU for the first 3 days of her life, then transferred to pediatrics for the next 4 days. These days were difficult. I was recovering from an unexpected c-section and my baby was hooked up to antibiotics in the NICU. Not as I had planned.
In retrospect, because nothing else went according to plan, I see that I clung to the idea of nursing. THAT was under my control, so I fought for it. I still partially blame the separation at birth, but she didn’t latch properly from the beginning. I didn’t know what a proper, deep latch looked like, so right away, she gave me blisters and it was so painful! Nursing hurt so badly I wanted to let go of her mid-feeding…I know it sounds horrible, but it was unlike any pain I’d ever experienced (even labor).
Because moving back and forth to the NICU was so difficult, and she was causing so much pain, I decided to just pump pump pump. We begged the NICU to please feed her my pumped milk first, and not to supplement it with formula. They obliged, as long as she wasn’t unhappy (their default was to feed if baby was crying, but that certainly is not the only reason babies cry…)… So like I said, I pumped and pumped. Every 3 hours for the first several weeks of Zoe’s life. That first week was rough. I could hardly move in the hospital bed and I wouldn’t have been able to function if it weren’t for Joe’s unwavering support. He woke up every 3 hours throughout the night. He fetched the pump, talked to me while I pumped, patiently endured my complaining about the pain, ran the milk down to the NICU, and then washed the pump when I was finished. That whole process took about an hour. Then we’d sleep for 2 hours and do it all over again. I had a million alarms set on my phone. Take meds, pump, take other meds, etc.
Thankfully my milk came in within 24 hours, which meant the NICU was happy with my milk supply and told us they didn’t supplement her milk much. We were happy with that. One thing we did do (with the Dr.’s approval) was dump 1/2 capsules of probiotics into her bottles of pumped milk, to provide her with good bacteria that the antibiotics were depleting her system of.
After mostly bottle-feeding her pumped milk for her first week of life, we went home as a family of 3. I was hopeful that nursing would automatically be easier since she was finally unattached from cords and nurses and doctors weren’t walking into our room unannounced, and it felt like she was finally ours. I would try nursing for a few feedings, and it still hurt brutally (like someone was stabbing me with a million needles), so I would revert back to pumping and bottle feeding pumped milk. We were able to rent an awesome hospital grade electric pump, which got the job done in half the time. But feedings still took forever because I was pumping, feeding, washing everything, and doing that all, every 3 hours.
My midwife and my mom really encouraged me to keep trying nursing… Every time my midwife stopped by, I’d dread it (not you personally, Kelly…<3), because she wanted me to nurse in front of her, so she could help with the latch, etc. I was so set on nursing but it hurt so badly, that I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t know if I needed to just press through it (because people swore it would get better) or if my pain was worse than normal and something was wrong. Eventually, after about a week at home, my midwife reminded us that she thought that Zoe might be moderately lip-tied, which was resulting in an inability to get a deep latch, which was making the nursing unbearably painful for me. So, we took her to a specialist and he agreed….her lip was tied. He snipped it (I was in another room….I made Joe hold her for the Dr….it was so unbelievably sad to hear her cry) and we went home with high hopes!
After the little surgery, nursing gradually got easier and easier! It really was a miracle. I would sometimes have to help her with the latch, but eventually she and I both figured it out, and nursing became pain free! It was incredible!
I continued to feed Zoe every 3 hours, which was my saving grace. When we first started, it would take 45 minutes to get through a feeding. But we both gradually got better, and eventually went down to 20 minutes. Feeding every 3 hours gave me a rest, and I knew that she was getting full feedings, so I knew that she shouldn’t get hungry within those 3 hours (with definite exceptions)! I continued to pump, because I wanted a huge supply. During her first year, I accumulated over 400 ounces of frozen milk (talk about obsessed….I’ve only pumped once with Naomi)!
My initial plan was to wait until she was a year to introduce solids, but we decided to let her have her first solid food between 8 and 9 months. We started with a little but of banana and avocado. Shortly after introducing solids, she became majorly constipated. We could tell she had to go, but it just wasn’t coming out. I desperately called my aunt, who had similar problems with two of her babies. She recommended a glycerin suppository (yes, it’s as gross as it sounds). We tried that, and it literally worked within seconds. We realized we weren’t giving her enough liquid to make up for the decrease in milk, so we made a conscious effort to give her liquids.
We eventually moved to cutting out her morning nursing and feeding her a bowl of homemade oatmeal with a bit of pureed prunes. Then, throughout the day, when I ate my meals, I would feed her. I made mostly all her food, which consisted of smashed avocado, steamed & mashed veggies, hot oatmeal with fruit (and put through the food processor), and lots of pureed beans! She loved (and she still does) beans.
I slowly cut out feedings as she seemed to be eating more and more. I originally wanted to nurse her until she was a bit older, but gradual weaning had been going so well, I decided just try it when she was one. By her first birthday, she was only nursing once at night. I was already 3 months pregnant with Naomi, and knew that my milk supply had gone down, and definitely wanted her to be weaned for a few months before baby arrived. So, one of my first birthday presents to Zoe was one last time nursing! <3 She was a champ, and after two days, didn’t even REMEMBER what nursing was. It was actually a bit heartbreaking 😉
Like I mentioned happening with sleeping (she now wants to sleep in our bed every night around 3 AM), after getting in a great routine with eating, Zoe’s eating habits have changed a bit recently. She’s become more aware of what she’s eating, and frequently refuses to eat something if it has a speck of something else on it (like an herb). She also wants me to feed her…a lot! She’s been eating oatmeal with some kind of fruit (and sometimes yogurt) for breakfast almost since she’s been eating solids. She will still eat the bowl, but it frequently takes her 45 minutes (unless I feed her). If I were to give her a big bowl of golden grahams, she’d eat it in 2 minutes, tops. (Not speaking from experience or anything). 😉 So, I’m trying to be encouraged by the “everything changes” thought….reminding myself that she won’t want me to feed her forever, so I should maybe just cherish these days…
Phew! I have so much more to write on this topic, but I’ve already written a book….so I should probably stop now. PLEASE share your feeding stories! Ask me questions if anything doesn’t make sense, because I probably left out important information that’s currently escaping my mom brain. I love this community of moms and hearing others’ stories of how they cared for their babies and what worked for them! We’re all so different, and it’s encouraging to know that we’ve all had struggles and victories in different areas, but have all managed to feed our babies one way or another!
Read the rest of the mama’s stories here:
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