Thursday, May 5, 2011

a day of big adventures

The birth story will come in time, but unless I record things as we go, I'm going to fall mercilessly behind.

The umbilical cord stump fell off yesterday (less than a week - welcome to dry Colorado), so yesterday we started using the zoogie BumGenius cloth diapers.

Today was Andrew's 1 week birthday, and it was a big one.  The first order of business was to have our first bath.  Andrew did not like it at all.

It wasn't so bad once he got out...

But he has extra handsome hair now, which I told him would impress the ladies.

So then we had places to go and people to see.

We've been having breastfeeding issues.  I've been meaning to post about this, and now that it's going here it's a little weird, because this is sort of a funny, light post, and these struggles have been super emotional for me, and challenging for all of us.  I know there are resources that talk about common issues with breastfeeding - I've read a lot - but I feel like no one comes out and says that it's really common to have those issues.  Breastfeedng seems like something that should come naturally, but a lot of times, it just doesn't.  And because no one really talks about it, it makes you feel sort of broken and helpless and alone.

After Andrew was born, I was so excited to nurse him, and we dove right in.  More than any other early parenting choice, breastfeeding was the thing I most wanted to work out.  It did hurt, even though they say it's not supposed to, but I convinced myself that it didn't hurt "that bad." We went in for our two day checkup at the birth center and Andrew was down to 7lb5oz - 10% below his birth weight.  All babies lose weight after birth (they come out super-hydrated and "juicy"), but they like to see that bounded to 5-7%.  10% is a lot.  Concerning.  Midwife Sarah said it was probably just that my milk was coming in, suggested I contact a lactation consultant just to be sure, and told me not to panic.  But I was panicking -- I knew it wasn't supposed to hurt, and even though I thought I had signs that nursing was going well, I knew something wasn't right.

Still, nursing went well that evening (I thought), and so I put off calling the LC.  The next morning, things were rapidly going downhill - he only wanted to nurse for 5 minutes at a time, and I was starting to crack and bleed.  He spit up a bit of milk with blood in it -- it was mine.  Plus my breasts were now full and becoming engorged -- so full they were aching.  I called the LC, crying, and she set up an appointment for the next day.  So I sort of suffered through Sunday, begging my baby to take more milk, gain weight.

On Monday, we first had an appointment with the pediatrician.  I was horrified to hear that Andrew's weight had dropped again, down to 7lb3.5 oz.  The doctor suggested that I nurse and then we weigh him again, to see how much milk he was taking.  He didn't seem that interested, but he fed for about 10 minutes on each side... and the scale didn't budge.  It appeared that he was getting no milk.  I was devastated, feeling like I was failing at womanhood.  I had looked at Andrew's tongue and suspected a tongue tie - that the frenulum, the bit of skin that connects the tongue to the bottom of the mouth, is too big and too far forward to use properly.  I had let him suckle my finger, and instead of his tongue, I got gums - hard, unforgiving gums.  I asked the doc about it, but after looking at the tongue, he didn't think it was an issue.  He encouraged me to see Susan though (they have a great working relationship), and to supplement any feedings with pumped breastmilk to get him to gain weight.  I was hysterical, but as with any challenge, I applied myself diligently to the plan to solve it.

Luckily, Susan and her LC-in-training, Anna, came late that afternoon.  I mentioned that doc said no tongue tie.  As soon as Anna looked in his mouth, she said, "That may not be the classic tongue tie that a doctor would look for, but that's definitely tied."  They gave me a nipple shield to ease the pain and start the healing, and recommended that we go to the birth center the next day to have a frenectomy, get the frenulum clipped.
They helped Andrew latch on with some new protection for me, and then massaged me to relieve the engorgement.  I was much happier with a clearer plan, though still very worried about my baby's lack of growth.

The next day, midwife Aubre performed the frenectomy.  It's actually a very simple procedure with only a few drops of blood.  He seemed more  bothered by his diaper change than having his tongue snipped.  He was weighed again, and the reading was the same -- 7lb,3.5oz -- but at least it didn't go down any.  We hopefully returned home for more shielded nursing, pumping, and supplementation.

That night, Andrew was getting really frustrated trying to latch on with the shield in place.  After struggling and listening to my boy cry, I put it aside.  I would take the pain - I just wanted him to eat.  He latched on and... there was no pain.  I felt his tongue!  I pulled him off and gave him my finger - and there was his tongue - no more hard gums!  He ate a lot, and then when it was time to eat again, he was NOT happy with being hungry.  It was like he finally knew what a full belly felt like, and finally realized that he'd been hungry all this time.

We nursed happily and diligently all day Wednesday, with lots of hard naps interspersed with these newly demanding feedings.  He now rooted all the time while awake.  He gulped down whatever milk he could get, and drank himself into a milk coma at every feeding.

Today (because that's what this post is really about) was the moment of truth.  We went to a breastfeeding support group at Sweet Beginnings, Susan and Anna's boutique and clinic, and we weighed in for the first time since the frenectomy on Tuesday.

The verdict? 7lb, 6 oz.  A 2.5oz increase in 48 hours.  This put us ahead of the doc's preferred curve of an ounce a day.  We did it!!  We also weighed in again after nursing, and although he was too sleepy to take the second side, and he had gotten another 1.3 oz, right then and there!

The support group was awesome as well.  There were a dozen or so women with nurslings of various ages.  Most of them either had struggled or are currently struggling with some nursing issue: reflux, bad latch, tandem nursing twins, going back to work soon, and of course, tongue tie.  There were helpful suggestions from LC's, but there was also a lot of comfort in feeling not-alone.  We need to talk about this more, ladies.  It happens to more of us than you would think.  Stay tuned for more weight gain updates, but I do believe we may be in the clear for the time being.

After the support group, we ran errands at the post office and the bank - our first outings!  We then returned home and our birth doula, Jessica, came over for her post-partum visit.  We basically just talked through the birth, post-processing what had happened.  Doulas provide the emotional, rather than the technical, support for birth, and I found our chat to be incredibly restorative and empowering.  I will gush about her services in more detail when I post my birth story, but let me plug her website now as well:  If you are birthing in the Denver area, give her a call.

Jessica with Andrew

Fussy Andrew, happy mama and doula

That was our day.  Our week, actually.  We are tired.


  1. Bravo! I'm so proud of you. So many times new moms who really want to breastfeed and have a hard time are told to just give it up. You clearly have Andrew's best interest in mind. I completely agree that there isn't enough communication between new moms. I had the rare blessing of a doula/LC/mom to take all my questions to and my first born was a great eater. Your whole post makes me smile. PS...if you EVER want a mom to talk to about the "weird" stuff...CALL ME! (708) 679-9307
    :) - Kathy

  2. Amy,
    I glad to hear that there is resolution! You had a birth doula, I used to work as a postpartum doula. It is true that women just think that breastfeeding is like breathing. They think you will just automatically get the hang of it once baby arrives. And often that isn't the case. It is amazing the little things we can do to help with the success, but unfortunately by the time moms ask the problems have grown.
    Breastfeeding meant a lot to me as a mom also, and honestly that was the thing that I struggled with the most with Drew. To me breastfeeding was the only way I knew to mother. I felt like I really struggled to bond with Drew since I couldn't nurse him.
    As you and Andrew grow in your nursing skills he will amaze you. He won't need any guidance in not to long. I hope you have the opportunity to enjoy many nursing naps with the two of you snuggled under the same blanket.
    Take heart though that if he was peeing and pooping, he was getting something, even if it wasn't as much as he would have liked.
    It is so wonderful to watch your new family blossom! Keep up the good work mom and get plenty of rest!


  3. Breastfeeding definitely *isn't* second nature. I'm glad you were able to figure out what was causing the pain. The thing that's hard about parenting a newborn (other than the lack of sleep!) is that they can't TELL you what's wrong. You just have to guess.

    I'm around if you have questions or just want to talk about what you're experiencing.


  4. Grrrrr.... I'm going to try this again (just posted a LONG comment and it didn't show). I am babysitting my niece and nephew at my brother's right now (don't worry they're sleeping!)
    Anyway- I am SO glad that in the end the nursing worked out and so sad that you had to go through what you did (but glad that he didn't fuss a bit when he got snipped). My boys slept through their circumcisions which I find amazing but the doc gave them some numbing stuff and I guess it worked quite good!
    My boobs always killed those first two weeks after babes were born. The latch was horrible- but then after a few sucks we were good. That gets better (if you feel that at all right now).

    And I LOVED the first bath blog! I literally laughed out loud (and I never say LOL because I don't usually but with this I could say it!). I love that you got the pee in stream and the play by play of all the happenings! You guys are awesome!
    If you ever need anything- I'm here friend- between my troops I think I have experienced everything and then some (but I am embarrassed to admit that I ruined the environment with all my disposable diapers!) You are an awesome mama!! I can't wait to meet sweet Andrew in person! Saw your folks Friday and I think that they are still in the clouds about being Grand!

  5. Amy, I meant to comment right away when I read this post, but I was reading it on my phone in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep and knew it would take me forever to type. Anyhow, here I am weeks later. First, I loved the photos of the bath. And second, my heart ached when I read about your early breastfeeding struggles.

    When we had Anya, I felt so many of the same emotions I hear you saying now. She wasn't tongue-tied, but we had a lot of early issues and she wasn't gaining enough weight initially. We were put on the "3-step program," which consisted of breastfeeding, pumping, and then feeding a bottle of breastmilk. It was devastating to not have everything just work perfectly and naturally. And it was hard to know who to trust, what person's recommended numbers for success to believe, and how to deal with my own emotions. And even though I was seeing a lactation consultant, I remember feeling so helpless and alone and just not knowing what to do. We, too, worked through our issues and I remember crying with relief when Anya was three weeks old and my pediatrician finally told me on the phone that we could stop the "3-step program" and I could just "be a normal breastfeeding mom." I don't know why more people don't talk about the common struggles. I guess we don't know how or when to do it. I'm glad you found a support group, too. I went to one when Anya was a baby and it was a great way to get out of the house and have a place to try-out breastfeeding in a more public situation, but with other moms who didn't care if you needed 15 pillows to keep yourself comfortable or if you needed to cry a little bit. I met a group of moms from my breastfeeding support group that formed a playgroup that we met with weekly until we moved from Colorado.

    Anyhow, the reason I'm sharing all my past details is to make you feel even more like you're not alone. I'm so glad that things have improved with the feeding. And I'm glad that you're finding a style of parenting that works well for you. Your intuition is powerful...go with it.

    Parenting is hard work...every part of it. Of course it is worth it and wonderful, but it is also so emotional and heartwrenching, too. I know you are Travis already are and will continue to be such wonderful parents! I wish we lived closer so we could get together more.

    I also wanted to say how wonderful it was that you were able to have the natural birth you planned for. While I completely believe that there are many amazing ways to bring a baby into the world, it makes me a bit sad that not many people even know that natural childbirth can still be a realistic option in today's society.

    I think of you often and we still have a baby gift to send you, so I'll try to get that in the mail soon! Take care of yourselves in addition to your beautiful baby!

    Wow, this turned into a really long comment!!