Not a step back

we won't lose the bond
but I have lost my control
over the last thing

I am not calling it weaning. I will not wean him. I am not weaning him. We are not weaning.

The more I say it, the more panicky I feel, because we are on the road to weaning and it is not the road I want to be on. Not at all. With everything that has been happening with Ike-a-saurus, my struggle to get him to breastfeed again was the one thing I felt like I could control. I am taking domperidone and my milk supply is increasing everyday. Of course, having a baby that nurses pretty much 23 out of 24 hours a day helps with my supply, too.

So, the milk is pretty much back, the baby is nursing, things seems OK, right?

Not so much.

In the past 8 days, he has only gained 1 ounce. Before the hospital, he was nursing exclusively and gaining about an ounce a DAY. This has our doctor worried, and our doctor is not the kind of guy who worries – or lets on when he's worried. So for him to be bothered by this, I know it's a big deal. He's also bothered that I am not getting much sleep, and told me, half-way jokingly, that me not going insane is just as high a priority as Ike gaining weight.

And Ike is not gaining weight. We don't know why. He's pooping and eating constantly, but he's not emptying the newly full boobs. The theory is that he's trying, he's trying really hard, but it's making him too tired and causing him to burn more calories than he's receiving. This was a common point of discussion when Ike-a-saurus was tiny in the NICU, but lately we thought this was an ancient history thing – nothing to worry about anymore.

Obviously, the number one goal right now is to fatten him up. He needs to get big and get big fast, regardless of how it happens. The bigger he gets the sooner he gets the trach out. At least this is
what we all hope. We'll know more when he has the next bronchoscopy.

So what do we do? Mainline Karo syrup? Slather his fingers with Nutella? Coat his pacifier with Cheez Whiz? Maybe just fortify his milk to 24 calories by adding formula to it. Maybe just give him the Neosure outright. No supplemental nursing system because we're worried the nursing is too much for him. We'll revisit that idea in a few weeks, though good grief the SNS is messy and ridiculous.

The crux of the thing – the blow to my sanity, my comfort, my ego is that I've been asked to do no more direct breastfeeding. Well, not like we're used to. It's OK to nurse a little for comfort, and even a little for sustenance, but all of his feedings need to be bottles, with the boob as a supplement. I can keep pumping, and fortify the pumped milk. We can give him the super stinky Neosure. Hopefully he will pack on the pounds.

I know this is not an end of the world thing. But of all my babies, this little guy needs the antibodies and mysterious goodness of my milk the most. And he's the one it's not working for. I can't help but feel there's something I could do better or differently, even though I know it's not me. It's not him. It's our fucked up situation.

He'll keep getting my milk, fresh from the tap, as long as I can do it. Into bottles it will go, into the freezer, into the fridge. Then we'll mix it with enough formula to create the right brew of antibodies and calories, and hopefully, as he grows, we can nurse more and more. I have to be prepared, though, for that to not happen. I have to be OK if he weans completely. I don't know if I can be OK with that, but at least I can try to prepare for it.

But I need to not worry about that. Must focus on making him fat using any means possible. Must remove all guilt and sadness and silly regret from the equation.

Must teach him to eat chicken fried steak and sour cream mashed potatoes.

Must get on that.

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11 thoughts on “Not a step back

  1. If he takes after Pop, he’ll be a whopper in no time. That Pet Milk/Karo syrup pumped me up in no time…And get some sleep!

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  2. Oh Kari, my heart is breaking for how your heart must be breaking. I can’t imagine. But I’m SO GLAD you’re the kind of mama who recognizes the goodness of mama milk and isn’t going to just pack it in and give up without a fight. I think keeping up the supplemental and comfort nursing is an excellent idea–it will keep him from forgetting how to latch. Maybe after he’s gained some weight he’ll be able to go back to nursing exclusively because it won’t be such an energy drain. Keep up the pumping–I only had to do it for a week when AJ was first born and wouldn’t latch at all, but I know how AWFUL it is to have to do it all.day.long. But just keep reminding yourself that it won’t be forever!!!! He will gain weight, and he will get to the point where he can nurse maybe one or two meals a day, and then he’ll get to the point where he can nurse them ALL. The bottles aren’t the end of the world. They suck, and it’s one more lousy thing to add to your daily (or bi-hourly) To Do List, but so long as they give Ike the gold that is breastmilk, it’ll be worth it. AND, you can regain some sleep and sanity while Daddy (or the wee one?!) bottle feeds him.
    You can do it. It’s another crappy hurdle, but it can be jumped, and you will do it, and he can do it, and all will be well someday. BIG hugs and prayers that the day comes very very soon.

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  3. Try not to beat yourself up (too much) about it–you are both doing the best you can, mama. If it’s any consolation, I had to wean Cody at 6 months because of medical reasons (mine) and he still has a hell of an immune system. And I couldn’t even pump after that point!

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  4. Oh…. **BIG HUGS**
    Neither of my girls ever nursed well. My older daughter hated to nurse. She would just scream and scream. My younger daughter loved it, but it made her little body too tired and she couldn’t gain weight with it. I pumped (for 10 months and 9 months respectively) for them.
    I don’t pretend to know anything about how you feel or how hard all of this must be. I have no idea. Absolutely none. What I can say is that it is possible to pump and have it feel emotionally satisfying. You are still feeding that babe. Your body is still nourishing his. I know how wonderful, magical, and precious the physical contact of nursing is. My eyes tear up when I think of the only time I was ever able to successfully nurse in a restaurant or the few times (there were 5 of them) my younger daughter demanded the breast and refused the bottle. But, I know I fed my children. I know my antibodies helped them grow even if I had to mix in heavier formula for calories. We were still linked together, even if the food had a middleman.
    Pumping is not weaning. You are still a Breastfeeding Mama performing a wonderful, loving service for your boy.

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  5. *hugs* I know it’s not a perfect system you’re dealing with. But pumping is not the end of the world. Comfort nursing is critical to you both. You both need that right now. Get him big and fat and you get some sleep!!

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  6. My little guy had a bottle before the breast, because breastfeeding required to much oxygen, and he had difficulty in that department. I think he was nearly a week old the first time he was even allowed that. He even had to stay in the isolet to be fed so that they could keep his oxygen levels up.
    Fast forward a month, he was nursing like a champ. Fast forward again, he weaned himself just shy of his first birthday (too soon for me).
    My point, do what you need to do to keep your little guy healthy, everything else will fall into place.

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  7. I’m so sorry that you are struggling with this. Who are you working with on the breastfeeding? Are you working with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant? I’m asking because doctors and nurses often don’t have very much training on breastfeeding and will make recommendations that can be dangerous for your breastfeeding relationship.
    Have you considered using a Supplemental Nursing System while your baby is at the breast, rather than using bottles? I worry that too little time at the breast could result in your supply decreasing (even if you are pumping, having baby at the breast can stimulate supply) and also result in your baby having a bottle preference and not wanting to go back to the breast.
    Are you using newborn nipples and using a wide nipple for the bottles? Keeping the flow slow and the base of the nipple wide can help avoid a bottle preference over time.
    When you are nursing, doing breast compressions can help bring more milk and in particular more of the fatty hindmilk out faster. It can also encourage the baby to keep drinking.
    It is hard to give good advice in the comments space here and I am also just one person, but if you want more support and more help from a wonderful team of knowledgeable women, I would really recommend the kellymom message boards (and the kellymom Web site).
    http://forum.kellymom.net/index.php
    Kudos to you for trying so hard! I know it can be rough and hard to be getting different advice from all sorts of different places. It took me several months to get my first baby nursing well and my second one had slow weight gain.

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  8. Kari,
    I just wanted you to know that I am thinking of you and Ike. I wanted you to know that Ike is very blessed to have you as his mom. He is so lucky to have a mom who is willing to do whatever she can do to help him.
    My younger son had nursing issues for his first six weeks. Once my milk came in, he just couldn’t latch on. And he would get so worked up and exhausted trying that he would just fall asleep again without nursing. So I gave him bottles–of pumped milk or formula. People yelled at me that it was too early for a bottle and that he would get confused and not nurse or my milk supply would go away. But what could I do? Starve him to death? Not on my watch. Anyway, I used bottles until he could figure out the whole latching on business and now he’s 10 months old and has been nursing fine for the last 8 months or so.
    My sister-in-law has triplets. Needless to say, she could not nurse all three full-time without going totally insane due to lack of sleep–so they had bottles from day one of either pumped milk or high calorie formula. As they got older, she was able to nurse all three directly(on an alternating schedule) with no problem.
    I know every case is different, but I just wanted to let you know that there can be breastfeeding again after life on bottles. I hope this has given you some hope. In the end, the most important thing for Ike is your love and you will always have that in abundance. Again, he is very blessed to have you as his mom.

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  9. I have no idea how you are managing to keep such a balanced, healthy perspective on this. Breastfeeding is such an emotional thing, such a fundamental, buried deep into our human code as mamas, primal thing. Calling it bonding doesn’t even scratch the surface. I had multiple mastitis infections with the first child, so for the second, the milk just wasn’t there and she was a hungry, dissatisfied child who would not switch easily between breast and bottle. I was crushed about letting go of BFing after just a couple of months, but she finally was able to get as much as she wanted when she ate, then she ate every few hours for the first time ever (she had been a non-stop cluster feeder) and then she was able to start getting some sleep for a few hours at a time at night – and so did I. And she ended up getting sick less than her bro who nursed exclusively for the first 9 months. Go figure.
    It’s so hard to have this confronting you now, too. However you manage it, it’s up to you and Ike and no one else, and you two will get through it together.

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  10. I have a slow gainer too, in fact, FTT at one point. They recommended I use safflower oil in her bottles rather than neosure. The dietician in the NICU told us to try that and it worked.
    But I don’t know that you’re looking for this type of help.
    So instead – I’m sorry this is so mucked up. We’re here to listen, even if it’s all we can do…

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