This post will be near and dear to all mama’s (and daddy’s) hearts. I will attempt to describe the challenges and triumphs that we have had the privilege of working through and figuring out with our little guy. We’ve been lucky to not have to travel this road alone, rather with the help and support of our family, friends, and Knoxville Pediatrics. I will also say that we are so, so, so thankful that our challenges have been as mild in nature as they have been… not to say we haven’t experienced exhaustion and frustration, but we realize how fortunate we are to live in a place where medicines, advice, and support are freely given…a place where children can thrive, grow, love and be loved, and live freely.
Jaundice & Nursing = Not a Good Time
About 50% of all babies experience jaundice in varying levels within the first couple weeks of life. It is the result of bilirubin in the baby’s blood that is typically expelled within the first few days of life; however, if it is not expelled it can cause yellowness in the baby’s skin and eyes, sleepiness and sluggishness (more than usual for a newborn), and inadequate milk intake. It typically clears up on its own within a week or so. Well, when we brought Noah home his bilirubin level was at 8 which is not an alarming level. We were told if he starts resembling the color of Chris’ shirt (a gold Seminoles shirt) then we needed to call the doctor. We never noticed that he was getting yellower until we were under the flourescent lights at the pediatrician’s office for our first visit when he was 4 days old. The doc was concerned with the yellow and his weight decreasing, so he sent us to have his blood tested over at the hospital lab. He also wanted us feed him every two hours to add in a few more in a 24hour period and supplement with formula if necessary.
It took a while to get the amount of blood they needed, and even pricking his little foot two times, he never cried or fussed. We headed home, not too worried, we would be heading back to the doctor the next morning to have a recheck. At about 8am the next morning the office calls to say that his level jumped up to 16 in two days and we need to take Noah back to the lab before we come in for our recheck. Ugh. We get ourselves together as quickly as possible and head to Knoxville. After a way-too-long wait at the lab we met with Dr. Fogle again and he says that the level has gone down and his weight has increased a couple of ounces… we should continue what we were doing and come back on Thursday for a weight check and we also scheduled an appointment to meet with the Lactation Consultant on Saturday.
Thursday’s weight check did not fare well for us… Noah had lost even more weight even though his jaundice was supposedly improving. So… the doc has me nurse him there, re-weigh him, and then offer him 2oz of formula. We nursed for about 20 minutes, weighed in at 1oz heavier, and then he drained the bottle in no time. Ugh. Defeat. Now, let me also say that I fell apart in the doctor’s office, crying and feeling like a total failure, like I wasn’t giving my baby what he needed. Kelly later informed me that I was hitting the emotional breakdown time period that is natural after childbirth, but man, I was a mess. Doc sent us on our way, feeding every two hours, pumping, and offering formula after nursing. Whew. And when in there am I supposed to sleep?
I was bound and determined to make this work…until about 3am Friday morning when Noah and I both cried and cried for 45 minutes straight. He was throwing his head around, screaming each time I tried to put him to breast. Chris took the baby, I continued to sob, and the three of us decided that this method was not working. We called the Dr. first thing Friday morning, I couldn’t stand the thought of continuing on like that for even another day. I couldn’t form sentences so Chris had to talk to them on the phone while my parents and Kelly (via phone) tried to calm my emotions. The LC suggested we skip the nursing, just pump and let him take the milk from the bottle. This is where my fate would be decided…
Now, let me put this out there that from the day we found out we were expecting I was set that I would do my best to give our baby the best possible situation in life from that day forward. I planned to nurse him from the start, not because I need him to nurse to feel validated as a mama, but so that he can get the best nutrition possible. Pumping is not a blow to my ego, just an extra step added to my day. I knew we had work to do and I knew that we needed to get our little guy back to good health. When we went in on Saturday I was nervous as can be… the nurse took him and weighed him and he has gained back 6oz! Chris and I definitely high-fived in the middle of the hallway at the office! I was so relieved and glad to know that I wasn’t breaking our baby… Irrational, I know. The LC suggested we continue on the path we had been traveling and to wait at least 3 weeks before we tried to nurse again, we needed to “outlive” his memory of the frustration at the breast. I felt good about that and continued on. Noah has NOT stopped gaining weight since then… just check out his cheeks for proof.
Think the flu with really, really painful boobs. Basically, mastitis is an infection in the breast that causes clogged milk ducts which leads to engorgement (pain, hot to the touch, redness, decreased milk supply). This hit me around Noah’s 1 month “birthday” and took about a week to recover from. After two doctor’s visits, antibiotics, lots of hot baths, and essentially quarantine at the house I finally kicked it and pray that I don’t get it again. The funny part is that during one of my baths I was kneading the knots out of my left side and all the suddent it was like the dam broke and milk came shooting out like a water fountain. I sat there and drained that sucker for 20 minutes…talk about relief. Whew.
So, as I said before, our challenges have been minor in comparison to what other young mamas and papas have had to endure. Though I felt as if my world was crumbling at the time of each challenge, I found comfort and reassurance that God would provide, whatever that meant. Noah would be fine, I would eventually feel human again, and we would figure it all out. I am ever thankful for challenges that are set before me because it just magnifies God’s grace and power and what he can do. If I could just convince myself to realize this thankfulness during the time of stress and frustration…