Monday 12 November 2007

that'll show me

A surefire way to ensure that things will go tits up is to brag about how great things are. Like talking about how easy breastfeeding is and how you've got a baby that sleeps through the night - stuff like that.

For over three weeks now, Mia's been waking through the night for feeds. At first, I chalked it down to a growth spurt (because anything odd that happens in the first 3 years of a child's life is due to teething or a growth spurt when you have no clue what could be going on) but by the third week, I figured that something else must be up. Somewhere in a dark, dusty corner of my mind, I retrieved a memory about babies waking for a feed but not actually needing to be fed. I remembered reading something about how babies wake because they're used to being fed, so if you wanted to drop the night feed, you should try to settle them instead feeding them - we did this with Jack when he was around the same age as Mia.

Bear with me, I do realise how idiotic this all sounds in hindsight.

So, I decided to settle Mia when she woke rather than feed her. I did this for a couple of nights, but gave up when it became obvious that a) she wasn't going to settle and b) her crying kept waking Jack up, so we had two kids getting rotten nights. I did a bit more reading and went with the advice to feed on demand and try offering both sides. Mia only ever fed from one breast each feed and never seemed to need or want more, so it never occurred to me to offer her the other breast. Back we went to the 2 hourly night feeds, from both sides this time. I took her to the baby clinic the following week to see how her weight was doing, and was completely shocked to discover that she had dropped from the 9th centile to the 2nd. My little girl had only gained one pound in 8 weeks, and all I could think was that it was all my fault. I couldn't feed her enough; all the fears and anxiety about breastfeeding that I had with Jack came flooding back. Did I need to supplement? Pump? How the hell would I know she was getting enough to eat? Could I produce enough? So much for simply following my motherly instincts and trusting my body to do as nature intended.

I phoned Paul and burst into tears, berating myself for underfeeding Mia and denying her food during those nights I chose to settle instead of feed her. He offered to come home to be with me, but I knew I just needed to have a mini meltdown so I could think more clearly. A huge bouquet arrived later that afternoon with a card that said "To the best mummy EVER!" from the best husband ever, and everything started to feel less daunting. A bit more reading (I *heart* Kellymom!) and a few posts to some mummy web boards later, and I came up with a plan: keep feeding as often as possible and always from both sides, pump after each feed to help increase my supply, drink tons of water, and take some milk-boosting measures (take fenugreek, eat certain foods, avoid caffeine, etc.)

I know that weight charts and centiles mean diddly squat, but it was impossible not to feel awful when I learned that my already tiny baby had dropped even further down the chart. I even entertained the thought of starting solids before I remembered that babies don't (and shouldn't) eat enough to "fill them up", so it would be an exercise in futility. I just wanted to keep Mia's belly full, and I was starting to doubt my ability to do so - I was clutching at straws trying to make things better. Sleep deprivation and mother's guilt will do that to you.

So far, I think it's working. She's still waking for feeds every 2-3 hours (I have now entered Zombieville) but I'm fairly sure that my supply is keeping up with the demand. I've hired a hospital grade electric pump (after a few days with my old hand pump, I quickly remembered why I hated the bloody thing so much) and trying to stay positive. If things get rough again, I'll call the NCT breastfeeding helpline and pick the brains of my wise friends. It just pisses me off that things have to be difficult after such a great stretch.

So the next time I spout off about how grand things are, remind me to keep my big mouth firmly shut.

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