Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Please go easy on the exhausted new mom...

You'd think that this would be something people who work in maternity wards would know, wouldn't you? Unfortunately we got the short end of the stick on the second night we were in the hospital.

When N. was born, they took him to the NICU for about half an hour, just to make sure he was breathing OK. That's where they weighed him, and he was 9 lb, 11 oz, which is his official birth weight. Once we went up to the maternity floor, though, he was weighed on a different scale for the rest of our time in the hospital. Half an hour after he was 9 lb, 11 oz, they put him on the new scale and he was 9 lb, 7 oz. Now, no one should be silly enough to believe he lost 4 oz in half an hour. With me so far?

So, every night the babies are weighed to make sure they aren't losing too much weight (>10%), even though a small loss is normal for pretty much all newborns. The problem with N. was that they were calculating his weight loss based on the first birthweight of 9-11, rather than 9-7. So, the second night when they went up to weigh him, they calculated that he'd lost nearly 13% of his birthweight (when in actual fact it was right around 10%).

I understand that with small babies, and sick babies, weight loss can signal severe dehydration and lots of other problems. N. was neither small nor sick, though, and wasn't showing any signs of anything. The nurse that was on duty that night, though, only saw that one number, 13%, and came into the room at half past midnight with a doomsday attitude. She felt he wasn't getting anything from the breastfeeding, and that we had to make a decision then and there. I was exhausted, Hubby was exhausted, and she was insistent that we start formula feeding him; she made me feel like my baby was in grave danger, and I panicked. I still wouldn't allow them to bring bottles in, though, so we tube-fed him 15mL. I spent the rest of the night lying awake, feeling like a failure.

The next morning, though, the pediatrician came in, and said that N. was doing just fine for the time being. His suggestion was to pump more breastmilk, and feed that mixed with breastmilk via tube, if N. continued to lose weight, and then reassess, although he didn't seem to understand the discrepancies with the scales, and that N. hadn't actually lost more than 10%. No one seemed to listen to us on that one.

I managed to arrange to meet with the lactation consultant that day, and she was amazing. She realized that there was a weight discrepancy, did the calculations herself, and reassured us that we were doing just fine. She did encourage me to pump and supplement that way, but didn't feel that adding formula was necessary. She spent most of the afternoon with us, and then came back Tuesday morning, and spent the day helping us before we were released from the hospital.

Unfortunately, the day we were released, we had a different pediatrician come in to do the assessment, and he was horrible. He felt that I was being foolish not switching to formula right away, and he made me feel about as smart as a four-year-old child. I nearly started crying, but he was so obnoxious that I wouldn't give him the satisfaction. I had been reassured by the lactation consultant that things would be fine if I continued to breastfeed on demand, and I had set up appointments to get N. weighed with our usual pediatricians several times within the first week. We've had three appointments so far, and N. continues to put on weight. He was nearly back up to his birthweight on May 8th, and we're going in again tomorrow.

Now, one thing I've learned (and learned very quickly) is that there's really no point in being absolutely hard-lined about anything when it comes to raising a baby. I know now that I have to be flexible about everything, both for N.'s health and my own sanity. I didn't pitch a fit when I had to supplement with tube-fed breastmilk, and I didn't pitch a fit when one of the nurses gave us a hospital pacifier. I understand that for some people, co-sleeping works, and for others, cribs and bassinets work. Some moms wear their babies all day long, some have swings and bouncy chairs. I'm open-minded as much as I can be, and I try to listen to what the professionals tell me (provided they deliver their message in a professional manner, and respect me as a parent and an adult, and as a scientist who may invest herself a bit more into the research and information).

Let's just hope tomorrow's appointment is a good one :-)

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