When Cate was born, we knew she was tiny, but she seemed totally healthy. Her five minute APGAR score was 9.9, so we figured that hey, all is well, she’s just really small. Five pounds and 14 ounces isn’t considered a preemie, so no problems.
Before we left the hospital, they told us that she was jaundiced and that we needed to follow up with our pediatrician the next day. Dave and I both thought that was odd, since jaundiced babies are supposed to be yellow, and she was just about the pinkest thing I’d ever seen. But ok, sure, we’ll do as we’re told.
By the next day, the pink of her skin had been replaced by an awful lot of yellow. We saw the pediatrician that afternoon, and found out that her weight had dropped to five pounds, five ounces. Nine ounces in two days. It’s pretty typical for babies to lose weight the first week – it’s just that when you’re starting with such a small baby, you don’t have a huge margin to work with. Here’s the problem: the primary way to cure jaundice is to make sure that the baby has plenty of food in her tummy, because it makes the digestive tract start working to move things along. And on Monday, my milk still hadn’t come in. The pediatrician told us that it was time to start supplementing with formula.
The thing is, I knew I wanted to try breastfeeding because of all the health benefits for the baby and for me, but I’ve never been that militant about it. I wasn’t breastfed myself, and if anything, I’m probably too bonded with my mother (we talk on the phone every day), so I wasn’t worried about that aspect of it. Also, I read Amalah’s blog when she was struggling with nursing, and it broke my heart – that, combined with a lot of the other mommy blogs where women have talked about their guilt about breastfeeding (or lack thereof), made me decide that no matter what, I was not going to beat myself up about it if nursing didn’t work out. I’d give it my best effort, and that would just have to be good enough.
So, per the pediatrician’s orders, we’ve started supplementing with formula. It’s actually kind of a relief, because it lets Dave be involved in feeding time, which he loves. And which I love because it means that I actually get a break every now and then. As a bonus, I don’t have to worry about whether the baby is starving because my milk supply hasn’t completely come in yet.
Yesterday, we had our post-partum follow-up appointment at the hospital. The nurse practitioner told me that since my breast size didn’t really increase when I was pregnant (does half a cup size even count?), and my glands were still only partially full, I may never get a full milk supply. Which means we’ll always have to supplement with formula.
And you know? The only reason I feel guilty about that is because I’m kind of relieved, because (warning: Bad Mother Alert) I really don’t like nursing. It hurts, it takes forever to get Cate into the right position, I’m never sure if she’s latched on right (I thought we had it nailed until the lactation nurse yesterday told me that I was doing it totally wrong, oops), and I never know if she’s getting enough. I rented a breast pump from the hospital, and I actually prefer to use that because I know exactly how much I’m producing. And it doesn’t hurt as much.
My original plan was to try to breastfeed for the first six months. At this point, I’m starting to think that maybe we’ll try it for a month and take it from there. Also, we’re only on Day Four, so I’m trying to relax and just see how things progress. Maybe I’ll feel completely different in a week, who knows.
My number one goal at the moment is to make sure that our baby is well-fed, growing and getting healthier every day. As long as she’s thriving, my Mommy Guilt can take a big fat hike.
And it can wear a cute little matching fleece hat and jacket when it goes.