Thursday, December 5, 2013

Learning to feed with a cleft

Sorry it's been awhile! Well, honestly, I'm not that sorry. Life has been happening and it has been glorious!

Henrik's birth was amazing and magical. The "baby moon" period afterward was a dream! Don't get me wrong, Henrik was still a newborn who had needs - he didn't sleep as well as my other children (though he did sleep great! Just not as well as I'm used to) and he wanted to eat constantly. I didn't care. My miracle  baby was here and perfect. I remember one morning he woke me up at 3am. He nursed then was back asleep by 3:30. Any normal new mother would have gone back to sleep herself but what did I do? I just sat there and stared at him. For an hour... I couldn't help myself - he was so wonderful and adorable and perfect. I knew he would soon be different and wanted to remember every moment I had with him. Don't get me wrong, the early morning adoring sessions didn't last, but I can honestly say I never enjoyed having a newborn as much as I enjoy my time with Henrik.

We went to his regularly scheduled pediatrician appointments. His pediatrician is the same doctor I saw when I was growing up which is really great. Henrik was gaining weight slowly. His doctor never expressed concern with how he much he was gaining because Henrik was still having plenty of dirty diapers and was growing in length. We met with Henrik's cleft team when he was 2 weeks old which was when we were first met with concern about his weight. He was gaining but at the bare minimum for what was considered acceptable. He was still nursing great but I had noticed that he probably wasn't getting as much milk as I thought. I have to use a nursing aid called a nipple shield when my  babies are first born for several reasons and so I also used it with Henrik. Because of his cleft, he wasn't able to latch onto the shield well causing the milk to leak out of his mouth which was why (I assume) he wasn't gaining like expected AND why he wanted to nurse literally the whole time he was awake. After making this connection and rectifying the situation, Henrik would finally seem to feel full and satisfied. He started gaining better (though still slowly). I was so proud of myself! I saw the problem, fixed  it and made the situation better. Two years of nursing my older children and my doula training were kicking in and I made myself better ; )

I was so nervous about nursing Henrik. I had no idea if I was even going to be able to breastfeed him let  alone how it would go. I was feeling like a failure once I realized there was a problem. I questioned why I was trying so hard and if I was making the right decision. I constantly worried that he was feeling hungry. I worried that maybe my milk wasn't nutritionally sustaining for him since he was the first baby I breastfed after my dramatic weight  loss. I changed how I ate to try to help - I typically eat really well so I  tried adding in a little "junk" with no change so then I started eating foods that were still  healthy but higher in fat and upped my calorie intake. Still no help. After talking extensively with the nurse practitioner on our cleft team, we came to the conclusion that Henrik was just going to be a slow gainer. I still have moments of "Am I doing the right thing? Is he getting enough?" but I am a firm believer that breast is best and have been reassured that he is getting what he needs. It's taken some getting used to (Henrik's growth pattern) but I think we've finally found our niche and we are happily going on 5 months of breastfeeding - yay!

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