A Rocky Start
Preparing for labor
We were prepared for a long overnight birth. We got to the birthing center in the evening with our suit cases ready. I ordered us some meals from Chipotle for dinner and a late night snack.
Our daughter had other plans. Before our meal arrived, I had caught Alyria and we were welcoming her into the world. Most of the rest of the time was spent with the midwives sewing up my wife, who unfortunately had a little bit of perineal tearing.
The ride home
The ride home was wonderfully uneventful. We put her in the car seat and she fell asleep on the way home, arriving home around 5am. We managed to catch a little sleep ourselves. In the morning, my wife breast fed Alyria.
My mom came over to meet her. To be honest, neither one of us remembers much of that day anymore other than feelings of joy, excitement, and of course bewilderment.
I do, however, remember being shocked at just how beautiful and pristine her skin was. I always thought babies were more wrinkly and pruney.
We had our appointment with our pediatrician three days later and discovered that she lost 10% of her birth weight, so they wanted us to start supplementing since it appeared as if my wife's milk supply hadn't really come in yet.
The pediatrician told us to feed Alyria 30ml every 2 hours. We were prepared with formula, but given the importance of breast milk, our preference was to use donor milk if possible. We were fortunate to be able to find some quickly and began bottle feeding that afternoon.
We should have been given an SNS (supplemental nursing system) at this time, but we did not know about that yet. (More on this in a future article)
While we were happy to get Alyria more milk, she spat everything up. We tried all through the night trying to feed her and she kept spitting everything up. It had been 24 hours since having a wet diaper, so we called the nurse help line. They were concerned about dehydration and recommended we go to the emergency department.
A troubling trip to the hospital
When we got to the emergency department, they determined that Alyria was not dehydrated. Whew!
However, the experience was shall we say "peculiar". The attending doctor was concerned about us not feeding our baby. So were we! We even brought the formula we were using to make sure we were doing everything correctly.
You can understand how distraught we were when the doctor threatened to call social services to take Alyria away if we didn't feed our baby before leaving the hospital. The doctor insisted and did not allow us to leave without feeding her 60ml. Not only was her attitude inappropriate, we found out later that this was completely the wrong amount to be feeding a newborn of her age.
Despite this rather aweful turn of events, it actually was quite good that we went emergency department. The nursing staff was extremely helpful. They gave us tips on bottle feeding and swaddling techniques. And most importantly, burping.
Burp your baby
Somehow, none of the courses, videos, or books we read said much about burping, so we had no idea about it. We did not realize we were supposed to burp her after and even during feedings! So that's why she was spitting up everything.
Back to the hospital!? Seriously??
We finally left the hospital and went home when shortly after we saw some blood in her spit up. This really concerned us and we turned right back around to go to the emergency department. It's a 30min drive so we didn't want to waste any time. Fortunately we were able to call some people and do some web searching to find that it is normal to see blood when the mother has cracked nipples.
The next few days we tried our best to follow the insistent doctor's directions of feeding our daughter 60ml every 2 hours. I can't sufficiently describe how scary it is to be up alone at 3am trying to feed your newborn baby and not even being able to wake her. No matter what we did, she just wouldn't wake. Feedings took over an hour since she kept falling asleep and barely eating. Even though we knew to burp her now, we struggled to do it because she kept falling asleep. I was fortunate to have some friends who were also going through late night feedings that were willing to pick up the phone and talk at this time.
It wasn't until we saw a lactation consultant a few days later that we found out all the instructions that both doctors gave us was wrong. The amount was twice as much as needed for Alyria's age and it was way too frequent. By this time in the week, she should have had 30ml every 3-4 hours rather than 60ml every 2 hours (even our pediatrician's guidance of 30ml every 2 hours was wrong for how new our baby was at the time -- every day is a huge difference for a newborn!). In addition, we found out later that most baby professionals say never to wake a sleeping baby.
While this lactation consultant set us on the right path regarding amount of feeding, we would later find that her breast feeding advice was not quite right for our situation. But that's an article for another day.
⚠️ Lessons learned
- Learn to burp your baby!
- Every day matters for a newborn, especially the first couple weeks of life. So make sure to plan ahead and have specialists ready should you run into any problems.
- The medical profession, especially when it comes to babies is highly specialized. Even though pediatrician is knowledgable about the general health of your child, she is not necessarily going to be an expert on nutrition.
- Find a lactation consultant well in advance. They can easily book out for weeks/months. They know about feeding and can give you proper instruction on how to breast feed.
- If it's within your means, find a few different lactation consultants. If you have no issues after the first one, then you can stop. But if you have any issues at all, it can be tremendous hearing different viewpoints/suggestions. The first few days of life are crucial and you don't want to spend 4 weeks diagnosing something that someone can identify and fix immediately.
- If you're considering a birth center, we found ours to be quite good for the pregnancy and delivery part of the birth process. However the post-birth care was rather lacking. While they did have visits and checkups, we really did not receive any of the instructions we needed to care for our newborn. Things like breast or bottle feeding, swaddling, or burping!
- Have some friends, perhaps mothers with similar aged babies that you can talk/text with, especially when you're up alone in the middle of the night.