I Starved My Baby, Part Two

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I’ve previously mentioned how I starved my son for the first 23 hours of his life because I was far too sleep-deprived, doped-up, and frightened of having a new baby (not to mention recovering from a particularly traumatic labor) to realize that the nurses were serving me up lactivist ideology as sound medical advice.  The only visitors I had (my parents and my ex) were as inexperienced with neonates as I was, so I afforded these nurses far more credibility than they deserved.  Sadly, I was not yet finished torturing my poor little fella.

I don’t recall much about the first few day after being discharged — apart from my ex’s evil bitch of a sister pestering me about seeing her nephew.  (Really? It’s a friggin’ newborn.  Are you expecting it to do tricks?)  I assume we both got some sleep, what with having temporarily moved into my mother’s bedroom.  (Thanks, mom!)  Two days after we were discharged, I brought him to his first appointment at the pediatrician and things took a turn for the worse.

Neonates generally lose between 5 and 10 percent of their body weight within the first few days of life, though they’re expected to be back up to their original birth weight by the time they’re 10 to 14 days old.

My son was born weighing 7 lbs 11 oz.  He was starved for the first day, fed a few ounces of formula on the second, and by day four my milk had begun coming in, so I was able to throw in a few ouncedsof breastmilk.  On the fifth day — the day of his first appointment — he weighed in at 7 lbs 8 ounces.  Though the accuracy of that weighing would be questioned at a later appointment (with a different doctor, I should add) it seemed then that my son had only lost three ounces of his birth weight.  Not a big deal, considering he was a whopping 21.5 inches in length (the 99th percentile!) but only the 38th percentile for weight. I had a long, skinny-looking baby.

But the doctor (I’ll refer to him as ‘Dr. W.’) freaked out, accusing me and my ex (who was present for that appointment) of “overfeeding” the baby, after which he went off on some rant about infant obesity and on-demand feeding.  And while I certainly agree that infant obesity is a huge problem in America (and there is nothing remotely cute about a fat baby), none of the crap he was dishing out to us had anything to do with my baby.

Dr. W. wanted to know how much I’d been feeding him.  I replied, “2.5 oz about 8 times per day.”  He told me to reduce the amount of breastmilk/formula to only 1.5 oz (keep in mind that a newborn should generally get 2-3 ounces per feeding) and to only feed him every four waking hours.  This went against all of my baby books, but both my ex and my mother (who was down the hall having a waiting room stare-down with the ex’s father) insisted I needed to listen to the pediatrician.  After all, I’m not a doctor.  (No, just a mother with a shitty support network.)  In the wake of that first appointment, my son’s behavior changed tremendously.

He’d initially calmed down after the first day of life starving and was generally pretty mellow.  Suddenly, he’d become a different baby, crying inconsolably for hours at a time.  Once again, I was so sleep-deprived, uncertain, and utterly terrified my baby that I had trouble putting two and two together.  The appointment had been on a Thursday, so by the time Friday evening rolled around, I was ready to call the nurses’ after-hours line.  They told me to bring him back in the following morning to get checked out.  Being a Saturday, the practice only offered limited hours and availability.  We ended up seeing a nurse who confirmed my worst fear: my baby had colic.

My little baby’s “colic” was so severe that not even the 5S’s could help.  I was just about ready to resign myself to four months worth of sleepless nights and inconsolable crying when my mother — who at this point had been getting up with me to help care for my son (my movement was still pretty limited by my injuries) — decided she’d had enough and that I was on my own with this shrieking, shitting little thing.  And so, out of desperation, I attempted the one thing I’d been warned NOT to resort to — feeding him.

When I made my intentions known, not only did my mother forget how tired she was, but she proceed to wake my father — who’s been sleeping on the couch since I was twelve — shrieking that I was going to hurt the baby.  He in turn decided to verbally assault me and warned me that if his grandson needed medical attention because I’d overfed him, he’d put me right there in the hospital with him.  (Thanks for your support, Dad! <3)

My son ceased crying the moment the bottle touched his lips. He ended up consuming a full three ounces of formula before settling down to sleep. He woke up about two to three hours later, drank a good three ounces of breast milk (my mother looked stricken), had his diaper changed, and again went back to sleep. Whenever my son’s “colic” began to rear its ugly head (approximately 8 times per day), I’d stick a bottle of breast milk in his mouth and he would settle right down.

At his second well visit — exactly a week after the first — my baby weighed in at 7 lb 6 oz. He was now eleven days old and had yet to regain his birth weight.  But the physician’s assistant we saw was unconcerned, especially after I’d explained about the two periods of starvation.  And it was she who realized that the weighing from his visit with Dr. W. could not possibly have been accurate because — get ready — he only weighed in at 7 lbs 2 ounces when we’d brought him in that Saturday morning, a fact which had completely escaped my sleep-deprived attention.  Though  you’d think the nurse might have said something about a baby losing six ounces in two days.

So there you have it — in a nutshell, a pediatrician put my 38th-percentile-for-weight, 99th for length neonate on a starvation diet.  My baby was subjected to not one but two periods of prolonged starvation before he was a week old.  *Applause sign*

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I Starved My Baby, Part One

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My son did not eat until 23 hours after he was born.

He was my first child, and my mother (who’d adopted me at five weeks) didn’t have any more experience with newborns than I did, so we initially listened to the recovery ward nurses who said it wasn’t necessary for babies to eat within the first twenty-four hours of birth.

My son had some of the classic latching problems (which we would later overcome), but more importantly, I WAS NOT PRODUCING ANY BREASTMILK.  I never produced any colostrum, and the milk did not start coming in normally until several days after the birth.

But the nurses assured me I would produce milk if I kept trying to latch him on.  And so I did, even though it felt as if I were banging both our freaking heads again the wall.

When he was 10 hours old, I asked for formula.  The nurses convinced me it was unnecessary, and to keep on trying to latch and/or pump.  At 12 hours old, I asked again.  A nurse instead came in to “coach” me.  At this point, I was torn between “doing the right thing” (holding out to EBF) and doing what was “convenient for me” (feeding a starving baby).

Please keep in mind that I was new to all this, utterly-sleep deprived (I’d been averaging two hours a night for the past five days) and under the influence of oxycodone, yet still in a terrible amount of pain.  I figured these nurses were the “experts,” and when they offered me a newborn pacifier to “soothe” (i.e. shut up) my hungry baby, I gladly accepted.

A few hours later (and after few more timid requests for formula), they sent in a lactation consultant who simply reiterated everything I’d already read in books.  We agreed that I’d wait until he was 18 hours old before resorting to formula, which somehow turned into 20.

At 20 hours, I insisted upon feeding my baby formula.  The nurses offered some excuse or another as to why the “breastfeeding-friendly formula” (Similac) wasn’t available at that particular moment in time.  At 21 hours, I finally called my father in another state (my mom did not have her car) to go to the store and bring me some damned formula.  He arrived with Similac about an hour later, but the nurse told me it wasn’t the *correct* Similac; unless I used the RTD version (which was supposedly the same consistency as breastmilk), I’d have no hope of ever breastfeeding my baby.  (Keep in mind these people gave my kid a freakin’ pacifier!)

I’d finally had enough, and at 22 hours I told them to find me whatever the hell I was supposed to feed my baby or I was going to give him powdered Similac.  It took my mother following up half an hour later, but at 23 hours old my baby was finally permitted to eat… a single ounce of formula.  Any more, I was told, and my baby would get sick. :-\

Thankfully, my milk came in a few days later, and I was able to EBF my son for the next 8.5 months.  But because of my experience, I never lost sight of the fact that while breast may be best, it isn’t everything.  And there is seriously something wrong with anyone who would readily sacrifice their baby’s health (or overall well-being) for the sake of an ideology.