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*