Baby Story: The Moment of Truth

Note: I wrote all but the “update” on Sunday, the 11th.

I wanted to make good use of what might be my last 8-times-a-day pumping session, so here is a quickly-scrawled update of the Talia feeding saga.

When last we spoke, Talia and I were getting ready to embark upon an on-demand, SNS-supported intervention plan whose due date for success was Jonathan’s back-to-work date on Monday [yesterday]. Indeed, over the past week, we’ve been using the SNS as intended to supplement Talia’s feeding sessions at the breast. We’ve slowly decreased the amount of supplement that Talia gets via the SNS and monitored her weight in the process.

For most of this week, I’ve been pretty skeptical that this plan had any chance of working. In fact, during “phase 2” (when Talia received half her meal via the SNS), I was pretty certain that we’d be giving up at our next check-in with the lactation consultant. In preparation for this conversation, I’d spent some time writing up pro/con lists for breastfeeding, exclusive pumping, and formula feeding, and I’d almost convinced myself that I’d actually prefer one of the latter two options. I’d done a lot of reading outside of the pro-breastfeeding websites and discovered that, despite the prominent belief that “breast is best”, the issue actually isn’t that clear-cut, especially if you’re sacrificing other important ways to support development in an all-consuming pursuit of breastfeeding success. I’ll talk about this a bit at the end of this post, but suffice it to say that I felt a lot better about any decision we might end up making when the SNS failed, as I was sure it would.

Well, when we went into that particular check-in, not only had Talia maintained her steady weight gain, she’d gained over TWO ounces per day rather than the minimal one ounce. I was shocked. I still don’t really believe it and won’t be terribly surprised if there was another scale issue. At any rate, the only explanation for this is that she’s basically quadrupled her efficiency at nursing, so there’s somewhat of a chance that she’ll actually be a successful breastfeeder, beginning this week, no less. In fact, tomorrow is the first day since we’ve been home from the hospital (read: in the entire past month) that I get to try feeding her without supplementing and without pumping after every feeding (though I think I’m still supposed to pump a couple times a day to start building a back-up supply).

I’m kind of terrified of tomorrow because the lactation consultant told us to expect a few days of cluster feeding as she makes the transition. I already get somewhat stressed about figuring out whether she’s full or not after a feeding, but I think that’s mainly driven by needing to pump and not wanting to start pumping if she’s going to start demanding more food in five minutes. That shouldn’t be a problem anymore, so I just need to accept that I might not get to go to the bathroom for several hours in a row :)

Anyway, we’re cautiously optimistic I guess, although it’s been emotionally challenging to go back and forth between likely plans. I do feel like I have a good perspective on the trade-offs of different scenarios now, though, so it’ll be okay regardless of the outcome. I’m proud of us not for succeeding in our efforts (because, after everything we’ve done, the outcome was really beyond our control) but for putting forth the effort. Jonathan and I have never had to be such a team before, and if nothing else, this experience has reinforced how much I love and appreciate him. Even if we ultimately can’t breastfeed Talia, she’s got a lot going for her in the devotion department :)

Update: Never Trust a Scale

I TOLD you that 2-ounce-per-day figure was sketchy. On Monday, the scale said that Talia hadn’t gained any weight in three days. The consultant didn’t know how to explain this but didn’t freak out; she said we’d weight Talia again in another week. I think the scale was goofy last time; if you plot today’s weight on the overall weight trend line, she’s right on track. Alas, with the data we have, we still don’t really know if she’s eating well. I just wish there were a definitive answer to this, but I understand that this is what parenting’s all about. Guess I’ll try to get used to it.

Addendum: Avoiding Guilt about Not Breastfeeding

As I mentioned, I spent some time reading stuff outside of the mainstream breastfeeding websites (though I still spent ten times as much time on those websites) to find some way to rationalize (if not justify) not breastfeeding. Mainly, I read through a bunch of testimonials on the Fearless Formula Feeders website, and I read the new book Bottled Up: How the Way We Feed Babies Has Come to Define Motherhood, and Why It Shouldn’t. Here are my main take-aways from that investigation:

  1. Although everyone agrees that breast milk is nutritionally better than formula, the research for how much better is not as conclusive as breastfeeding fervor suggests. There are a ton of studies that strive to show how much better it is, but a common problem in those studies is the failure to control for confounding factors, most notably the socioeconomic status and education level of the mothers. So, it’s unfair to conclude that breastfeeding alone accounts for the benefits explored in those studies…a classic correlation but not causation scenario.
  2. There are other things that it’s important to do for your children during the first months: talking to them, reading to them, playing with them, cuddling with them, modeling relaxation  to protect them from anxiety, etc. It’s not necessary to prioritize breastfeeding above all these things.


About Sarah

10 years ago, I was a computer science student. 5 years ago, I taught kindergarten. 2 years ago, I trained teachers. Now, I'm a technical writer. I have thoughts about most of these things, but most likely I'll just write about neuroses and why I love Mr. Gatti's pizza. Which might be a neurosis.
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2 Responses to Baby Story: The Moment of Truth

  1. Debbie Todd says:

    Sarah, I tried fervently to breastfeed Amy and it just didn’t work. For some reason, I don’t think she got much if any milk. And, when I tried to pump, I got nothing out of my breasts. So, after about 2 weeks, I switched to formula and never looked back. I didn’t allow myself to feel guilty, she flourished and grew and was healthy. What more could I have asked for? I’m making something for Talia, but it’s going to take a while, so please don’t give up on me! She’s absolutely adorable.

    • Sarah M says:

      Hi Debbie! I’m just now catching up on some of these comments. Thank you for sharing your story! Since I posted this last week, I think we’ve finally hit our stride (for now), but this experience has taught me not to worry too much if we have further problems down the road. It’s been very helpful to hear how everyone else has managed this issue; I feel like I have a strong support group for when I need advice in the future :)

      And how sweet of you to make something for Talia! She and I will certainly appreciate it however long it takes :)

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