Oh how I long for the days when nursing was easy

by Ginger on May 12, 2010

in Mom Thoughts

So remember back when I posted about food for the kid, and I said that feeding was one of the most complicated, least intuitive parts of being a parent for me? Yeah, about that…

I didn’t just mean feeding solids, I also meant feeding in the sense of his main food source–breastmilk. And that’s where my post today comes in because damn kids, if I’m not a bit stumped by what to do right now.

Here’s the deal–Jackson has breastmilk, in theory, about 6 times a day. He nurses before I leave for work, he has a bottle while I’m at work, and then he nurses when I get home from work, before he goes to bed, and then twice during the night. On a rare occasion he’ll have a second bottle while I’m gone, but he seems to have pretty much got himself reverse cycling on days I work. (Weekends, he nurses more during the day, but the same amount all other times.weird.)

Or, that’s been the case up until about the last week. This past week several things are going on that have disrupted our little rhythm. First, he’s cutting two teeth (on the top). He doesn’t act like he’s in much pain (my stoic little guy), but I think it’s definitely affecting his eating, both nursing and solids.I also think it’s upping the biting incidences, which holy crap guys I just don’t know how much more of THAT I can take.

The second thing is he’s learned how to sit up on his own from laying down. Which is VERY.EXCITING. And, apparently, to be done at any available opportunity*. So now, he’ll nurse for a minute or two and then try to sit up (still latched, oh yes, that’s fun). Then he’ll try and nurse while sitting up (hysterical! seriously, if I didn’t have an aversion to putting my boobs on the internet, I’d video that and show you all because it’s a little like a comedy routine), but eventually he loses concentration. So I try to reposition him and he’ll nurse for a minute or two and we start the whole thing over again. Last night I think he nursed a total of about 4 minutes (with an additional 10-15 of sitting up interludes) before he was D.O.N.E. and ready to be playing not nursing, thankyouverymuch momma! And while there are a lot of things I can MAKE him do, I cannot MAKE him nurse when he isn’t interested.

He does fine at his night feedings, probably because he’s barely awake, and his morning nurse is ok too, but his two evening sessions are becoming less and less productive. Because he didn’t nurse well at all yesterday evening, we ended up giving him a bottle because he could sit up and drink it, he could bite the nipple without it recoiling, and I could at least make sure he got SOME milk.

And this is where I start questioning. Because should I just give up the ghost and give him a bottle at that bedtime feeding rather than even attempt to nurse him right now? I don’t think he would go for that at the first evening nurse because a lot of that one seems to be more HI MOMMA than a real need for food (he’ll want to nurse even if he ate just an hour before), but maybe it would behoove us all to just give it up on the pre-bedtime one? Or do I just fight it out and hope that after his teeth come in and he gets over the new fun of sitting up that we go back to productive nursing sessions? Or, do I listen to the little tiny whispers in my head that tell me he’s self-weaning and just go with it? Or do I just smack myself, say DUDE stop questioning every little thing, and keep on trying to maintain the status quo?

Those of you who have passed this stage, any suggestions (and yes, I realize all I do lately on this blog is ask you guys questions. What can I say, I don’t have many mom friends and I need input!)? Or stories? Am I just driving myself crazy for nothing?

*He also wakes up screaming having gotten into a sitting position. We’re not sure, but we think he’s doing it in his sleep and then he freaks out when he wakes up that way. It’s the saddest thing to come in and see this wailing child in the middle of his crib, not even really awake, just…sitting there.

Perpetua May 12, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Unfortunately I’ve got absolutely no advice to give, but I’m sure the others will cover that. 🙂 I know what you mean about feeding not being intuitive, though. Some days I still have no idea if E is hungry or not, thirsty or not…and since I’ve pretty much given up the food diary (!), I end up just offering him food all day, every day, and letting him decide whether to eat it or not.

Which I guess is what I supposed to be doing all along?

Ginger May 14, 2010 at 1:50 pm

That’s what I end up doing! I’m better about letting him eat or not than his dad is which I find funny, but it really is the best way to go.

Alicen May 12, 2010 at 4:17 pm

So I just stumbled upon your blog from the Well Read Mom but this post peaked my interest.

You are dead on on the whole infant eating thing. Your always questioning are they/aren’t they, is it enough or not. I don’t have the experience with the breastfeeding but can relate with the sitting up while feeding part. My daughter is so nosy that she wanted nothing to do with her bottle and just wanted to look around. Now if she was drinking a good clip of formula to begin with I probably wouldn’t have been so bothered by it but on a good day she was only drinking maybe 20 oz. When she lost interest in feeding she would only drink about 10 oz which I am pretty sure is too low in any circumstance for her age (9 months at that time).

My solution with her was a sippy cup! She didn’t drink much from it the first couple days while she was figuring the whole cup out but she soon realized that she could sit up, drink, AND be nosy. People questioned me dropping the bottles but she didn’t care at all. I was going to keep up a night bottle but she cut that out herself.

It worked for us so perhaps it would for you for the evenings. Sometimes I think we worry too much. Let’s face it a baby isn’t going to starve themselves so maybe he just doesn’t need as much lately. Good Luck and just do what you feel is right (I know easier said then done!).

Ginger May 14, 2010 at 1:52 pm

We’ve started trying with the sippy cup, but so far it’s not been too successful. Well, that’s not true–he gets the drinking from it part, but he can’t seem to get the tipping it up part so he just sucks air. Which, while funny, isn’t exactly productive! But we’ll keep trying!
And you’re so right–and thanks for reminding me–that the baby isn’t going to starve himself. I KNOW this, but having someone else remind me always makes it “real” you know?

carrie meadows May 12, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Probably time for a little sleep training… at his age, he doesn’t need to eat at night. Dropping those feedings would be a good place to start- for both of you! And with the teething, they can have decreased appetite, even if it doesn’t hurt that much. Also, any developmental changes (like sitting up, crawling, walking, talking- milestones), will interrupt sleep. It will pass- just stay the course.

Megan May 12, 2010 at 6:10 pm

I’ve so been there. Charlotte went through a phase where she didn’t want to nurse all day, but ALL NIGHT instead. We did end up doing some sleep training, which worked for us, and then she was up for nursing more frequently during the day. But, I don’t know what you’ll want to do since you work during the day.

If you’re anxious to keep nursing, stay the course, and he’ll probably come around. If you’re okay with beginning the weaning process, replace as many feedings as you want with bottles, but I would start cutting the milk with formula, otherwise you may find yourself exclusively pumping if he doesn’t ever get used to the taste of formula. Then again, some babies transition perfectly well. Charlotte just isn’t one of them.

Having said all that, giving him a bottle for his last feed doesn’t have to be a big deal.He’s still interested in nursing when you get home and in the middle of the night, so it won’t necessarily be a slippery slope toward weaning. Maybe you can have the best of both worlds!

Kathleen May 12, 2010 at 7:41 pm

I can’t really contribute much on the nursing specific aspect of your struggle. But here is what I can contribute:

Every time A hits a transition I worry, stress, try to come up with a plan, try and do something new, try and keep the status quo or generally try and control the situation to make the transition either not happen, or happen my way. And it fails. One day she ‘decides’ all on her own and no longer have a choice (dropping her morning nap is a great example, but there have been many examples).

So I say: don’t worry and let the kid take the lead. Trust the kid. If he wants to nurse- let him nurse. If he doesn’t, trust he will find away to consume enough calories some other time.

Feeding is not intuitive for us, but I think it is for them- they know what they need (usually).

Alexis May 13, 2010 at 4:19 am

I can’t help with the nursing bit specifically, but I can offer support to the idea that a kid wont starve himself just to play…not long term anyway! I guess you can just quit the nursing session when he starts messing about, eventually he will choose a priority. As for the boob vs. bottle, if you are having luck pumping then its not like he is “missing out” on the good stuff so if pumping then getting a good feed down him makes the nights easier, do it. I also second the sleep training thing. I can imagine that it is hard to enforce nighttime when its your time to see him, but he is old enough to drop a night feeding (or two) if that would make your nights easier and encourage more daytime eating. Of course it is all about your comfort level, if that idea doesn’t feel right to you then no worries, just putting out what little wisdom I have to offer. I do recommend Health Sleep Habits Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth. It is technically a CIO book, but the author offers lots of variation to suit everyone’s comfort level…just my two cents. HTH.

FWIW we are teething too, and I think I might go out of my mind! You are not alone and this too shall pass!

Ginger May 14, 2010 at 2:02 pm

See, this is why I need you guys around. Because the whole “he won’t starve himself” thing–I KNOW that. I do. Or, I thought I did until it came to my kid, and then he’s not eating well and I get all twitchy. Even though I KNOW he won’t starve himself.
So I need you guys to tell me that (which is what I’d say to anyone else!), so that it sinks in. Sometimes the being too close to the situation isn’t a good thing…

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks May 13, 2010 at 4:50 am

From the not-mama, as I was reading this post, I kept thinking he’s weaning himself. He’s ready to quit that nighttime feeding (at least straight from the breast). And then I thought, why not turn this into an opportunity. So, maybe he doesn’t want to be latched onto mama right before bed. Why not give him a bottle and turn it into an opportunity to read a book together. Still quiet time, bonding time, but a different kind. Who knows, maybe it’ll wind up being really good for both of you.

Accidents May 13, 2010 at 9:29 am

My position has always been that making a bottle is a hassle when you’ve got the boobs right there. Doing it occasionally because you want to avoid biting is a perfectly fine idea, but I wouldn’t necessarily make it the new thing, just because it adds another step to your evening (that me being lazy–I hated using pumped milk if I was around).

I’d keep doing what you normally do, and not stress if the feeding is shorter or skipped. Like many others have said, he’s not going to starve himself. He really isn’t. When Henry hits a milestone, especially physical/mobility ones, his eating/drinking are always affected. We just roll with it, and he self-regulates. When he was rolling over, then standing up, he always wanted to do it while nursing. I allowed some shenanigans up to the point of my own discomfort, and then we would end the nursing session and let him get his yayas out and come back to nursing later. He still “acrobatic nurses” sometimes.

He’s likely not self-weaning, though he might be draining the breast a lot faster than he has before (and so it seems like he’s not nursing much but in fact he’s just nursing faster). This all happened with Henry around the same time. Henry still loves to nurse as an activity, so even though he drains the breast quickly he’ll sometimes keep nursing for forever. Except of course when he’s obsessed with an activity/physical thing, like it seems Jackson is now. Then he gets the milk he needs in just a few minutes, and is done. So I’m just saying that you shouldn’t necessarily judge the time spent as indicative of how much he’s getting–it might be that he’s being more efficient now because he’s distracted.

Between 8 and 12 months the “experts” tend to say that kids change up their nursing habits quite a bit, and moms often mistake it for self-weaning. It’s kind of like weaning in that it’s one step closer to eventually not nursing, but it’s not weaning in terms of him being ready to not nurse anymore. (unless, of course, he is, and you judge that based on the evidence. I’m not going to go against moms who say their kids did wean before a year on their own, because I believe those moms. it’s just *probably* not what’s happening with J yet)

You are right that you can’t make him nurse, so just offer when you think appropriate and go with the flow. He’s not dangerously underweight or anything, right? If he’s not in any precarious position health-wise, I’d try my best to stop worrying about volume. Breastmilk is such a weird thing, it’s really hard to analyze intake or predict anything. If you’re holding it together enough with the reverse cycling then you probably don’t need to worry about daytime intake affecting nighttime sleep (you’re nursing often at night anyway).

Do be warned though, Henry was the king of shifting all of his calories to nighttime. And if Jackson starts adding more nightwakings you might want to think of some gentle pushes in the partial nightweaning direction. Henry went through many phases of drinking almost nothing from bottles during the day and then nursing all night long. I was NOT okay with this, but I went with it (until recently, as you’ve read). As soon as we nightweaned, like magic he started drinking milk during the day. Meaning it balanced out, and it was fine that he wasn’t drinking much before, because he was getting it at night, and it’s fine that he’s not nursing at night now, because he’s getting it during the day. Etc.

(Sorry for all the assvice, I’ve written in the imperative mood a lot here, but take it with a grain of salt)

Ginger May 14, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Oh man, the lazy thing is a big part of it for me–not only do I hate making a bottle if I’m there, but even worse, I hate having to pump extra to make more bottles. I went through my stash for that big business trip a few months ago and now only have about 3 bottles worth extra at any given time, so…yeah. Anything I can do to not pump is awesome in my opinion.
That all being said, I apparently needed you all to tell me what I already should know (and probably would have told anyone else): he won’t starve himself, he’s probably becoming more efficient, and if we roll with it he’ll probably regulate. And dear god it’s not like he’s in any way underweight (hello 82nd percentile last we checked), so it’s not a health issue. He’ll eat when he’s hungry. Why it sinks in more when someone else says it is beyond me, but that’s what’s awesome about the internet.

Kate Ferry May 13, 2010 at 2:10 pm

I hear you. And I feel what you are feeling. Been there. Done that.

Here is my reader’s digest advice – no more nursing at night. At his age he should be able to go at least 8 hours without feeding (assuming he is healthy and developmentally on track – which it sounds like he is). A lactation consultant gave me this advice and it helped so much when we ran into this road block of nursing at night: your child doesn’t nutritionally need food during the night anymore. You are not starving him/her. These were life giving words I held onto like a security object.

And you need to foster a good sleeping routine – for your sake and his. I know that Beckett always nursed better when she was hungry. If she was hungry she was a go-getter and in and out in ten minutes flat. But, if she was just there to snack – it was a WHOLE different story. Don’t be afraid to cut him off and come back in 30 minutes or an hour when he is more hungry… Boy, I hope that helps.

What happened to the reader’s digest version of advice from me?! Oh well….

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