Tuesday, August 9, 2011

counting grams and ounces

We just had our four-month well-baby visit and shots (more on vaccinations at a later date . . .), and I am so overjoyed to report that we have reached the 15th percentile for weight and the 20th for length!

I know what you're thinking:  most parents would be concerned that their baby had fallen below the average.  But not so for us.  This is a triumph!  Something we have worked so very hard for.

Vicki Jo was born exactly on the middle mark:  7 pounds, 1 ounce.  Half of all babies weighed more than her when they were born, and half weighed less.  I tend to think her weight was inflated a bit because of the intravenous fluids I received during labor and delivery, but it really couldn't have added more than a few ounces of water weight.  After a day in the hospital, she was dropping weight fast.  This is normal, up to a certain point.  Babies are born with stores of fat and water to get them through a few days until their mother's milk becomes available to them. 

Another day, and she had dropped even further!  The doctor at the clinic was becoming concerned.  She had lost over 10% of her birth weight.  Supplementation with formula was recommended.  I was so stubborn on this point.  She was so young, and everything about her was fresh and new.  I didn't want to introduce any foreign substances into her body.  Instead, I went into overdrive:  feeding her every two hours at the very least, and pumping with a breast pump after every feeding (this is what is recommended by lactation specialists - the more stimulation you receive, the more milk you produce . . . supposedly).  It didn't help that this was also Vicki's "don't put me down or I will kill you with my screams" phase.  I was under so much stress, and, although she gained weight slowly after about day four, she never grew fast enough for all the medical people to be satisfied. 

She didn't come back up to her birth weight until week four - two weeks after "they" want this to have happened.  After going to the breastfeeding clinic literally every day for five weeks, they finally told me to try a last-ditch effort:  domperidone.  Domperidone is a medication that is prescribed for patients with slow-moving digestive tracts due to things like chemotherapy.  It helps to move things along, if you will.  Lactation is a happy side effect.  (I often crack up thinking about the poor men who are struggling through chemo and are prescribed this medication without anyone telling them about the lactation . . . until they wake up with milk on their sheets!)  During her sixth week of life, I started the medication.  I had to return to work in a couple of weeks, and I told myself that I couldn't maintain this level of freaking out.  If things hadn't improved by week eight, I was weaning her and going to formula.  And hating myself for the rest of my life. 

Lo and behold . . . the medicine worked!  Suddenly my milk was ample.  She gained weight rapidly, shooting up nearly an ounce per day for weeks at a time.  When I went back to work, I was able to pump pretty much all of what she needed.  She still gets a bit of formula because I don't produce as much for the pump as I do for her, but no more than 4-6 ounces three times a week.  That, I can live with - sans the self-hatred.  When I'm able to be on vacation or on my days off, she doesn't need any extra formula at all! 

Although she gained well after I started the domperidone, she still never busted through about the 10th percentile.  I was convinced that she was just going to be a small thing, and that was fine.  She is supremely healthy, has never had so much as a sniffle, and is very strong and happy.  She was tracking along just fine at her 10th percentile line when we went to the doctor yesterday.  There, she was 12 pounds and 10 ounces!  15th percentile!  OMFGosh.  I was literally over the moon.

We still go to the breastfeeding clinic every two weeks.  I'm such a regular at the place that all the nurses know us by name.  I even became one of their first ever patients to need two cards to record all the weights we had taken!  I love it there now, because I receive so much positive feedback for sticking with a truly difficult breastfeeding situation.  I know it's not a nice thing for them to say, but when I hear, "Anyone else would have given up," and I know it might be true (and after all, they would know because they see TONS of lactating women daily), it just makes me so proud of the first collaboration at which my baby and I were ever successful.

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