Motherhood Update: No Naps and Breast Battles

Levi started smiling (for real not because of gas) at 7 weeks. When I see this happy face, it makes all the struggles worth it. Truly. 

Remember how I said some days are tough and some days I feel I’ve got this whole new Mom thing in the bag? Well, last week (week 7) was the toughest thus far. Levi basically gave up napping and some days would go as long as five hours without sleeping. The times he did sleep, it was usually only for an hour or less. What happened to his 2-3 hour naps I wondered desperately? And I must also mention that any nap he did have happened in his stroller (after a looong stroll), or in the swing, or in the car seat after driving around for a while. His best nap of the week was, of course, a three hour nap while he was with my mother-in-law and I went out for a birthday lunch. If I’m supposed to nap when baby naps but baby doesn’t nap, well, you do the math…

If I hadn’t read famous sleep doctor and pediatrician Dr.Weissbluth’s book (Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child) where it says that week six (or six weeks after the due date so week seven for Levi) would be the toughest, I would’ve been feeling insanely confused and desperate. He calls it the six week peak and says at this time all babies are the most wakeful and the most fussy and parents should do whatever it takes to maximize sleep and minimize crying. So while we don’t want Levi getting used to sleeping in his car seat, swing, or stroller for that matter — we were in so-called survival mode. Dr. Weissbluth says after week six babies are supposed to calm down and their biological circadian rhythms are supposed to evolve so they start differentiating more between night and day and should begin sleeping longer stretches at night. I’ll report back. Here’s hoping (and praying).

Meanwhile, during week seven Levi also began a pattern of crying while nursing and pulling away frequently during feedings. When I would try to put him back on my breast, he would suck for a little and then pull away and keep crying. When we then offered him expressed milk in a bottle he would take it, indicating to us he was still hungry but wasn’t getting what he needed at the breast. Naturally I began to freak out. It was physically hurting me to see my baby in such a distressed state while nursing. I longed for the sweet look of satisfaction he used to have. What was happening? Where did I go wrong?

Then we weighed him on his smart changing pad which doubles as a scale and saw he hadn’t gained weight all week. I started to freak out even more. Then it hit me: what if my milk supply was dwindling? I was pumping once or twice a day and giving Levi a bottle so I could go out without him for a bit and/or get more sleep at night while David fed him a bottle. However, as a result there were several nights that I had gone more than four hours without pumping or nursing (I was trying to get some much needed sleep!). That said, by doing so I was signaling to my body that I needed to produce less milk to feed my baby because he was sleeping more, when in reality this wasn’t the case — someone else was just feeding him a bottle. I had neglected to make up for the missed nursing session with a pumping session.

Once I realized this was likely what had happened I became inconsolably upset. To make matters worse it was the weekend so I couldn’t call the Doctor or a lactation consultant. How did I mess up so badly? How did I not realize such an obvious point? I was angry at myself and deeply upset/stressed that as a result of my negligence and selfish desire for sleep I was unable to fill Levi’s tummy up without topping him off with a bottle. I  had read so much breast feeding literature yet in my tired state must’ve totally missed this part.

So what to do? Well I’ve learned the hard way that until he actually starts sleeping longer stretches in the night, I really shouldn’t be going longer than four hours without pumping or nursing him. Farewell five/six hour stretches of uninterrupted sleep that my husband was graciously giving to me.

Thus I spent all of New Year’s weekend feeding him as much as possible and pumping my breasts whenever I could to indicate to my body it needs to produce more milk to meet my baby’s current demands. In fact, I’m writing this post while pumping. Fun times.

Hopefully my supply will get back to where it needs to be in a couple of days and I can put this upsetting episode behind me. I spoke with my friend’s father who is a pediatrician and a leading breast feeding researcher and he said I shouldn’t worry and my supply would regulate in a couple of days. I’m also hoping at our next pediatrician appointment on January 15 the doctor will tell us whether his weight is ok and let me know if I need to keep pumping to increase my supply or supplement him with formula if needed.

Whatever it is, I’m ready. If there is indeed a problem with my supply that I cannot fix without driving myself crazy — I will make the switch to formula or I’ll supplement with formula. I will remember that fed is best and that at least I tried nursing, even though I messed up a bit in the process. What’s important isn’t so much whether I give Levi breast exclusively or formula, or a combo, but that he’s fed and happy and gaining weight as he should be and that I in turn can be a better mom because I’ll be less stressed and happier. I wholeheartedly believe that happy Mom equals happy baby.

Thank goodness for David’s unwavering support throughout these rough few days. I’m sure I’m not the only Mom who beats herself up when they make a mistake or experience a setback. I want to be less hard on myself, especially because stress not only affects my milk supply but my ability to be a good wife and Mom. I have to forgive myself, attempt to fix things as best I can, and just move forward. I’m trying and I’ll report back.



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