Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Frustration and Fear of Feeding Time

So, feeding your baby seems like it should be an easy, natural, peaceful moment. And most of the time for us, it is. But sometimes it isn't. I am not sure how it is with full-term babies, but with preemies, in particular mine, it can be a huge source of anxiety and frustration.

I really wanted to breastfeed, knowing all the benefits, especially for preemies. Unfortunately, it just never happened for us. Whether it was from the stress of our situation, being separated from him while he was in the NICU for 6 week ( I was there 12 hours a day but it's not the same) I just couldn't keep up with what he needed, and I tried everything. Tea, supplements, everything that is suggested to help production I did - it just didn't work out. So the bottle and formula it was.

Like a lot of preemies, Wyatt has acid reflux. We found this out in the NICU, when he was about 35 weeks old. He had been eating from the bottle for about 2 weeks, and had some great skill at it! Then one day out of the blue, he started to spit up, and it just didn't stop. Every feeding got worse and worse, until eventually he decided that spitting up wasn't worth it, and went on a hunger strike. He was put on Zantac, and things seemed to get better, but not completely. 

He fights, struggles, arches his back, and cries in pain while eating at times when his reflux is acting up. And for an almost 7 lb pound baby, he is surprisingly strong! He makes little gremlin noises if laid down too soon after eating, so he can't just go to sleep right away or we risk him losing his lunch (or dinner or snack or whatever). We learned a few important lessons in the NICU regarding feeding him. Those nurses are true treasures and you can really learn a lot from them during your time there, if you have a teachable spirit and want to learn. 

Rule 1: Feeding your baby is not cuddle time, it's a job.

A nurse told me this when she saw me feeding Wyatt in the time honored way that you see depicted in every photo, the baby nestled gently in the crook of your arm, eating peacefully from his bottle. This is not our reality. Instead, we feed him in an upright position, either braced against our bent knees, or sitting up straight while we hold him with our hands bracing his neck and head safely. It is not the most comfortable or convenient way to feed your child, but you do it if you need to, and we need to. Then we need to hold him upright for at least 30 minutes after he eats. It's not really a hardship to hold your warm and contented baby for 30 minutes though, except maybe at 3 am and you just want to get back to bed. 

Rule 2: Never give up on the burp.

Probably one of the best pieces of advice we were given by a nurse. I would pat and pat and pat and pat to no avail, and then assume that Wyatt didn't need to burp. I was wrong, which he proved to me by urping up his food all over me, sometimes in great quantities. I still have to really work on burping the boy, he doesn't give them up easily. I work on it sometimes until my arm feels like it is going to fall off, but I don't give up! And just think, this happens every three hours.

I dread these moments of reflux. No one wants to hear their baby crying from being fed, or having them fight you to avoid eating. It is unpleasant and scary and sad. Most of the time, his medicine helps, but there are those occasions when it just doesn't. And with Wyatt, every feeding counts. He needs to gain weight and grow, to catch up. It is just that much harder when eating can be so hard for him.

I have heard that babies grow out of their reflux, and I can only hope that Wyatt's time is coming. I just want him to be able to eat without pain, so that he can eat more, and grow big and strong even faster.

How about you? Any reflux stories or advice?

1 comment:

  1. Ugh! I can totally relate to the worries related to feeding your baby. Yes! It should be easy, right?! Apparently, not for everyone :( I remember crying on the phone with my brother at about 10 days postpartum saying "I just want to be able to feed my baby!" As painful and stressful as it can be, it does get better. I didn't have to deal with reflux but I can almost guarantee that any issue/worry you have now will go away...and will be replaced with a new one ;) This parenting gig is no joke and as much as I've been told that not stressing is the best way to handle it, some of us just aren't equipped for that! Rest assured, this too shall pass and it will get "easier" as you figure each other out more and more. I think it's just so hard when they're so little and dependent on us for survival! Hang in there mamma, you got this!