Friday, October 15, 2010

Strike One

Dust off your tonsils. This isn't one of those pretty posts with delicious photos of the boys...remember that blogger who would spare any decorum and post content that made you read with one eye open? (You know, a little too personal that you want to look away, but also a little too exciting that you had to read even if for a little bit).

I'm baaaack!

And I'm pretty sure today's entry will provide you enough material to create your own mental pictures.

People, there is a strike going on in my household. It's a nursing strike--36 hours for the first strike. And I am totally to blame.

Let's set the stage: Felix has had, what is essentially, a chronic ear infection for 5 months. That's more than 1/2 of his life. This week, after numerous tests and a consult with a pediatric ENT, we scheduled a myringotomy (tube placement) for the 26th. Five minute surgery, but there was mention of "mask" and "anesthesia" that had me in a tizzy. But I think it is going to be life changing...really.

And felix's gums are errupting left and right.

Where does that leave us? With a teething, ear infected baby...who also happens to have a crooked neck (which has nothing to do with anything except I like to add it to the laundry list). And a credit card that has posted $40 and $50 co-pays more than I can count over the past few weeks. But let me just say, this baby is about the happiest thing alive during the hours of 7am to about 5pm. Which is why when the Doctor asks me at each appointment if I think he has an ear infection, I say: "Yes. Only based on history. And what happens at night. Outside of that, he's just delightful." 

What this also means is that lying down sometimes bothers does nursing and taking a bottle. That, we've been dealing with for months. Nothing I cannot handle. Add that to the fact that he is a social butterfly, nursing can be this long, drawn out game of latch on, latch off, giggle, laugh at Miles, latch on, play with your hair, make Mommy play with my feet, etc. But things are really pretty good. In fact, his only taking about 10-12oz of milk at childcare has done wonders for my supply! I still pump 15 oz during the day, so am constantly squirreling away extra for the fridge. And then I just nurse at home. Unless he is on an antibiotic, which he always seems to be, and I give 1 bottle on the weekend full of a probiotic to help his tummy from the medicine tearing up his intestinal lining.

Yadda, yadda. I already know we are in the "stinks to be you" category when it comes to sleeping through the night, and just about all of my friends with babies boast 7+ hours a night of uninterrupted sleep (my one friend R, love you dear, has a 1+ week old who gets up 1 time a night. But she paid her dues with months of bed rest. Wait, didn't I? Ha!). But I just keep convincing myself that the cuteness factor of my kids will outweigh the long lasting effect of 2 years of sleep deprivation. And, I've talked about this with my friend CD before, but I think my kids really fall victim to the "reverse cycling." I don't see them all day, and at night, they want to be with me--save eating until they can have an all you can eat buffet at the breastaurant. Heck, I want to be with them! And nursing from 1-4am really does wonders for my supply. We all have our battles and struggles; but after 2 kids, what I have realized is that the barometer of a "good parent" is not measured by the hours your child sleeps.

So, Felix has been averaging 1-2 night wakings, and usually up for good around 6:20-7am. Luckily, he goes down by 7pm pretty easily. When his ear infections are raging, he can be up a lot more than that. But we have a system; and the system has been working well:

March in a "parade" to the bathroom
Miles plays in the sink or sits on the potty while Felix gets bathed
Teeth brushing
Felix gets a story and naked Miles sits on the guest bed with me as I nurse and sing "ABCs" or gets a bath with Dad. Naked, because I won't keep him on the potty in the bathroom alone if it is just me and the 2 boys. Some nights, I have to put one of Felix's cloth diapers on the bed in case he has an accident on the covers. We're classy here at our joint.
Felix goes down
Miles's bedtime routine continues

Two nights ago, all was going well until the whole nursing and singing ABCs. The concert was a solo-an ABC aria provided by just Mom as Dad was bathing Miles. (Isn't it fun when you have kids and you can just experiment with your singing? They don't judge!) So, I was doing all this kind of yodeling, glissando kinda vocal gymnastics when:


He bit me. Like, I'm not talking nibble, nibble...I'm talking Michael Vick pit bull dog vice grasp onto my nipple. What do I do? Immediately suffocate his face in my chest and scream OUCH!

And then he ripped off, taking a good few layers of skin with him, and bawled.

He was totally insulted. Hurt. Angry. Confused.

And then refused to nurse.

Was it my singing??

My reaction was not calculated, just instinct. But apparently that set the stage, because he's began a nursing strike. For the first time, I know what a true nursing strike is.

I went to put him back on. Uh-oh. He cried. I couldn't soothe him, so I put him in his crib, and he fell asleep without finishing nursing. Up at 3:44am that night (yup. Remember the exact time.). Pushed me away. Wanted nothing to do with nursing, but I knew he was hungry--or looking for milk. 5:30am, same thing. And I was ENGORGED. Bring on the Medela. Pump it up, and pump out the baby food.

Childcare yesterday--low and behold, he drank all 3 bottles. Dang kid was hungry. 5pm when we got home? Pushed me away. 7pm at bedtime? Pushed me away. 12:48am? Pushed me away. 5:11am? Pushed me away.

Let's go back to 12:48am last night. After battling for 20 minutes, I put him in his crib, and let him cry for a few minutes until he fell asleep. And then I remembered:

I'm a Google Doctor! And just got a new smart phone, which let's me be a Doctor in bed, in the middle of the night, when I'm most vulnerable. After reading how self-weaning before a year is rare, I hyper focused on the stories of moms who recounted remembering the last time they nursed. Could my last time be me shoving Felix's button nose to my breast and screaming "Ouch!"? No...but at 1am last night, I was convinced. Truly, everything I read validated the strike--his age, his teething, his ability to respond to conditioning...and that it could go on for a WEEK or more...but it isn't forever.

Strategies? Patience, and lots of skin-skin. And pumping (UGH!) at the times he doesn't nurse. Who the heck wants to pump at 5am or in the middle of the night at 9 months? Now, if I was an exclusive pumper, that would be one thing, but I never pump in the middle of the night, and starting now sounds so unappetizing. But if it must be, I will.

(Here is when the mental images portion of today's programming comes in. Leave now...or at least patch one eye.).

So, this morning I walked into the room a little past 5am, totally armed with, well, armed with nothing (read: no shirt on). Picked him up, and then held him in the cradle hold with the "tap" just at mouth level. And I started singing the ABCs. This time, no frills, just standard ABCs. I was tired, and stressed. And we bounced. And I moved him from side to side. And I told him how yummy nursing is. And probably said some other delusional things. Felix wailed, and flailed...and I started to realize this was some serious footage for both a bizarre playboy spread and an addendum to the Happiest Baby on the Block DVD as I was employing "4th trimester" techniques while topless.


I haven't switched soaps. Could it be hormonal? Some say that a shift in hormones can affect the taste of milk. There is no reason for there to be a dramatic shift in my hormones right now. Like, no reason AT ALL. Could it really be he is just afraid I am going to suffocate him again?

I had no idea what to do. I started trying to get drops in his mouth--in the pitch dark--while employing my crazy swaying and singing. I actually laughed. I was topless, hand expressing, with a 19lb baby flailing around while Eric and Miles were sound asleep.  I thought if he could just get a taste, he would be more apt to latch again.

And then I had a crazy idea and got out teething tablets. I cuddled with him, gave him 2, which he took no problem, and then balanced another one right at the tap. See if he would take it AND latch at the same time. Tablet #3 didn't work. But tablet #4? He latched. But he was so tired, I think he didn't realize he was latched. And he nursed. And then fell asleep 5 minutes later.

Positives: the strike has officially been broken--even if only once. And I didn't have to pump this morning at 5am.
Negatives: the strike continued at 7:15am when he got up. And now I am convinced it will be a battle again when I pick him up.

Eric reminded me that my first priority is to have him exclusively breast milk fed for at least a year. If that means I pump more, so be it. I truly don't think this is the end of the road for us, but this is certainly a challenge I am not used to.

And the truth is, unlike Miles, who is the KING of rallying when we need him to be on point, Felix is not pulling through at the best of times.

Life's a little stressful right now--I'm certainly not feeling on top of my Mommy game, and this "rejection" has added to my list of things to overcome.

But--even if Felix and my boobs have it out for the next week or more, I really do have confidence we'll come out okay and that he'll get back to his old nursing ways. My hair may be grayer...I may loose a little more weight that I don't need to loose...and I might spend a good portion of my waking hours at home auditioning for a topless show, but isn't that what mother's do?


  1. Oh honey! I am so sorry to read the latest in the annals of baby mishaps. I hope that Felix will sooner rather than later get over the strike to relieve you from having to pump at all hours of the day and night. Not fun! I wish I had some sage advice for you - I don't - but hopefully someone else will. All I can say is that someday you will be beyond all this.

  2. Ali, I am so, so sorry that you are going through this. Sending prayers your way!

  3. I've had similar times with Juju...
    My ideas:
    - A bath with Felix, with lots of cuddling.
    - Spraying milk in his face (maybe in the bath). Juju thinks this is hilarious; could help rebuild a positive association.
    - Nursing side-lying while baby is half-asleep (maybe starting with a bottle and then switching).
    - Offer a bottle while holding baby in position to nurse, nipple at baby's cheek. Gently pull back on the bottle every 2-3 sucks to make the process of drinking take longer, and occasionally (& steathily) pull the bottle all the way out and offer the breast. Experiment with variations of this -- don't make Felix angry, just make the bottle not quite so fast & easy.
    Good luck!!

  4. Wow, lots to deal with for sure! I had planned to nurse both of my kids for the first year but at 7 months Brian seemed to not be too interested. At 4 months, Kate got teeth and I had the same Michael Vick pit bull experience and a few more times of that and I said, well, I had plans that seem to not now be possible. We switched to the standard formula and bottle and I had no regrets. That's not to say you should do the same, each mom has to make these decisions but just know that lots of people run into snags that cause a change in plans and things still work out fine.