February 21, 2008

Nighttime Breastfeeding– A choose your own adventure story

It's been a while since I've (Ilana) posted anything, but the babe has kept me surprisingly occupied. I've been working on this story for the past week, but have only been able to get one "page" or two before I am called on to feed. So here it is, finally, my breastfeeding choose your own adventure story. I hope you enjoy! (Apologies in advance to Cheyenne. This post is pretty close to your most recent blog entry. I guess we are having a similar experience.)

Page 1. It is dark and quiet in your bedroom. The baby is at your breast, blissfully feeding while all around is calm and peaceful. From somewhere far away you hear snorting and grunting, followed by a few choice farts. Then the crying begins in earnest. You wake up, it’s 3 am, the baby is screaming in his bassinet and you realize (much to your dismay) that you were only dreaming about feeding your child and now you have to muster all the energy to can find to rouse yourself and start the nighttime breastfeeding ritual, where it will likely take a good 30 minutes before you get to that quiet, peaceful feeding stage that you had thought you’d already accomplished. Awesome. As you shake the cobwebs from your head, you hear the baby groan and bear down, followed by more amazingly loud farts and fussing. If you decide to change his diaper, go to page 2. If you decide to feed him first, go to page 3. If you do nothing, go to page 6.

Page 2. Horror stories of diaper rashes from well-meaning, advice-spouting parents rattle around in your brain. You decide immediate action. Once you get the little darling out of bed and onto the changing table, he really begins to cry. You try to work as quickly as possible, but the cries turn palpably wetter (and frothier) and lead to… the dreaded hiccups. You will now need to spend the next 15 - 20 minutes trying to calm the baby down. This is an uphill battle at best. The more he hiccups, the more upset he becomes, and therefore the more entrenched his hiccups are. It spirals out of control. Shushing, swaddling, rocking, and crinkling a plastic bag by his ear do little to end the tantrum. Finally you stick a finger in his mouth and his cries turn to whines and whimpers as he tries desperately to extract milk from your pinky while hiccupping. It is normally pretty funny, but for some reason, you find it considerably less so at such an ungodly hour. “Suck, suck, suck.. hic, waaaahh… gurgle, suck, suck, suck… hic, waaaahh…. gurgle/gag, suck, suck, suck, etc.” After 15 minutes, the bout has wound down and he’s stopped crying, but his hiccups are so random now that you can’t quite get him to latch on. It takes another 10 minutes to get him to latch and start drinking. 25 minutes have now passed since you were so rudely awakened and the start of that all-important feeding, which was ultimately the cause of said awakening. 25 minutes of precious sleep gone forever… Proceed to page 3.

Page 3. You struggle with the latch for a few minutes, while the kid smacks his lips and licks your nipple, now oozing milk all over your forearm and half-unbuttoned nightshirt. The other breast, not wanting to be left out, is chiming in with its own little fountain, seeping through your shirt into the baby’s pjs and the boppy pillow. The latch is finally made and the baby seems contented. He drinks for a few minutes and then starts to arch his back and shake his head side to side… with your sore nipple in his mouth. You try to hold his head still and he lets go and lets out a loud cry, followed by a choke. Heart racing, you quickly upright him and pat him on the back to clear his airways. He’s fine, but has taken in large gulps of air. If you decide to burp him, go to page 4. If you decide to keep feeding and burp later, go to page 5.

Page 4. You burp him in the sitting position for about 3 minutes. Although drowsy and sort of pouty, he tolerates the procedure. Then comes this gigantic belch that sounds more like something you’d hear coming from a drunk frat boy than a little baby. He goes limp after that. You put him back to the breast, he doesn’t open his eyes or his mouth. You tickle his upper lip with the nipple, stick your finger in his ear, tickle his feet – all strategies you were taught at the lactation consultant’s office to wake him. Nothing. You try to force his mouth open with your finger. You can only get it open wide enough to fit the nipple in but not the areola. Such a rude forced entry doesn’t even register a response from him. He is out cold. If you let sleeping babies lie, go to page 6. If you decide a diaper change will wake him up, go to page 2. If you shake off what seem like dozens of propping pillows and a boppy and set him down in his bassinet, go to page 7.

Page 5. You stick the kid back on and he drinks for another 10 minutes, with occasional fussing. He does seem to be gulping a lot of air though. He finally lets go and seems contented. Finally. Maybe now you can sleep. You pick him up to burp him in the sitting position. His eyes open a crack and you pat his back while he squirms. Then the eyes open wide and he gags. Oh no… oh no. Not this, anything but this! Too late. You are powerless to stop what comes next. He heaves once, then throws up the entire contents of his stomach. No joke. We are talking rivers of curdled milk. You, the baby and the bed are now sopping wet, you will need to change him again and all that progress you worked so hard to accomplish is in vein. Cue the sobbing. No, not from the kid. Surprisingly, after all that vomiting, he is looking rather peaceful and sleepy. No, the sobbing is all you this time. You try to get him to take something in before bed, but he won’t bite. He looks completely worn out. Go to page 7.

Page 6. You wake up and slowly realize that you must have dozed off. Glancing at the clock, you notice…holy shit it’s 5:45! You missed a feeding! The baby is going to starve! No wonder he isn’t gaining enough weight. You are the worst mother in the world!!!! Wracked with guilt, you leap out of bed, grab the sleeping child and thrust a boob in his face. He groggily smacks his lips, but doesn’t want to eat just yet. Oh no, he’s lethargic! This is the first sign of a malnourished baby! He should be clamoring for food by now. You thrust the boob in his face with renewed vigor and he starts to wake and fuss a bit. The feeding cycle begins again … (at this point, if you wish, you can return to page 2 or 3). You promise yourself that you will try to get in an extra feeding for him today to make up for the lost meal, but you just end up feeling lousy all day, riddled with maternal guilt. The End.

Page 7. You set the angelic, comatose child in the bassinet and in 3 femptoseconds, zing! His eyes pop open and he starts to thrash his limbs wildly. How he’s able to tell that he has touched the bassinet when he is sleeping soundly in your arms is one of the great mysteries of life. You turn off the light, rock the bassinet and pray that he will settle himself and go back to sleep. He whines. You hop into bed and pull the covers over your head, hoping that he will settle himself in the next 10 minutes. You try to doze during this time. The whining turns to yowling. Exasperated, you hop out of bed, lift the baby (who calms immediately) and bring him to bed. You arrange the pillows to prop him up for feeding as best you can with one hand– again – and set him down for another go at the feeding trough. The now very sore and droopy (meaning nearly empty) feeding trough. He seems enthusiastic at first, but once the latch is made, he stops sucking and dozes. Aw yeah! Will a finger in the ear work this time? Not a chance. How about the toe tickling? Nope. Tickling his face with a lock of hair? He squirms a little and sucks absentmindedly, but stops soon and dozes again. You remove him from the breast, shake off all the pillows and put him back in the bassinet. Again, femptoseconds, and he is up and ready to… play? Learn? Stare at the ceiling fan? Whatever he wants, it doesn’t seem to be food or sleep. This in and out routine of the bassinet cycles a few times until finally, when he is asleep at your boob, you take him off and set him down in the bed next to you. He remains sleeping. Hallelujah! You buttress him with pillows so he won’t roll around and curl up at the very edge of the bed so you won’t roll and squish the little guy. You sleep lightly over the next couple of very nervous and restless hours. Then the feeding cries start again. No sleep for the weary. (Begin again at page one if you wish). The end.


Anonymous said...

This is flippin' hilarious! My dilemma regarding the feed right away or change diaper issue is if I wait, I risk the dreaded blowout; if I change her right away, I usually have to just change her again as eating tends to get things moving for her... The sad part is I almost wish Ronin *would* sleep through a feeding; she has not slept for more than 3 hours straight for weeks now and never more than 2.5 hours at night. SHEESH. When she wakes up, she is starving and pissed!

(ps - apologies highly unnecessary! This is hardly similar to my post.)

Anonymous said...

One more thing I thought of.. I started putting a heating pad in her cradle when I remove her for night feedings so that when I put her back, it is still warm (I remove the thing of course.. and usually forget to turn it back off). The idea is that perhaps it was the cold bed that woke her up. It's hard for me to tell if it helps or if she would have somehow miraculously just fallen asleep anyway that time.

Anonymous said...

Ooh, I like the heating pad idea. I'll give it a try tonight. Thanks! I'm glad you liked this post. (It took forever to finish). We have really been enjoying your posts as well. You are an awesome writer and story teller.

Anonymous said...

Great story and the cutest Alden picture yet.

RobinFromPhila said...

Hi from your cousin Robin in Ohio (Alison's sister). Well, it's been a long time, as my girls are now 10 and 12, and I did not nurse either of them. However - my Ilana had the hiccup thing, and at age ten still gets them! When she was a baby, it calmed her when we rubbed her temples in a circular motion. Some of my friends played those tapes that had ocean sounds....Be careful of temperature of heating pads! Also, I know it sounds hokey - but both our girls loved when we sang "You are my sunshine" and "A You're Adorable" to them.
PS Alden is beautiful - enjoy!