Owlet: Week One & Two

Don’t worry; eventually the journal will swing back to cello, writing, and fibre arts. It’s just that right now there isn’t much time for all that! I do use this to record stuff for my own reference later on, after all, so if you’re not interested in the family and baby stuff just skip these entries.

We’ve never had a newborn with us, so this has all been very, well, new! The baby is a sweetheart and very good-tempered in general, and we love her to pieces.

Highlights of the past two weeks:

    Meeting Ceri, Scott, and Ada; meeting Jeff, Paze, Devon, and Tallis (complete with Tallis taking it upon herself to choose one of her own stuffed animals to give to the baby); meeting Uncle Marc M and Uncle Marc L; and meeting Rob, Kristie, and Rowan. And of course, meeting Nana, who has come down to spend a week with us! This weekend she gets to meet Granddad, who is coming down to join Nana.

    Our first post-discharge visit from the CLSC nurse on the Tuesday went very well: I am recovering splendidly, and Owlet is doing very well, too, gaining good weight. We’d been having latching issues, so the nurse showed us a couple of tricks.

    Owlet’s first outing was to the luthier! Very important to start them young. She travels beautifully both in the car and in the stroller. We did a two-hour shopping trip nearby on foot and she didn’t stir the entire time.

    She lost her cord stump exactly one week after she was born, so that Friday was our first official cloth diapering day! It went very well, without any accidents. In general it’s great, and I’m very happy with it. We’re using disposables at night until her system matures more.

This next bit is hard to write, so bear with me. It’s probably TMI for most of you other than mothers, so like I said, feel free to skip it; it’s mostly here for my records.

Breastfeeding in the first ten days was agony. Owlet tore me up really badly; she chomped and ground and I had bruises and scabs that bled into her mouth. This was beyond the basic “cracked and bleeding” thing you get warned about, and was decidedly unpleasant. She was feeding almost every hour for fifteen to twenty minutes at a time, too, and I dreaded nursing her because it was agonizing. She comfort sucks a lot as well, which is nice for her but not so nice for me what with the open wounds and all. I loved breastfeeding the boy, and I was so looking forward to doing it again, so I developed a complex about feeding Owlet because I desperately want to do it but it hurt like OH MY GOD MAKE IT STOP.

Friday I took the baby to the CLSC for her follow-up weigh-in. Turned out that she lost ten grams since that Tuesday when the nurse was here. Now, this normally wouldn’t fuss me, because she’d gained at a really good rate between discharge and Tuesday. But Friday’s nurse was concerned. I’d also requested to see a lactation consultant, so she took me into an interview room and we talked about the problem. “Show me what you’re doing,” she said, so I dropped one of my bra cups in prep for nursing, and she had a fit at the state of my breast, which was much worse than Tuesday’s nurse had seen. “It hurts me just looking at it,” she said. So then we brought the baby to the breast, and sure enough she chomped and locked her jaw, and we struggled to unlatched her… and there was blood dripping from me onto the baby’s sleeper. (Charming, I know. Let me tell you, one does not feel like a stellar mum when one’s baby’s clothing is bloodstained.) “How long has nursing been like this?” the LC asked, aghast. Since day one, I told her, and she stared at me. “You’re so courageous,” she said. “You’ve been nursing like this through intense pain for eight days? I’d have stopped long ago.” And it was such a relief to hear that, to know I was really trying hard and not faking it somehow. “Are you putting something on them?” she asked. Lanolin, I told her, and she shook her head and said, “No, I meant a real cream, to heal them. I’ll prescribe you one.”

She watched the baby eat, and she said that there were a couple of problems: one, that she wasn’t opening her mouth wide enough (which we knew, and we’ve been working on pulling her lower jaw down); and two, she’s sucking the nipple sideways into the pocket of her cheek, so that it scrubs back and forth along her sharp upper and lower jawbones. That plus the chomping = sensitive areas that look like ground beef. It’s nothing I was doing wrong, which was also a relief to hear. But the theory is that because she’s not sucking properly and essentially cutting off her own supply by how she’s latching, she’s not getting enough milk despite nursing for at least fifteen to twenty minutes at a time, and pretty much every hour to an hour and a half. The frequency of her feedings is to cover the low amount of milk she’s drawing at every feeding. And of course, the frequency isn’t helping the wounds.

So the first prescription was: Supplement. But bless the nurse, I was to supplement with pumped breastmilk, between 15 to 30 ml after each feeding; that way the baby gets more milk to bulk up, she’ll feed less frequently allowing me to heal, and we know she’s getting more milk. The second prescription was for me: An antifungal, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory cream for the open wounds.

In the days before the CLSC visit I was in so much pain feeding her that I’d taken out the small hand pump my cousin’s wife had passed on to me and cleaned it in preparation for possibly giving up on breastfeeding for a bit and pumping to feed her instead. I came home from the CLSC and pumped for ten minutes with that teeny hand pump, and pulled 60 ml right off the bat from the breast she’d fed from at the clinic. So, um, it wasn’t my supply that the issue (not that I was worried about that). After she nursed HRH gave her 30 ml and she gobbled it up, so I checked to see if I could pump more (um, another 80 ml… okay) and then he gave her the other 30 ml I’d pumped initially. She gobbled that, too, then passed out in his arms.

So it looks like she’d been hungry all this time, because her latch isn’t efficient enough to get her what she wants (or needs). Poor thing, she was starving, so she attacked the breast aggressively, which had been causing physical damage and creating tension in both of us. Breastfeeding will continue, but the ointment plus the supplementing has certainly eased the pain and her aggression at feeding time, and allowed me to almost completely heal in three days. So here I am, pumping again regularly when I thought it would only be an occasional thing. I dragged out the big double pump I used to pump for the boy when he was in hospital, cleaned it, and have been using that once or twice a day.

But we already saw an improvement within a day: the supplement allowed her to sleep a bit longer between feedings and she didn’t come to me ravenous. The ointment numbed the pain and sped up healing of the wounds, making the physical aspect much easier to deal with. Definitely a thumbs up from me. Plus HRH doesn’t feel as helpless any more, and the specialized not-a-standard-bottle/delivery system we’re using for the supplement (Medela Calma, for those interested in that kind of thing) will allow him to handle a whole feeding if he wants, as there’s been no issue with nipple confusion or rejection so far. We also resorted to a pacifier, since she demanded comfort sucking and I couldn’t give that to her while nursing was so incredibly painful. The pacifier has turned out to be a godsend, as much as I dislike them.

Monday’s CLSC weigh-in revealed that she gained 20 gr over the weekend, a good improvement, so while she’s not yet where they’d like her to be at 11 days post-birth she’s already past where she was on the initial Tuesday visit. Yesterday she had her first appointment with our GP, who weighed her in at 7 1/2 lbs, so she’s certainly gaining well; she’s just a week behind where she ought to be on her post-discharge timeline.

Speaking of sleeping better, at night she’s nursing, sleeping for three hours, nursing, then sleeping for another three hours, so nights have settled nicely. Days are more social; she likes being snuggled with someone and looking around at things with a funny furrowed brow. She has crazy-impressive neck and head control already. The poor thing has had some nasty problems with gas, too, bad enough that I went out for gripe water last week. She loves the taste of it, and when she’s taken some she settles right down, and then I love to bury my nose in her neck and sniff the dill/fennel/anise/new baby smell.

She is awesome. The boy is a fabulous big brother, too, doing drive-by kisses on the top of her head as he runs headlong through a room, or reading books to her. We’ve been trying very hard to pay a lot of attention to him and give him special time with us. And speaking of reading books, I am going to indulge in a bit of bragging here, and state that we have just finished reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets together. And when I say ‘together’ I actually mean together, taking turns reading. My mother said to me, “You said he was reading well and I thought oh, well, yes, everyone says that about their kids, but then I got here and heard him… and no, you weren’t exaggerating, were you.”

Okay, I think I’m caught up. This post was originally a one-week post that dragged on in draft form. I know you all want more pictures, but those will have to wait till I have more time.

9 thoughts on “Owlet: Week One & Two

  1. Pasley

    Posted the above by accident. Meant to write an actual response to the actual content of your post!

    Anywats . . .

    I hated the whole idea of pacifiers. . . until they turned out to be a godsend for Tallis, too. As for weening them off, we waited a loong time, and worried to death over whether or not it would be hard to ween her off, but it was a very easy thing to do in the end. (We’ll have a chat about that later, when you want to ween. But, basically, it’s easier to do it when they’re old enough to understand the idea of the “soucie fairy.”)

    GAH! Horrific description of your poor, mutilated nips! Courageous indeed to do that for so long, for Bria’s sake — motherlove is a powerful thing, ain’t it? Glad things are getting better, now. One question: Do the creams interfere with nursing, or do you just sorta wipe them off right beforehand?

    Sending love and support and hugs for you and Bria and whole family!
    xoxoxox . . .

  2. Autumn Post author

    Oops, no; the last draft was saved on the 15th. It only published today. I fixed the date on it so as not to confuse anyone else.

    No, the cream is perfectly safe for nursing, thank goodness. They do say to put it on *after* a nursing session, though, otherwise it wouldn’t be on long enough to do any good.

    Liam used a pacifier for about three months when he was four or five months old; weaning him off it wasn’t a problem. I don’t anticipate using this one for an extended period of time, either; we’ll wean her off it sooner rather than later. But she’s only two weeks old, and needs it right now while I heal. The more she can nurse from me, the less she’ll need it.

  3. Jessica

    Oh i am glad you are all doing well! Sounds very painful. I had the same situation while nursing Henry, and that cream is a godsend. I also pumped and provided a pacifier, but he seems to have grown out of it now. Bria sounds lovely, and i am so happy for you all!

  4. Bev Preston

    Never apologize for a baby post. We are all interested in Bria and would love updates at any time.

    Your breast-feeding adventures sound agonizing. Good thing you had a consultant to help you. In my day, there was no one, so my own attempts, in which the baby fell asleep at my breast each nursing after only a few minutes, then was hungry again within an hour, was never explained to me or dealt with; even my pediatrician simply suggested using a bottle and formula. The La Leche League of Montreal, which changed attitudes about nursing, even though they came off as seeming like Nursing Nazis in the 80s (“You vill not leave hospital until you breastfeed that baby properly”), deserves every mother’s gratitude.

  5. Erin

    Oh Autumn, what pain, you’re amazing for sticking with it. I’m so glad you had a good lactation counsellor to help you sort it out.

    I wasn’t keen on soothers either, but Elliot took to his really early, it was the only way he’d settle in his moses basket. We use it still for going to sleep and when the teething is really horrible, it gives him something to tear at. I was planning to wean him off it earlier, but with the impending huge move to a new country and all the turmoil that entailed I couldn’t bear to take away such a critical comfort object.

    Glad all is going well, and you’re healing. xx

  6. Lu

    I’m so glad that you have the resources available to you to deal with this stuff as it gives me more and more hope for my sisters and their not-here-yet-daughters. (The one that IS here is awesome and terrorizing everyone … I’m so proud.)

    Heal even more and good feeding to you both!

  7. Andrea Hakanson

    Dear lord! My nipples hurt just reading this and I’m not even a mother yet.

    And as Bev previously said: Never apologize for a baby post! Fascinating :)

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