Owlet: Five Weeks

My month-old baby is currently sleeping on her own. As in, not on me.

This is a major thing. Let me tell you why.

We’ve been having feeding issues, right? Well, last Friday at the weigh-in, the nurse looked at Owlet’s weight and said, “She’s gaining weight, but it’s still slow.” I wanted to howl. What the heck else can we do? I cannot physically feed her more; she’s already feeding for half an hour to forty-five minutes, about an hour apart, and if she’s not feeding she’s dozing on me. I can’t pump any more, because I don’t have the physical timeslot in which to do it because hey, there’s pretty much always a baby on me. (For what it’s worth, this nurse was also taken aback that the other nurse had told me to give Owlet formula to bulk her up faster. It’s just not what they do.) Totalling up the hours of sleep per day, she was only getting eight to ten as well, instead of the sixteen she’s supposed to be getting, and all of those on someone, because she would fall asleep after trying to feed so hard and long, or was clingy.

We finally found out why.

“Did we check for a tongue tie?” the nurse said. We did at my request, I reminded her, way back when she was only five days old. “Well, I’m going to check again, because I’ve run out of ideas,” she told me, and did. “I can’t be certain,” she said. “If she does, it’s a posterior tongue tie. I’m going to make you an appointment at the CLSC with a doctor. She’ll check, and if there is one, she’ll snip it. It will allow the tongue to come forward more and make the milking/drinking action more efficient.”

So off we went to our appointment yesterday. I was a bit nervous. On one hand, if this was the issue, fantastic; feeding would become more efficient. On the other hand, the procedure involves someone sticking a pair of scissors into a baby’s mouth and cutting flesh. The nurses and the doctor were wonderful, though, and asked me not only all the questions everyone always asks me, but new ones as well. (They kept asking me if I was in any pain, and I kept telling them that no, no, I really wasn’t. They really didn’t seem to believe me.) And they both checked, and yes, there was a posterior tongue tie. The doctor explained everything to me clearly when I asked, and they wrapped her up and I looked the other way. Owlet was an Angry Owlet, because people were holding her tightly and there were fingers in her mouth, but snip, it was done, and the doctor said, “Oh, there’s not much blood at all,” and then, somewhat dryly, “She’s sucking on the gauze I’m holding in her mouth. She’s fine.”

They passed her to me quickly to nurse her, and as I took her I saw her make her little signal for “milk please now,” sticking out her tongue like a kitten lapping. And holy cats, she stuck it out further than she ever had. We latched her on, a brilliantly good latch, and it was like night and day. The sensation was totally different. And she drank, and she swallowed, and kept swallowing, and she drank so strongly that I was completely overwhelmed at how much difference a tiny bit of membrane can make.

Essentially, a tongue tie (ankyloglossia, to give it its proper name) is a situation where the tongue doesn’t fully separate from the bottom of the mouth during gestation. They can stretch over time, and they rarely cause dramatic issues in everyday life (although if severe, they can, of course). But they can impede efficient milk transfer in breastfeeding babies by limiting tongue motion, and that’s what was happening here.

Suddenly Owlet is feeding so efficiently that her nursing sessions are done in about fifteen minutes. She’s not exhausting herself by trying to get enough milk through a bad connection; she’s eating as much as she used to in a forty-five minute session in one-third of the time. She can sleep afterwards, really sleep, instead of clinging to someone and dozing lightly, because her tummy is full enough that her body relaxes into sleep to process it. She’s taking in less air as she swallows; she’s not gulping and gasping any more as she works so very hard to get milk, which in turn means her digestive system isn’t handling insane amounts of gas. And she’s not screaming as much as she used to. There was noticeable change yesterday afternoon and evening, and even more today. The doctor told me to cut down on her supplementary bottles after nursing, because she’s going to be getting a lot more milk by nursing now, and gave me a few different tricks to retrain her latch and habits as well as exercises to do to make sure the frenulum doesn’t heal right back where it was prior to being snipped.

And on top of all that wonderfulness? She’d already gained just over an ounce a day since the weigh-in last Friday, bringing her weight to about 8 lbs 6 oz. And that should increase even more rapidly now that she’s getting more milk in a shorter period of time, and sleeping better.

She has been napping for an hour and forty-five minutes now. I have made cloth wipes, wipe solution, a load of laundry, and set bread to rise. And, obviously, have blogged for posterity. (Hullo, posterity!)

Unrelated but very exciting as well: last night on Kijiji we scored a European stroller/carrycot combo that turns into a carriage/landau type pram, for only $45. At last we can take neighbourhood walks without buckling her into carseat and perching it into the stroller travel-system style! The angle was all wrong and she was too upright, so her head would flop forward. (The stroller can’t be used for infants, either; the furthest down it reclines leaves them at the same odd too-upright angle.) We used the carriage this morning, walking to the bus stop with the boy and then to the pharmacy, and it’s brilliant. As a bonus, I can change her diaper right in it. (HRH was more impressed by the adjustable shock absorbers.) The sellers even dropped it by our house on their way elsewhere. It’s slim and light, a relief after looking at all the heavy, bulky North American strollers that recline completely.

Overall, yesterday was a Very Good Day.

3 thoughts on “Owlet: Five Weeks

  1. Bev Preston

    I’m glad you solved your problem with nursing the Owlet.

    This reminds me of our problem with Paze when she was brand new. In the chaos of moving and bringing a new baby home from the hospital, we lost our copy of Dr. Spock. A friend lent me her child’s plastic baby bottles, since I couldn’t seem to breast feed the baby; she couldn’t get any milk, and in those days, no one at the hospital thought anything of that, and let me go home unprepared to nurse. But it wasn’t much better with the bottles and formula; the baby fell asleep after five minutes, then woke up in half an hour. That meant we were up all night and never had a minute to spare during the day.
    Once we found our copy of Dr. Spock, I looked up this problem and was told to check that the holes were big enough on the nipples of the bottles. Sure enough, they weren’t. I hadn’t even thought of that, since her baby had nursed quite happily on them, but then her baby weighed 10 pounds at birth, and mine was 6 pounds. Mine was expending a lot of energy just sucking up the milk, which is why she fell asleep right away, but still had an empty stomach, which is why she woke up too soon—just like Owlet.
    What at difference it made when we enlarged the holes with a darning needle! Finally, we both got some sleep.

    Reply

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