Thursday, February 10, 2011

Woman to Woman: Breastfeeding, Pt. 4

(Part 1)
(Part 2)
(Part 3)

My (Current) Story

Until Alaine came along I had never had a baby who refused to nurse, but Alaine will happily sail through her day, fighting the urge to nurse until she is super-hungry or super-tired.  She will indicate that she wants to nurse, but then cry and pull away if I try.  There are times when I worry and think, "If I switched her to a bottle, I wouldn't have to wonder if she is getting enough to eat."  But I've refused to let that be an option for me.  Supplementing her will only start the slippery slope of interventions that are hard to pull up from once they are started. As long as she continues to wet her diaper and as long as she has no other way of gaining calories, I know she will nurse when she is hungry!

Last month, though, we reached a crisis point in our nursing relationship.  She began  refusing to nurse at all.  When she was hungry, I'd attempt to feed her and she would scream and arch her back.  It puzzled me and I began to think through the possible causes. 

Could it be that my supply is lacking and  I don't have enough milk to feed her?  No, because the milk is there. It's just that she won't drink it.  (Her resistance lasted close to a month and at the peak, my supply did go down, but it was a result, not a cause.)

Could it be that she is having digestive issues?  No, because she is not fussy any other time and she is sleeping well.  She is not gassy or uncomfortable.

I worried and prayed and worried some more until one morning I changed her diaper and noticed that her poop was greenish in color.  I remembered reading that green poop in breastfed babies often means that they are receiving too much foremilk  and not enough of the fattier hindmilk.  It made sense since usually, I was only able to convince Alaine to nurse for a minute (literally) and she never nursed long enough to reach the hindmilk, and though she was still plump and developing well, her weight gain had plateaued. 

So...I still didn't have a cause of the resistance and striking, but I did have a mission, and that was to get her to nurse long enough to ingest the rich hindmilk.  It proved a tough challenge.  The only way I found to nurse her was to nurse her standing up!  Also, though it seemed to be counterintuitive, I found that spacing out her nursings helped because when she was very hungry, she was more willing to take it seriously.  For days and days, I nursed her standing up.  At night, I could no longer nurse her lying down either.  It was exhausting,, both physically and emotionally, but it worked.  Gradually, I noticed her diapers were wetter and her gulps noisier.  In the first 6 days of my experiment, she gained 14 ounces. 

I never did figure out why nursing in a standing position was the answer because her position never changed.  I still held her in a cradle position with her tummy against mine.  Possibly, she liked the movement and rocking when I was upright.  I don't know, but slowly, slowly, I was able to transition back into sitting down to nurse.  First it was once a day...and then about fifty percent of the time...and now, we nurse sitting down most of the time. 

At five months old, Alaine is still exclusively breastfed, but she doesn't always make it easy.  She nurses in quick bursts and I have to be proactive to ensure that she is eating enough.  She prefers that I am sitting up (though not always standing up) and she wiggles constantly.  

Still, the rewards are endless.


  1. You know what's funny, Garrett has been my most confusing nurser. Sometimes he'll be so upset but he'll refuse to nurse. OR he'll nurse all day the one day and then hardly want to nurse much at all the next day. I'm still getting used to his needs and by almost 5 months with my last 4 we were into such a groove by then. Hmmm...maybe 5th kids like to shake things up?!?!? Way to go for working through and finding out what works best for your little girl!

  2. Just wanted to stop and tell you that you are doing an awesome job!

  3. Ok... trying this again. I was in my husband's account. Sorry!

    I'd never heard that about green poop! That is very interesting. My Little Man takes his time growing... in the 25th-ish percentile down from the 80s six months ago. But he seems fine in every other regard and wets and messes his diaper great... so we press on.

    I am so grateful not to have nursing strikes to worry about, but still. I would love it if he would gain like the charts say. He does have green poops pretty regularly though... I wonder if there is a connection between that and the slower weight gain. Hmmm... I wonder how to make sure he's getting more hind milk. He's taken to nursing slower longer lately... I don't know if that will make a difference or if it's just a different way to take in more of the same. :)

    Oh well... thanks for sharing your story. I know the docs would yell at me (I'm actually afraid to go in for something else because I'm sure they'll throw some fit) and it's encouraging to hear another mama's story!



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