Baby land: where the world turns slowly

Time moves slowly in baby land. After the third night of that kind of sleep, you feel like you’ll never sleep again. These few hours of whatever you’re struggling through roll themselves out into months.

I’ve locked myself in my mind many a time and played soothsayer with my child, divining the future, only to be proven wrong by evening time.

Talitha hasn’t really been gaining weight. She didn’t lose much in the initial postpartum days but excitingly gained that and more by day ten. Two weeks later she’s gained nothing. OK. Not worried. Much. Two weeks after that she’s gained two ounces. Huh.

“Don’t worry yet but we want to keep an eye on it and discuss it next week.”

How do you not worry when a baby that is at the breast all the day lit hours that God gives has gained two ounces between ten days and six weeks of life?

I know it could be nothing. It could be something that sorts itself out next week. I know no one worries like a new mother. But… I figure I’m as entitled to an opinion as much as anyone.

And I’ve been thinking since week two that something’s not right. “Newborns feed constantly.” I know but there is never any time between feeds unless I make it. The most she’s happy for is a few minutes, then her fist is violently in her mouth again.

You shouldn’t compare babies, especially with ethnic differences but I can’t help it. I’ve never really looked at babies this young before. Not really. I keep meeting babies her age or younger who look like they could eat Talitha for breakfast.

Their arms and legs have the pleasant fatty folds that make you feel comfortable playing with them. Maybe my daughter’s petite. I just wish she weren’t so thin.

So what could be going on if something is?

The health visitors: Are you eating and drinking enough?

I hadn’t thought about it before, to be honest, but I’ve been fairly idiotic on this point. Thinking back, I have for the last three weeks neglected either breakfast and lunch or both almost every week day.

With the baby at my breast all day, sorting food feels a mountainous task both in physical and emotional terms. My natural reaction to highest stress has always been to eat less.

But why have I really been so stupid? I have absolutely no natural desire to eat anything I can think of. Everything I’ve eaten today has been consumed with the inner mantra of: “It’s for the baby.”

Am I punishing myself unwittingly or subconsciously (as has been slightly offensively suggested) trying to fit into smaller jeans? Or is my body reacting to the huge event of birth?

Whether or not it’s any of these and whether or not this is the cause of Talitha’s lack of weight gain, I care for a young child. Bran and body need to function, so I’m getting my calories on.

The breastfeeding peer supporter: Is it possible she’s got a tongue tie?

I’d thought the early breastfeeding success meant there was no tongue tie. She gained weight, my uterus contracted, no issues there.

A friend of mine says that my experience sounds so like hers some months ago. She insisted on seeing a specialist. It turned out her son had tongue tie. Quick snip and everything suddenly changed.

Ah. So maybe. I look at Talitha, holding her up to my face. “Stick out your tongue, little girl,” I tell her. I stick mine out. She smiles. It’s the funniest thing she’s ever seen. “Stick out your tongue, Talitha. Like ‘ah’.” I touch her bottom lip and she sticks it out. Kind of. I think. Maybe. Well she certainly attempted, anyway.

How do you know what tongue tie looks like anyway? How do you know they don’t just have a small tongue? Everything else on them is small. So the breastfeeding peer supporter is coming round next week to have a look and Talitha has her six-week check up.

In the mean time, I’m to wear her as much as possible. Spend afternoons in bed with her, skin to skin and continue to feed her lots.

Me: I don’t know but things seem to be slow.

Every now and then the suction breaks and Talitha starts tugging at my breast and sometimes she cries briefly. It sounds like a complaint.

Just a week ago, it felt like we were looking at co-sleeping until she’s four. These days, she’s happily sleeping through the night in her own cot, which we has been pressed up to our bedside, replacing the Moses basket. When she wakes, it’s because I’ve picked her up to feed her out of concern.

And I’ve been advised to feed her every two or three hours at night instead of just leaving her, so there she comes back into bed with us, because I’m not spending all the moonlit hours God gives us sitting upright to feed her too.

It’s funny how quickly we’ve moved on to the next thing and yet the week’s felt endless.

Yesterday, a friend texted me from an unrecognized number: “Hi mom! Stying at becky’s 2ngt n gng to Justin Bieber concert. He’s so old, but still so gorg! eek! – Talitha. (what to expect in a decade or a few).”

I’d been feeling stressed and had been crying. The text made me stop and laugh. Without knowing it, my friend had reminded me that she will grow up, and when she does, I’ll wonder at how worrying this short time was.

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  • Oh adele! My heart really went out to you reading this. I can only imagine what it must be like having a baby to care for, but I can certainly say that when I am just a teensy bit stressed, I lose my appetite completely. It is so important for anyone to eat properly let alone a new mummy. Can you get some help cooking batch meals and freezing them, would be much easier to bung something in the oven rather than prepare something from scratch.
    As for the baby, I know it is really easier said than done, but try not to worry. All babies are unique and have different needs, so many people have opinions but that is all they are, opinions, not facts.
    You know your own baby and I’m sure you will get to the bottom of it. Please don’t drive yourself crazy putting pressure on yourself.
    You sound like you are doing an amazing job, hope you feel a little less tearful today
    Lisa xx

    • Thanks for your encouragement, Lisa. I’m trying to sort the eating thing and not kill myself with worry. The days are hard but I think I’m less overrun by emotions. So much sweetness in this comment. Thank you. 

  • Talitha will be fine. But you can’t do anything but worry. young, first time mother with so much love in you.. it’s expected that you feel like this.
    That friend must have almost supernatural timing. He (I’m assuming it’s a he) must be a really really handsome, intelligent, witty and all around GREAT person/friend.

  • Oh hun, I am sure she is fine. Some babies just gain weight slower. Please, do not beat yourself up. You are doing such a great job still breastfeeding her. Many many mums would have given up with a baby as demanding as your little vampire 😉 Just try to relax and eat and drink plenty to keep your energy levels up. Big virtual hug x

    • Thanks, hon. To be honest, I can’t believe I’ve done nearly four weeks of constant feeding. Am I dedicated, mad, stubborn or too lazy to find an alternative? Loving the virtual hug. Feeling virtually warmed inside. x

  • My babies also have trouble gaining weight. My three year old I ended up mixed feeding (one bottle a day) from two and a half months and I’ve just started doing the same for my daughter aged six weeks. Personally I am unclear if I produce less than normal amounts of milk or they need more than normal amounts of milk, although I like to think it’s the latter given how much my son eats now, how active he’s always been and how lean he still is.

    The point being that I’m NOT necessarily recommending that for you, just that I wanted you to know that there are other people who struggle with weightgain too. I know I used to feel awful when I looked at other people’s roly poly babies. And frankly, I hated (and still hate) having to supplement.  

    Sadly, breastfeeding is not as straightforward as common sense tells us it should be. Good luck with the eating and resting (that always makes me laugh – no, I am not rested, I am sleeping in three or four hour bursts maximum. That’s a documented form of torture donchaknow), take all the advice and help you can get and whatever happens, try not to beat yourself up about it. Easier said than done, and I don’t really manage it gracefully, but it does have to be said that my son is a picture of health now, so there’s that.

    And, of course, the good thing about having daughters is that she wouldn;t be texting you from the concert, surely you’d be right there with her?

    • Thanks for sharing your struggle for weight gain. It really helps not to feel like I’m the only one with this going on. Mixed feeding is an option I’d be willing to consider at the end of the road. The most important thing is that T is fed and her mother remains sane. I’m sorry you’re having to supplement when you really would rather not. Gosh, I hope she’s not going to lwant to go to anything remotely Bieber if I’m going with her! 🙂

  • I’m sorry you’re having such a time of it. I would be freaking out too. The first thing that came to mind is perhap she is going through a growth spurt? My daughter used to eat and eat and eat as a toddler. When I went to the doctor with her, I asked if I should be worried about it. I mean, on the one hand I didn’t want to deny her food but on the other hand I didn’t want her to develop unhealthy eating habits either. I was told that it was fairly normal and that she probably was just going through a growth spurt. The doctor told me it was fine to let her eat all she wanted, because it would pass. And so it did. I hope it is something just as simple for you. Almost all new mothers are consumed by worry, so please don’t feel like you are alone. I think the worry makes us better able to care for them, as we pay such close attention to everything because of it. Blessings and love to you Adele.

    • Thought it was a growth spurt but it’s been over three weeks of her never being settled for more than a few minutes when awake. Of course, we wait to see. I agree, the worry is just part of being a new mother and I agree, it can be positive. Thanks for your kind words.

  • My first child had trouble growing and much of what you’re saying here rings a massive bell. Thing is, I don’t want to give my experience or share my advice unless you want it as you’ll no doubt be hit by advice from all over and I don’t want to force it on you. Feel free to ask, the end of the story is happy and we found a way for her to grow x

      • She was 8lb at birth and slow to get feeding. She dropped weight and we expressed and used this milk to top her up and keep her from hospital. She gained some weight gradually but was dropping centiles like they were going out of fashion. By the six week check there was a little concern from the Dr that she wasn’t growing as well as she should. At 8 weeks after putting on a mere half ounce she was refferred to hospital.

        Thing is, I was feeding her near constantly and had lots of milk. There were days when it felt a little like a horror film: I’d feed her, change her, think she’d drifted off when her eyes would open and she’d want more milk. I kept telling them she was fine, just slow to grow. She slept through the night, was alert in the day and was feeding. Being refferred in was a wake up call for me!

        After some truly ridiculous suggestions from junior Drs we saw our consultant. We were already aquainted with him as he was our antinatal teacher’s husband and father of four. He looked at the red book and notes then asked me what I thought was happening. Paraphrased: there is nothing wrong with her, she’s just not growing. He asked me what I thought the problem was: I didn’t think there was enough fat in my milk. I am very lucky that he was keen to resolve the issue and keep her breast fed, many would have just insisted we give her formula.

        We went back to see him two days later with the local NCT breast feeding councellor to see if we could get to the bottom of it. I was right, she wasn’t getting enough fat. I was producing heaps of foremilk which positively raced out of my boob while my poor child desperately gulped it down. When the strong let down had gone she was full and not even trying to get more milk. The issue was kind of two fold 1) too much fore milk, very little fat (it was like blue water when I expressed it) 2) she was not learning how to stimulate the breast and suckle once the wave of let down had gone.

        Dealing with it was arduous but doable. I had to stop demand feeding and feed on a three hour shedule to allow my boobs to produce some nice milk. 20 minutes before a feed I would express the first let down. I would feed her for 20 minutes at the breast then top up with expressed milk (we removed lots of the fore milk from this and donated it to our local milk bank).

        It was a long journey getting to the point where she just fed and it was so worth it. She fed until she was over three and I didn’t have the same issue with my other two children: the boobs got the hang of it. From what I know, big boobs have this problem more often than you’d expect!

        If you are worried about her growth make a noise. My daughter’s growth was fixable (although she never recovered her centiles and is tiny even now) but there are many other things which could be causing it. I always remember thinking Alice’s daughter was in a similar situation to mine but it was so so different –

        • Thanks for sharing your story. Had a frustrating appointment with a fairly clueless GP today who has referred me to paediatrics. I don’t think too much milk is my issue at all actually but I will definitely insist on getting to the bottom of it. You’ve been very encouraging and I’m glad you sorted things for your baby.

  • Hey..have just finally come back to the virtual world 😉 and glad to see you’ve been doing well. In all honesty, if there weren’t charts or scales, you’d look after your baby fine as well too 🙂 If you’re really worried and it’s bothering you, seek another professional opinion. If it’s just the HV ‘scaring you’, consider it part of their job to meet targets.
    With G, I did always wonder what the point was to compare non-Caucasian babies against, Growth Charts for Caucasian babies – DUH!

  • Right, if you do not feel that everything is right then you need to follow that instinct because you know your daughter
    It could be tongue tie (it kicking in around 2 weeks is a classic sign), it could be that you need to drink and eat more (seriously get in flapjacks, get a sports bottle, have a glass red wine in the evening), try and get some rest together (I used to love our afternoon skin on skin naps)

    BUT if there is a niggling voice then it could be something – how are her nappies?  Do you eat dairy?  It could be that she is picking up something that is disagreeing with her
    It could also be reflux – again you can go medicalised for this and ask for her to be tested and given drugs or you can go natually (and what you are doing is exactly right for that, keep her in a sling to keep her upright, feed little and often and let her suckle as much as she wants – sucking helps with discomfort)

    We found that cranial osteopathy helped get rid of niggles after difficult births and helped with feeding afterwards and that baby massage made a real difference, on a towel just before bathtime with lots on her tummy to help with any digestive issues)
    Take care and do shout if you want to talk about it

    • You are always so full of brilliant, well thought through advice. She has a checkup tomorrow so I’m going to ask for her to be referred to someone who knows about tongue tie. I’m putting food in various spots in the night to have no excuses the next day. She’s got the right number of wet nappies, 6 or 7 (we do cloth) but she only poos once every three days which people seem to be in disagreement as to whether that’s normal or not. Anyway, thanks for all the suggestions. I’ve been wanting to do baby massage. Now I’ve got another reason to look into it. 

      • About the nappies – Littler had lots of problems and probably poo-ed every week or 10 days.  And that is within the realm of normal for a breastfed baby BUT it does show that they are stripping out all the goodness from the milk with little left over which can be a sign that there might be something up – or not 

        Baby massage definitely can help, even if only in terms of bonding

        If you think its not right keep asking until you feel happy

        Its about now I want to come over and give you both a look over, a pile of cake and a cuddle

  • I also think it is important to trust your instincts, even if you are not 100% sure of them as few new mothers are.  For me this meant continuing to breastfeed even though soon after birth LLC dropped to the second from bottom percentile line on the weight charts and I frequently got grief from my health visitor who pretty much suggested my milk was defunct of nutritional value….I was also told to eat more.  So eat more I did!  But in the end it seemed to be LLC’s natural percentile line as she has continued to gradually gain weight and is still petite and now eats loads.  Questions that spring to my mind is does Talitha genuinely seem unsatisfied, or does she stay on the boob for comfort?  Can you feel your breast drain of milk after a stint feeding?  Is it possible she is a snacker and is getting more of the less fatty fore milk?  I hope this is useful food for thought….good luck and keep your chin up. x

    • It’s a bit ridiculous to suggest that someone’s milk is nutritionally lacking. That must be such a rare thing. As for eating more, I need to for me but I’m pretty sure the body will provide milk for the baby regardless, unless I was actually starving. Thanks for sharing about LLC. Lots of things are possible but Talitha is literally at my breast all the time. If she’s not getting the fatty stuff then God alone knows where it is. She definitely does a lot of comfort sucking as well though so who knows what’s going on. I don’t get sensations of fullness or drainage. Who would’ve thought breastfeeding would involve so much thought! 🙂

  • It seems you’ve had all the advice in the world, so I don’t really have any to offer on this count.

    As you know, your instincts to get things checked out is probably right, even if it’s just for your own peace of mind. Regarding pooing and weight, F dropped from 50th to 9th centile at around 4 months and I worried about it for ages. But at 13 months she’s still between 9th and 25th and it turns out she’s just a petite and somewhat skinny baby. She also didn’t do a poo for 12 days once, which sent me into another spin. Turns out when she was exclusively BF she just didn’t have much waste to get rid of. But, you know, all babies are different and all that.

    I hope you get the support and advice you need anyway, and get to enjoy your beautiful baby again without worrying. Worrying and sleep deprivation are a horrible mix. x

    • Funnily enough, Frog doesn’t look ‘skinny’ to me. That’s what I’m used to seeing babies look like. I’ve always found babies here look bigger than those at home in Trinidad. No clue why other than ethnic diifference. I wasn’t bothered about the poo until different medical people indicated it might be something to be concerned about. Before that, I just thought we were lucky! I worry more about Talitha losing suction, seeming to only get anything really slowly and appearing to get frustrated. Agreed about worry plus sleep deprivation. It’s rough waking a baby to feed when you know she’d sleep through the night otherwise but there we have it, we can give up the night feeds when the dust settles.

Further reading

Showing up as myself

[image description: Adele and her youngest child sit in the greenhouse, looking at the camera] You may have noticed that I’ve changed this website’s name and URL to my own: Adele Jarrett-Kerr. When I started this blog nine years ago, it...