Saturday, February 12, 2011

I'm learning how to feed a baby

I have been very blessed.  I've had 11 babies with no miscarriages and so far so good with the 12th pregnancy.  I've been able to nurse all 11 babies until now without much need to supplement.

My first child got to have formula in a cup once a day starting at 6 mos.  I went to classes during the morning and since I've never been able to pump, he got formula.  He did fine with it.  Just a sippy cup with handles, no special no-spill spout because they didn't make those yet.

None of my kids would ever take a bottle.  Ever.  Even if I managed to pump and put breastmilk in it.  So it wasn't a taste issue.  They just didn't know what to do with it I guess.  But it's never been a problem.  I just make sure I'm always around and they get what they need when they need it.  They've all become chubby little things by the age of 6 mos, then begin to stretch into the slender young people they are today.

But now we have Gwen.  She grew chubby the first two months.  Then everything changed.  Her appetite dramatically decreased and she stopped gaining weight.  It took a long time to get her to nurse well again, although she continued to want only to nurse.  Once she finally began to increase her appetite, it turned out I was pregnant and my supply began to decrease.  Now that she wanted more, I produced less.  We had no choice but to supplement.

She still did not want anything.  We got her to start eating solids.  That helped a lot.  But she'd get thirsty.  Her diapers were staying dry for way too long for my comfort.  She got constipated.  But she didn't want to drink anything I offered her.  She would start to, but then spit it all out.  We tried water, juice, goat's milk, cow's milk and formula.  Everything got spit out.  Finally she started to drink the goat's milk for a couple of days.  Then I got her to switch to formula (more calories per serving).  But still she'd spit out more than she'd swallow.  I had to have a pile of napkins or paper towels every time she wanted a drink.  Nothing about feeding this baby has been easy since she was 2 mos old.

We tried different cups with different spouts.  She seemed to do best with no lid, but I had to hold the cup so carefully and I just don't have that patience.  Then she seemed to like the spouts that would spill, just a spout, no fancy gadgets, but it would come so fast she would spit out a lot.  She hated the spill proof spouts which was fine with me since we had a child who had speech delay possibly due to using those spouts for way too long.  But as she got used to the whole idea of a cup, she gradually wanted slower and slower spouts.  Her favorite cup now has a slow spill-proof spout.  

This past week I figured out a solution.  I thickened her milk.  The old trick they used to use to try to get babies to sleep through the night, the one where you add cereal to the bottle, works for Gwen.  It wasn't needed to get her to sleep through the night, but to get her to swallow most of her drink.  It seems if it is a little thicker she will drink it.

She has finally begun to gain weight.  She began to gain late December or early January.  She got up to 14 lb 10 oz a couple of weeks ago (after being 13 pounds from June through November), then we got the flu and she lost her appetite again.  It's hard to eat or drink when your nose is too stuffy to breathe.  She lost a half pound, but as of this morning is back to 14 lbs 10 oz. 

She asks for drinks now.  She has this distinctive high-pitched scream she seems to use only when she wants a drink.  It's quite annoying and we're working on words and/or sign language to replace it, but so far she just looks at me and screams.  It works.  I give her a drink to shut her up!

She has a cup with handles and a cup without.  It doesn't seem to matter.  Her favorite way to drink is to hold her arms way out to the sides while *I* hold the cup for her.  This is all so foreign to me.  All the other kids were so independent.  They nursed until 12-18 mos, then went to a cup that they held themselves.  I'm  not sure how to deal with this.  Do I just hold the cup, or try to encourage her to do it herself?  I think I may baby her until she gains another pound or so, then start encouraging independence.  If I stay patient that long.

As I said, nothing about feeding this child has been easy.  But she's growing and happy.  She's been happy and healthy all along, just tiny.

It's made me laugh though to think that here I am a mother of eleven and I still can't figure out how to get my baby to eat.  You'd think I would know the basics by now.  Just goes to show that you can never know everything.


Lucy said...

Did you try just a straw? We have taught our kids to drink from straws pretty early, just for the convenience if we're out and forget a sippy or a bottle, there are always straws in the glove box to stick in a water bottle...

Straws are pretty easy, since they can drink with their head even tilted down they learn to control it faster and they don't have to hold anything up in their hands.

Melissa Nelson said...

Good suggestion. I've tried. Not super hard, but my other kids usually got it in one session. Not this one. I'll have to try again.

She loved it when I held my finger over the end of the straw to capture water for her, but then she wouldn't suck to get any. She only wanted to have me let it flow for her.

Any suggestion how to teach her?

Lucy said...

I'm afraid the only tip I know is repetition.

My youngest picked up the straw the first time he tried it at 6 months, but the others (2 older girls) both took some repeated practice. I remember dribbling it into their mouths too, and after a few times of that they eventually tried sucking. It wasn't instantaneous for them though.

I did see this online,, if she uses a pacifier it might work.

We don't do pacifiers so I don't have first hand experience with it, but it's an interesting concept.