My first nursing experience was discomfited. It was not a letdown problem, lack of milk, or latching on. No, Ellie was, quite simply, above average. She latched on, milk flowed, and we were done. Five minutes tops. One side enough to fill her; and my body, asymmetric for 10 months.
At the hospital, a few nurses insisted that Ellie was not eating enough. They maintained that babies are supposed to feed approximately for 15 minutes on each side. So I worried, and I charted. I wrote down the time she would begin feeding, how long it took, and the number of wet and poopy diapers. With charts in hand, we visited the doctor for a 2-week baby check-up. Some babies are quite efficient, he said. Ellie was putting on weight, and her diapers showed she was getting enough.
This, however, proved to be a challenge when it came to “style.” I sat, with my shirt tightly tucked under my chin, shoulders scrunched, mannequin pose. There was no gazing into my baby’s face, or the “deep bonding” that takes place as you nurse your baby. Forget it; I was trying not to get a neck cramp. Mastering nursing, was not something I had checked off my “first time parenting” list.
Nichole, however, seemed to be doing things by the book. So much so, that not one nurse thought it would be a good idea to have a lactation consultant come, just in case. Just in case, because babies with Down syndrome tend to have low muscle tone, and sucking requires the muscles in the mouth to work properly.
Although I was no expert when it came to nursing, I sensed Nichole was not really nursing well. Her diapers were barely wet between feedings.
“I am concerned about Nichole’s wet diapers,” I said to a nurse shortly after lunch.
“Oh, what do you mean” she asked sweetly.
“They are barely wet” I responded.
“Oh honey” she replied, “Babies are really small, so their diapers might not feel very wet.”
“The diaper feels almost dry between feedings,” I demanded.
“Don’t worry! She is doing fine!”
It bothered me that the nurse was not concerned like I was. More important, it bothered me she did not take me seriously, like I did not know what I was talking about. She should check to make sure Nichole was eating well.
“I would like a pump so I can measure and see how much Nichole is really eating.” I finally said.
“We don’t just give pumps unless there is a real reason. Sometimes insurance will not cover some things unless there is a real need.”
“Do I seriously need to ask my husband to drive home so he can bring me my pump?”
“No, that will not be necessary.” The nurse assured me, “Your baby is eating just fine. I have seen her eat.”
“Well, at least I want the lactation consultant to come in and watch her eat. Just to make sure she is okay.”
A few minutes later, the loud and robust woman I had met 2 years before when Ellie was born walked in. I knew her “technique” and I knew she was not shy or afraid to grab body parts. Impossible to forget someone that touches you in private places without asking.
We sat on the couch. Same furniture that became a bed to my husband at night. Her face, too close to my chest as she listened intently at Nichole’s sucking and swallowing.
“She is doing beautifully!” she announced vociferously, flailing her arms to accentuate her expression.
“Then why are her diapers so…dry?” I asked.
“Hmmm... that certainly should not be the case!” the concern in her expression seemed cartoonish, “She should be having full, wet, diapers.”
I felt relief. And suddenly, I found myself fond of this woman.
“Well, she is not. I was wondering if I could get a pump to track and make sure how much she is really eating.” I asked.
“Yes, I will make sure to send one to you.”
As we were talking, a team of nurses came into the room, wheeling a large machine.
“We are here to do an echo.” One of the nurses announced.
With that, the lactation consultant left and a nurse took Nichole from my arms. They placed her in her clear, plastic crib and stripped her down to her diaper. Her dry diaper. Nichole, tired from nursing, quickly fell asleep. Unaware of the warm gel on her body, and of the ultrasound machine that moved around her chest.
Next: She Has a Broken Heart
Road Marker 321
My Body Is Cooking a Baby: Part 1
My Body Is Cooking a Baby: Part 2
My Body Is Cooking a Baby: Part 3
Level 2 Ultrasound
Your Baby Might Have Down Syndrome
Surprised by Joy: Part 1
Surprised by Joy: Part 2
Surprised by Joy: Part 3
Surprised by Fear
We Belong Together