That’s what Molly weighed today at 2:15 p.m. This was our fifth visit to the pediatrician. When Molly was born on March 2, she weighed 7 lbs, 11 ozs. When we were all discharged from the hospital on March 4, Baby Sweet Potato was down to 7 lbs, 2 ozs. Then the following weigh-ins and waterworks and medical advice occurred:
Tuesday, March 6: Molly’s first pediatric appointment. Molly weighs in at 7 pounds. Eeks. As you know, Dear Reader, babies are expected to be back up to their birth weight at about the two-week mark. The doctor mentions the dreaded word “supplement.” I actually didn’t know I dreaded the word, but as soon as I hear it, the waterworks begin. The word “supplement” must be hormonally programmed to elicit a reaction, like a baby’s cries. The doc says, though, that because my milk just came in, we shouldn’t worry, but we should come back for a weight check in two days.
Thursday, March 8: Molly weighs 7 pounds .01 ounces. ARGH! The doctor is kind as I cry through the word “supplement” and tells us our mission is to feed feed feed the sweet potato. Hmm. We thought we were doing that. She tells us to come back the next day.
Friday, March 9: Molly weighs 7 pounds, 1 ounce. PROGRESS! But it’s not enough, of course, and we schedule another appointment for the next Tuesday.
Tuesday, March 13: Molly weighs 7 pounds, 1.6 ounces. Instant waterworks. The resident and our doctor come in and with kind eyes and gentle voices and tell us that supplementing is now necessary. More tears. I am certain there are women who would resist and insist that breast milk is the only thing that will touch their babies’ lips, but I am not one of them. I don’t believe that breast milk is the only correct way to feed and nurture a baby, so I’m not sure why I keep crying when I hear that we need to feed Baby Girl formula. But I do cry. I feel like a failure and, what’s more, I worry that my baby girl has been hungry for the last ten days while I insisted on feeding her exclusively through my body. I want to hug her and hold her and feed her until she is content and full and feels safe and warm and doesn’t ever worry about being hungry. I cry while the resident gives us formula and I cry when our doctor tells us to come back again on Friday. Everyone is nice and tells us we’re doing a good job, but I can’t help feeling like I’ve already failed Molly.
We start to supplement. I breast feed her until she I think she’s done, or my breasts are done, and then we give her formula, if she’ll take it. She spits up a lot. In fact, sometimes it’s like her mouth is a mini blowhole with a pretty, white eruption every few hours. We try to keep her upright, feed her slowly, burp her and do all the other tricks that we’ve been told about but, the bottom line is, it’s hard and it’s tiring. But we keep feeding her.
Friday, March 16: Molly weighs 7 lbs, 4.6 ounces. She gained three ounces in three days. We’re pretty happy about this, but then the doctor comes in. Our doctor is on vacation, so we’re greeted by another kind pediatrician with a calming voice who is sweet to Molly and nice to us. She tells us to feed Molly every three hours, even if that means waking her up. It really doesn’t, as she has never slept more than about three hours at a time (it’s possible there was a four-hour interval, but I’m pretty sure I just dreamed that). I start to cry again. I really thought I was going to make it through the appointment tear-free. Damnit. The doctor is extremely nice to me, telling me she has a six-month old and she gave up on breastfeeding because she found it too hard. This makes me feel better. She says we just need to keep doing what we’re doing and come back in a week. A week! We get a whole week without having to go to the doctor! It’s a bit of a reprieve.
So, we’re going to continue to breastfeed (well, Molly & I are) and we’re all going to continue to supplement her feedings with formula. I don’t know how long we’ll keep up this pattern. I don’t know if we’ll go back to exclusively breastfeeding if and when we get the green light to do so. I don’t know if we’ll switch over to more and more formula. All I know is that right now, I want my little girl to grow – I want to feed her belly and her brain and every other part that needs it. And because I don’t believe there is anything wrong with formula, and I feel I’m fairly educated about the studies out there on the subject, I feel my decision is informed.
As more and more upper middle class women choose and advocate breastfeeding, believing it best for their babies, more and more women are feeling guilty if they don’t choose breastfeeding, for whatever reason they make that choice. Like almost every single other parent out there, I, too, am doing what I believe is best for my baby. And right now, that means the sweet potato is going to get a little formula.