Our pediatrician stared at us in disbelief. “Vacation? Tomorrow?”
Our baby of two months weighed eight pounds. He had doubled his birth weight, but his growth rate was too slow. He needed more calories. We had spent four weeks at home with our three other kids and our preemie. My husband, any visiting relatives, and my oldest daughter gave him bottles of fortified breast milk that I had pumped. Five bottles to three breastfeedings. It was simple math: he needed to eat every three hours, and the plan would give him eight feedings per day.
We had reached a crisis point six days earlier with the feeding plan, however. My baby would no longer breastfeed because he found that the bottles required a lot less work for more food. I was beside myself. I was looking forward to having a baby who exclusively breastfed. If he quit the breast, I would be spending my life pumping, feeding, and washing bottles for the next year. I decided to fight stubborn with stubborn. We took a break from bottles that weekend, and our baby (fortunately) quickly found his latch again.
Our break from bottles was meant to be temporary, but we found that the wave of exhaustion–fueled by frequent bottle-cleaning, pumping, pump parts-cleaning, breastfeeding and general kid care–that had been rolling near the horizon was suddenly upon us with terrific force. We couldn’t figure out a way to get on top of it. I could no longer find a time when I could spare the milk in order to pump so that I could fortify more than one bottle per day for him. I wanted to add one more bottle in each day so he wouldn’t lose ground with weight gain or with his latch, but I never got past one or two bottles per day. Rather than getting 24 Cal/oz. in the planned 15 ounces per day plus an unknown amount via breastfeeding, he was getting milk of about 19 Cal/oz. in unknown amounts. All I knew was that we hadn’t drowned in our sea of insanity yet.
I said nothing to the doctor. I let my husband reassure him as I silently berated myself. My baby was too small, and it was my fault. I had tried finding lactation support, but that had involved phone calls, and time to make them when no one was crying, yelling, or whining nearby. So after I’d made two phone calls taking me nowhere, I figured I was on my own. It’s hard to send out distress calls when you can hardly catch your breath.
I went home and decided to tackle the insanity head-on. The plan was to give every other feeding by bottle, and while someone else gave him a bottle, I would pump.
I put my eight-year-old daughter in charge of giving bottles, and our home became centered even more on this tiny baby who looked like a scrawny old man.
The next day, I went to a lactation support meeting my doctor had told me about. It was a bunch of ladies feeding their babies and weighing them before and after to find out how much milk their babies had gotten. My baby, after 45 minutes of work, had gotten a mere 1.5 ounces. It was half of what he should have been getting. Now I knew that my “unknown amount” was pathetic. In terms of calories, he had been getting about 230 Calories/day when fed exclusively from the breast. He should have been getting about 450 Calories.
I needed to work harder than ever to get enough Calories into my baby. I asked myself: “Vacation? Today?”
We had laid the groundwork for a trip to the Pacific Northwest. Six people would take three days to drive with stops every 2-3 hours for potty and feeding breaks. It sounded like a new brand of insanity.
But my husband and I had prayed about this decision. We had searched for a camping trailer to pull so that we could have facilities for our potty and feeding breaks. What we would pay for in trailer rental, fuel, campsites, and some new equipment, we could have used to fly in relative ease and comfort. But I felt nervous about taking my baby on a crowded airplane. I knew what kind of acrobatics were needed to breastfeed my baby, and the cabin of a plane the size of a minivan just wouldn’t cut it. Unfortunately, no trailers were available for rental.
The next day, a work associate offered us their camping trailer. It was exactly what we needed. We took this as an answer to prayer.
We left late Friday afternoon and arrived at my in-law’s home mid-afternoon on Monday. We couldn’t have found a better situation for a baby who needed a strict feeding regimen. Three adult siblings-in-law live with my husband’s parents. Another lives nearby. And two more will be coming into town for our trip to the beach house. All of them are willing to hold, feed, change, burp, and interact with my baby. All of them (to some extent) are willing to help with my other children. In fact, they like holding and feeding him so much that they compete for these opportunities.
I have not prepared a single meal in a week. My husband and I have had actual conversations with one another. I have slept in every day for a week. I have watched the sun setting over the ocean. I have spent individual time with my older three children. Sometimes I don’t quite know where my baby is, but he always shows up when he gets hungry. I have no idea if our holiday far away from home has made him grow better, but this little guy has sure grown on his family.
For this brief moment, I feel almost sane. Now I just need my baby to have gained at least 12 ounces by the time we get home. So I sure hope travel, camping, and family have grown on him.