Saturday, November 28, 2009

No Woman, No Cry

"Isn't that song about rape?" Carrie asked when I shared what I thought was a clever title for an entry about pumped breast milk. "I don't know. Would that be inappropriate?" I said flatly. I was going for the "No woman, no problem," interpretation, but uncertain of the song's origins, I decided to do some good, old-fashioned, on-line research - which means I looked for opinions on Wiki and Yahoo Answers, and then went with the first one I read twice. Legend has it (pun intended) that Bob Marley gave partial credit for "No Woman, No Cry," to a man named V. Ford - a friend and struggling song-writer - so his family would receive royalty checks. Apparently when Ford was terminally ill, his wife was at his bedside crying and Ford said "No woman, no cry" to her, which inspired Marley to write the song. Seems pretty clear. Another opinion is that Bob Marley had a strong premonition that he would die young, and wrote this song as a future comfort for his wife, Rita. A more recent interpretation has to do with exhausted mothers and jealous fathers feeding their children while trying to balance their lack-of-sleep schedules.

So what does this Bob Marley hit have to do with parenting? Nothing really - just trying to be thematic with the occasional song-titled entry. A couple of weeks ago I wrote "Superheroes and People without Breast Milk," (remember that song?) where I shared my feelings of inadequacy, my boob envy if you will, and the resulting compensatory skills I developed. As Amari continued to eat and grow, the boob gained in significance while my skills took on diminished importance. Except in the season six finale of "Macgyver," clean diapers never really saved anyone's life. Increasingly, I felt like Robin to Carrie's Batman, and there were some days when Amari ate so often that I actually felt about as useful as the lesser known Wonder Triplet - the one that couldn't even turn into an eagle or a bucket of water.

Amari has turned out to be a grazer, a snacker, sometimes preferring to just nap near a breast rather than take full advantage. I understand that comfort, but breast milk, much like our economy, is at the mercy of supply and demand. If Amari demands only a little, then only a little is produced. Sleep, however, appears to have an inverse relationship - as Carrie's demand for it increased, the supply started to fall. Nursing every hour for a half an hour will do that. Carrie needed a break, and we needed a solution.

We were told not to consider using pumped milk for at least thirty days because it might cause something called nipple confusion. This is not to be confused with nipple indifference, nipple intolerance or nipple insecurity, which are all terms I made up when I was trying to remember nipple confusion. Artificial nipples require different mouth, tongue, and swallowing action, so when bottles are presented to soon, infants sometimes have difficulty remembering when to use which skills and natural nursing becomes problematic and frustrating for everyone. Apparently thirty days is the magic number when the chances of nipple confusion drop dramatically. Unfortunately, we were only about half way there.

During the week, Carrie spoke with a friend who bottle fed right away because her infant was jaundiced, and then began nursing two weeks later. She continued to do both and never had any problem with nipple confusion. We were sold - one personal opinion is like two WikiAnswers. That afternoon, Carrie began to pump, and the next night I got my first shot at superhero. It couldn't have come at a better time. Amari had been feeding on and off all day, and it felt like every time I held her she started rooting, then fidgeting, then flat out crying. I started to take it personally, to feel like Amari knew that I was of no use to her. Sometimes a pacifier or my pinkie finger would work as an interim, but not for long. By seven o'clock that night, Carrie was done. I suggested she try to get a head start on sleep, that I would take the first shift armed with my trusty ounce and a half of milk. Pumping was very slow-going at first.

Initially, the transition was smooth. Amari and I lay on the couch for an hour before she began to stir at all. Then came the rooting, the stretching of her neck towards the closest solid object. I knew tears were only a moment away; my only saving grace was that her eyes were still half-closed. I had to act fast - a skill I'd already sharpened as a sidekick. I removed the bottle from the fridge and submerged it in a cup of hot water. Amari began to kick inside her swaddle, to pull out her Houdini moves as her arms wiggled towards freedom. She knew something was not right and she was about to protest loudly. I tested the milk. Too cold. Shit! Amari began to cry. I offered a finger. Rejected. I tried bouncing her a little. The tears increased. I sang a verse of "Rainbow Connection" with a Kermit the Frog voice. She stopped, looked at me like I was crazy, then started crying even louder. The milk was finally ready and I offered her the bottle. The tears paused for a moment when she felt it at her lips, but then escalated to new heights when she realized it wasn't a breast. "Damn you pre-nipple confusion," I thought - my first nemesis as a hero. I tried again, and Amari started shaking her head to bat the nipple away. I went to my tool kit, dug through the Five S's, and pulled out a loud, repetitive "Shhhh, shhhh, shhhh," about three inches from her ear - a technique I learned from the book "The Happiest Baby on the Block." Her body relaxed immediately, the tears turned off like a faucet, and I continued to "Shhhh" her as I offered the bottle again.

A few drops of milk fell on her tongue and she began to grab hold of the nipple. When she figured out what was going on, she latched on and began sucking, slurping down the only sustenance she knew even though it was coming from a new source. She was staring at me with wide eyes, almost fearful, as if to say, "Holy shit. I didn't know you could do this." I returned a knowing "I told you so" look, but what I was feeling was more like wonder mixed with relief mixed with the fear that her expectations of me had just skyrocketed. I felt like Robin getting a promotion, getting the best tool of all added to my Bat Belt. "Holy haberdashery of synthetic silicone nipples, Batman," I thought, "I'm a superhero and a sidekick." Amari gulped down every bit of the milk. Towards the end, her eyes began to glaze over, then flicker closed, and finally, as she sucked in the last drop, she released the nipple and fell asleep. I tip-toed us back over to the couch, turned on SportsCenter, and watched her sleep across my chest while I listened to highlights. She woke for another moment, briefly contorted her face, spit up all over my shirt, and went right back to sleep. Being a superhero is awesome.

A few minutes later, I heard sounds like a small toilet flushing and saw a sleepy smile cross Amari's lips. The Bat Signal had faded. This, my friends, was a job for Robin.

PS For those wondering if we experienced nipple confusion the next day, I would have to say "Maybe." It's hard to tell. She was fine throughout the day, but had a meltdown in the evening. She was rejecting Carrie's nipple, and we wondered if she was too tired to do the work of natural nursing. I now think we may have been looking for signs of confusion, but whatever the case may be, we decided to postpone bottled milk for a few nights to see what happened. Amari had a similar meltdown the next night, but in both instances what ultimately soothed her was some movement in her own underdeveloped intestines. We have since used pumped milk every couple of nights, and so far we haven't had any problems.

*Please note that my opinion above is equal to half of a WikiAnswer because I'm not the one breastfeeding.

No comments:

Post a Comment