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Thread: nearing the end of her (wife's) sleepless rope...

  1. #1

    Default nearing the end of her (wife's) sleepless rope...

    I am a concerned dad with a situation spiraling downhill.

    The short story: our otherwise healthy (2 month old) son has recently begun feeding super frequently (every 45 to 90 minutes, three hours if we’re lucky) We have read many articles on this forum about how babies are supposed to feed frequently, and we agree about the benefits, but the lack of sleep is taking an unhealthy toll on my wife, who is trying to soldier this out for the sake of exclusively using breastmilk. As her fatigue mounts, it affects the let-down, which causes him to be more aggressive on the nipple, which decreases her relaxed-ness, which further affects the let-down, and so on, and so forth.

    We do pump, and have just enough that I take on a few of the in-between feedings, and on the weekends I cover some of the night feedings to allow her to sleep longer stretches. I have taken a few days off, but I work full time, so I cannot offer the kind of support we would need to sustain this feed frequency for much longer.

    We are very close to the end of this rope, and are not in search of encouragement. If we hit that wall, we need the next best thing, or something that can bring us some relief and allow us to get back into it later if at all possible? We didn’t get this far being pansies about it, and won’t take kindly to such a suggestion.

    Little fella is super happy when he’s awake, not acting over-tired, and fairly easy to calm down. By our measure, he appears to be getting everything that HE needs, but my wife is suffering, and can’t keep this up –and when my wife suffers, we all suffer.

    Background: Our son (two months old) was born at 40 weeks at a healthy weight 6lbs 2oz, no issues, and took to breastfeeding immediately. His latch was suspect from the beginning; the lactation consultants at the hospital thought that his latch looked fine from the outside, but all agreed that the shape of the nipple was not good when he let go. Things have been getting better, he has continued to gain weight successfully, and we have been switching feeding positions to save my wife’s nipples.

    The kid slept great when we brought him home, and fed regularly, slept frequently during the day and for four hour stretches (average) during the night time. Those stretches have recently decreased dramatically, and he feeds in between every nap. At this point, his daytime cycle is simple: nap, feed, awake-time, nap. Sometimes it’s nap, feed, awake-time, feed, nap. His nighttime cycle is simply nap,feed,nap.

    We do an at-home weigh-in each week, but I can’t recall all of the results off the top. From birth, in lbs: 6.1, 6.8, 7.2, 9.6, 9.8, 10.5, 11.2 <<Sunday 2013 Sep 22
    So what are we doing wrong?
    What is the next step?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: nearing the end of her (wife's) sleepless rope...

    I am happy to respond but I do wonder why mom is not asking for help herself? Besides online forums and LLL meetings, mom can get support by calling a LLL Leader, anywhere (no need for there to be a local Grouo) for a one on one private conversation if that would be more comfortable for her.

    If a baby is gaining normally when breastfeeding, and breastfeeding is comfortable for mom, then breastfeeding is going normally. 2 month old infants do not typically sleep long stretches and parents of newborns typically sleep in snatches. I understand that your wife is exhausted, I just do not know that breastfeeding is the problem or the only problem.

    I think the next step would be to 1) Make sure there is no actual issues with breastfeeding and if there are, fix them 2) make sure there are no actual non-breastfeeding related physical issues with baby and if there are, get them treated (if possible) 3) make sure nothing ELSE is interfering with mom’s ability to sleep or feel ok emotionally in general, and 4) remember this is not forever, a 2 month old is still very much a newborn, this will get better, and all new parents have to learn to maximize sleep opportunities no matter how or what an infant is fed.

    The only thing that sounds 'wrong' is the hint that nursing hurts mom-it should not, and if there are latch issues that could mean baby is having difficulty transferring milk. I also wonder about the concern about baby’s weight gain, which sounds as if mom does not trust in the adequacy of her milk.

    So about how many times a 24 hour day does baby nurse? And how many bottles & how many pumping sessions per day?

    Why are you guys weighing baby every week at home? Was there ever anything abnormal in weight gain?

    Does nursing hurt mom? Or is nursing uncomfortable in any way?

    Is the pumping and bottles helping? Breastfeeding usually goes best if these are avoided (Unless needed due to separations or inadequate milk production.) Pumping is extra work for mom, and can potentially cause problems. There are many ways Dad can comfort and care for baby and give mom a little extra shuteye WITHOUT feeding baby.

    What positions to nurse does mom use? Has she tried sidelying and/or laid back so she can rest or doze WHILE nursing?

    Does mom nap during the day? Does she have other responsibilities, pressures, things she thinks she "should" be doing? Is she having insomnia on top of needing to wake with baby?

    Have you considered bedsharing?

    Any signs of issues that may cause a baby discomfort- allergies? (very rare) forceful letdown/overproduction? Teething? Reflux?

    Lots of questions- sorry. Hope this helps!

  3. #3

    Default Re: nearing the end of her (wife's) sleepless rope...

    I’m not worried about all of the questions, I appreciate your response and attention to the matter.

    Why isn’t mom asking herself? Right now, her and little fella are napping (thank goodness). Otherwise, she has her hands full with him, since he’s feeding so fequently. Either she’s feeding him, sleeping while he’s sleeping, or trying to bathe and feed herself –the essentials of her own life. Regarding help, we’re reaching out in multiple directions simultaneously. I do appreciate that she can call an LLL leader though, I’ll look into those details.

    Feeding frequency: I asked her before she laid down and she’s unsure anymore, because it seems like all the time. He’s sucking and swallowing throughout the feeding until he gets grumpy about a less than full boob, or until he becomes drunken sailor.

    Latch history: In the beginning, as first-time parents, we weren’t aware of the fact that the latch wasn’t stellar, and too much tongue-nipple contact took a physical toll on her nipples before she began using lanolin and alternating between clutch and cross-hold. Healing has been a slow process since he’s still feeding on them, but his latch has improved, and is great when all conditions are favorable (which is often these days) –she doesn’t feel anything.
    We haven’t tried side laying

    Why weekly weighings? As first time parents, for the first couple weeks we weren’t sure of ANYTHING and wanted some measure of his progress. Now we weigh him weekly as a novelty, and some tiny-part re-assurance.

    The pumping was very helpful to relieve her nipples in the evenings when he would feed in clusters. That isn’t as necessary now, and on a regular day I MIGHT get to feed him 2.5 oz per night (enough to top him off before bed), right after bathtime, before bed. On the weekends I may give him five ounces during the night which is enough to allow mom to sleep through an awake-feed cycle.

    We aren’t fans of the bedsharing concept, but at this point maybe I could be convinced.

    Allergies? Teething? Reflux? Forcefull let-down? I don’t think so. The baby seems totally comfortable until it takes us too long to get food to him.
    Mom does fight napping sometimes when she shouldn’t, but frustration and extreme fatigue isn’t helping that decision process. She DOES often sleep whenever she can, but she’s adamant about keeping stored milk for outings, so he’s 95% breastfed.

    “There are many ways Dad can comfort and care for baby and give mom a little extra shuteye WITHOUT feeding baby”
    I think that I do what I can in this regard (tummy-time play, walks, diaper changing, baths, etc) , but I am open to suggestion.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: nearing the end of her (wife's) sleepless rope...

    ok, well honestly I don't see any breastfeeding issues then- your baby sounds happy and healthy and is certainly gaining very well-about 5 pounds in two months, right? It sounds as if you and your wife are doing a great job.

    Either she’s feeding him, sleeping while he’s sleeping, or trying to bathe and feed herself –the essentials of her own life.
    This is exactly what a mother of a newborn 'should' be doing. The problem is, many moms think they 'should' be doing "more."

    We aren’t fans of the bedsharing concept, but at this point maybe I could be convinced.
    I can only say that many breastfeeding mothers find they get more rest once they learn to nurse sidelying and make adjustments so they can safely share sleep with baby. Baby tends to sleep better next to mom, and also nursing at night is less disruptive to sleep if mom need never get up! Of course, when it is DAD who needs convincing, that is easy, because when baby is sleeping with mom, (it is recommended baby sleep on the other side of mom, not in-between mom and dad,) then dad often has no idea baby ever woke all night!

    Bedsharing is not right for all families. There are safety concerns due to adult western beds not being designed for it, and some other factors. You can read up on the research and the guidelines at the website of sleep researcher Dr. James McKenna. http://cosleeping.nd.edu/

    If safety is the primary concern, (guidelines are followed but parents are still nervous about it) one suggestion I have made is for mom to first try experimenting with sidelying nursing for a nap with baby, maybe when dad is home, so he can check on them.

    general fussy baby ideas: http://www.llli.org/docs/00000000000...ybabyideas.pdf
    esp. for dads: http://www.llli.org/docs/00000000000...t_partners.pdf

    If you continue to give baby bottles, I suggest do so in a breastfeeding supportive way, to reduce any risk of ‘bottle preference” http://www.llli.org/docs/00000000000...astfedbaby.pdf

    but she’s adamant about keeping stored milk for outings, so he’s 95% breastfed.
    Is this because she is concerned about nursing in public?


    Does anyone else have a suggestion for function09?

  5. #5

    Default Re: nearing the end of her (wife's) sleepless rope...

    Is this because she is concerned about nursing in public?
    -nursing in public isn't her favorite, no. She's a very private person, which is also a small part of why you're hearing from me and not her. She's aware and okay that I'm asking complete strangers all about her nipple woes, but she's not likely to have taken THIS route herself.

    she got lucky last week at a LC group counseling day at the hospital, because she was the only one there. There's nothing like one on one counseling, bonus when it's free.

    This is exactly what a mother of a newborn 'should' be doing. The problem is, many moms think they 'should' be doing "more."
    -yeah she's guilty of that too, but I'm able to get her to let me do more of the household keepery as she becomes more and more inundated with the insanity.

    We talked about bed-sharing and the side-laying feeding position... I'll address the issue at a later date, she wasn't in a particularly receptive mood this evening.

    Regarding bottle feeding, we use the madela calma nipple, where the baby has to apply suction for milk to flow. We appreciate the company's attempt at mimicking the breast as much as possible since we're already flirting with latch issues.

    ok, well honestly I don't see any breastfeeding issues then- your baby sounds happy and healthy and is certainly gaining very well-about 5 pounds in two months, right? It sounds as if you and your wife are doing a great job.
    thank you. We talked about it briefly tonight, as today was a tough one for her, but we keep hearing that there isn't anything wrong, this is simply how it goes. It's just hard to gracefully accept that "it won't last forever" when we seem to be crashing, as opposed to maintaining. She used to conjecture about what to do to increase the four hour stretches, and now clearly we long to have them back.

    I sincerely appreciate your time.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: nearing the end of her (wife's) sleepless rope...

    It's really hard being the non-nursing parent. You want to help, but there's only so much you can do. You can pick up many household tasks as possible- the cooking, the cleaning, the diapering, soothing, rocking, etc. But you can't nurse the baby, and you can't suggest pumping without saddling the mom with more work, and you can't suggest formula without making the mom feel undermined. This is the part of parenting where strategic thinking tends to let the non-nursing partner down. So instead of trying to come up with a plan for nursing, which is something ONLY the mom can do, I suggest that you really focus as much as humanly possible on making your wife feel understood, cherished, supported, loved. I know this sounds sappy!!! But saying things like "You are an amazing woman," "You are a terrific mom," "You have been working SO hard," "You are beautiful"- that can go a lot farther on terms of helping your wife along than any sort of plan. Also, showing up with take-out, scrubbing the toilets, making the bed, telling mom to go take a hot shower or a nap while you care for the baby- those things are amazing gifts to a tired mom. Nursing is too unpredictable and the mom's feelings about it are too complex to respond well to "if x then y" approaches.

    I second LLLMeg's suggestions about making sure there is no medical/physical explanation for the frequent waking and also about bed-sharing. Frequent night-nursing is normal, have no doubt. But sometimes frequent night-nursing is caused by something like an ear infection or a virus. IMHO, it makes sense to get baby in to the pediatrician and to have someone take a peek in the ears.

    What scares you guys about bed-sharing? If you can give us the rundown, maybe we can allay your fears or suggest some workable compromises. Unlike breastfeeding, sleep arrangements are something that can respond to strategic thinking!
    Coolest thing my big girl said recently: "How can you tell the world is moving when you are standing on it?"
    Coolest thing my little girl sang recently: "I love dat one-two pupples!"

  7. #7
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    Default Re: nearing the end of her (wife's) sleepless rope...

    I would have never made it going back to work at 12 weeks if I hadn't mastered bedsharing by that time. My son and I didn't get the side-lying nursing position until he was much older, so I would still have to sit up and throw a nursing pillow on my lap in the middle of the night. Regardless, I was able to stay in bed and stay kind of half asleep and drowsy while doing it then quickly fall right back asleep when he was done. It was a complete game changer for us.

    If you tell us more about your sleeping situation there are lots of moms on here that have lots of advice and ideas of how to SAFELY sleep within arms reach of baby.
    My little man was born 12/17/2010.

    Baby girl was born 4/30/2014.

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    Default Re: nearing the end of her (wife's) sleepless rope...

    You've gotten some great advice so far about options for getting more sleep, there's nothing much I can add. I just wanted to say you're a great dad and partner for wanting to help and for being so supportive. Big kudos to you for that. Early motherhood is such a tough time in a woman's life. EVERYTHING is different. NOTHING is the same. And it's very likely NOTHING like you thought it would be. When I was pregnant the first time, I had this idea that I'd just fit baby seamlessly into my current life and go on like before...except with a baby in tow. For me, the realization that that wasn't how it worked was really hard to accept. I'm not necessarily saying this is what's going on with your wife, but I do think it's worth considering that this is more than just a sleep deprivation issue. Perhaps there is something more going on that is making the sleep deprivation even more difficult for her to cope with (as if it weren't difficult enough already). It might be worth considering that she's experiencing some form (even a mild one) of PPD. It really does manifest in ways that you might not expect.
    “We are not put on earth for ourselves, but are placed here for each other. If you are there always for others, then in time of need, someone will be there for you.”
    --Anonymous

  9. #9

    Default Re: nearing the end of her (wife's) sleepless rope...

    It sounds like mom is doing a wonderful job with breastfeeding! It may be your babe is having a growth spurt and getting ready to make a developmental stride...mine always have a little sleep trouble around those times!

    She does sound a bit stressed/anxious. I'd suggest she talk with her ob/midwife, also I'd encourage her to reach out to other mamas. I think she is getting great support from you Keep it up!!

    As far as the sleeping, I have always co-slept with mine, it helps and works for our family..... I do understand if that causes her anxiety over safety, etc, then that would not be of much help to co-sleep.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: nearing the end of her (wife's) sleepless rope...

    Quote Originally Posted by @llli*function09 View Post
    We talked about it briefly tonight, as today was a tough one for her, but we keep hearing that there isn't anything wrong, this is simply how it goes. It's just hard to gracefully accept that "it won't last forever" when we seem to be crashing, as opposed to maintaining. She used to conjecture about what to do to increase the four hour stretches, and now clearly we long to have them back.
    I sincerely appreciate your time.
    4hours is the maximum stretch a baby this young should ever go with out eating and even that would be like once in a 24hr period. Your baby's stomach is the size of his fist or smaller. So he can't hold more than 1-3 oz of milk comfortably and that is being absorbed very quickly. As he is growing at the most exponetial rate he ever will will doubling or MORE his birth weight by the 6 month point. It sounds to me like you hit the 6 week growth spurt a little late. There are growth spurts around 3, 6 and 12 weeks where the baby dramatically increases their demand for 3-6 days and then falls back into whatever their regular pattern is. Which is going to constantly change. And I am going to encourage you to keep at it. For a plethora of reasons. The first is it sounds like it's going GREAT. Baby is eating, baby is gaining. Baby is demanding enough milk, your wife's body is responding to the demand. And relactating while it can be done is a ton MORE work, and it involves MORE work for dramactically LESS in terms of what you get if it's successful at all. It's all suppy and demand. And this early supply is very very volitale. It she lets it go, she will lose it. And the work she will have to go to get back to THIS PLACE will be MORE. Because it will be ALL pumping. And pumping take twice as long at least. Because you have to pump and then IF you are producing milk you have to bottle it and feed and then wash and warm bottle all the time to boot. It's much much more work. What you are experiencing IS normal. Including the part where you are overwhelmed. But I think a major major piece to being successful at this is to accept that sleep as you know it, is gone. Do not spend any time tryig to get the babies sleep patterns back to anywhere. Because they are going to change every 4-6 weeks for the 1st year at least. Because every development leap, swinging at objects, sitting up, rolling over, crawling and cruising will affect sleep. So will the fact that as the baby gets older the nap are going to change and dissapear one by one. So nothing stays the same for very long. It's not something that needs to be fixed. It's something that needs to be accepted. Being with your mother nonstop for the 1st 6-12 weeks decreases a childs risk of SIDS dramatically. Because a baby with his mother and is waking and eating every 1-3 hours means a child is less likely to get into the kind of deep sleep where they forget to breathe. Also it's all supply and demand. A baby that is growing at the rate your child is HAS to demand food this often in order for her to make the right amount. And when the spurting happens the demand has to increase so your body gets the ques that your baby needs MORE. MAKE MORE! Everyone here spent the 1st 6-12 weeks on the couch in their PJs. I got up to pee, get more snacks and change diapers. My DH cooked and brought home take out. I took extra naps on the weekend. We had nursing stations. Where you get up with the goal of feeding the baby. That's it. It's the most important job. Nursing stations have remotes and phones, and snacks and water and laptops of ya want them and books and magazines and you just expect to stay there. And do it. All day. I didn't leave the house by myself with my son until he was 6 weeks old. And even then it was only once a week. At some point between 6 & 12 weeks things get easier. Baby finally can hold a bit more milk and at the same time gets more effecient at nursing so need to do it for less time. She will get there. OH! And about 5 weeks in we came to a formal agreement in my house. And that was that 22hours a day was enough. I pumped every morning so that my DH had a bottle and after dinner I got 2hours. Every day. Because even if he worked a 12hour day it was still less intense and less hours than my day. Having that two hours of freedom to look forward to every night REALLY REALLY helped. Sometimes I watched TV. Sometimes I slept. Sometimes I took a shower. But knowing that there was a light at the end of the tunnel EVERY DAY made the whole thing much less overwhelming for me. This was a wonderful way for my DH to bond with my child and also give me the support I needed.

    Way too lazy for formula

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