Kavi is eight days…

Kavi is eight days old! Today is actually her full-term date, when I hit forty weeks. She hasn't changed much in the last week though; according to the scale at the pediatrician's office, she's gained half an ounce so far. (This is very good; most babies lose 10% of their body weight in the first week. I guess all our efforts to push stuff through her so she wouldn't get jaundice were actually effective.) She's not so exciting at the moment; most of the time, she just looks like this (photo right). Yes, it's cute, especially when she's in one of the little outfits that my friends and family got for her. But it's not exactly eventful. All she does right now is eat, sleep, poop and pee, and occasionally scream. I'm told that the first smile is usually around six weeks; we're looking forward to that. It'll be nice to get a reward for the labor. I do like it when she makes eye contact with us -- one of these days, I'll have a camera nearby when her eyes are fully open, so you can see what it looks like.

Of course, if she's not doing much, neither am I. Y'all remember my to-do lists from the weeks just before baby came? This is my typical to-do list now:

  • Feed baby and keep it clean
  • Eat and drink lots of fluids
  • Sleep as much as possible
That really is about it. If other stuff gets done, that's a bonus, but it is not expected. Thursday we managed the pediatrician and a run out to Target for items we didn't realize we'd need. (Second diaper genie for downstairs bathroom, some nursing clothes for me, a few boppy covers, a changing pad and wipes holder for the diaper bag, some microwave sterilizer bags for her bottles and pump parts, a few more receiving blankets (these are the really thin ones that we swaddle her in all the time and she spits up on)). We got scolded for taking her to Target by my mother, who says that you should never take a baby out in the first month -- they're just too fragile. I think pediatrician probably would agree; baby's immune system is not well-developed yet. We feel like bad parents, and are grateful that she doesn't seem to have gotten sick from it. We'll be good now, and restrain the urge to take her out to the park and show her off.

We'll also resist the urge to drive up to Madison -- I am *so* tempted to just swing by the Strange Horizons tea party with her. But I don't know that four hours in the car seat is so good for one-week-old-baby, especially given that she can't hold her head up yet -- she looks freakishly disturbing with her head tilted to a ninety-degree angle in the car seat. It frightens us every time we go over a big bump, feeling like her neck is just going to snap. And that's aside from the dangers of exposing her to a lot of strangers (and convention-going strangers, who are likely all sick by Sunday afternoon). And they probably won't let Ellie into the hotel. And Kevin's mom is arriving tomorrow anyway. All in all, it just makes far more sense to stay home. But I sad to be missing WisCon. Sigh. Maybe I should just stop reading Jed's journal for the next few days so I don't get too mopey.

Friday we were feeling pretty exhausted, so didn't leave the house at all. We did a few loads of laundry and straightened up the bedroom a bit, and that was about it. No cooking -- we're eating lots of pre-made curries from my mother, along with a bunch of fresh fruit -- that's something that it hadn't occurred to us that we'd want, but after four days of hospital food, I was craving fruit when I got home. Nilofer had left us some, thankfully, (plus tomoatoes and avocadoes) and we made the grocery van people bring us more. If you're going to visit a friend with a newborn, casseroles and curries are good (any one-dish meal that can be frozen until needed), but fruit is also a very useful thing to bring!

The curries I'm eating are interesting. My mother sent them -- a 'white' potato curry and a 'white' chicken curry. They're actually more yellow or light brown, but they're called white curries or milk curries because they have no chili powder or tomato in them. The saying apparently is 'milk to bring the milk,' and my mom says that in Sri Lanka, they would have this made fresh for them every day -- it was all nursing mothers ate for the first month. I get bored too easily with my food to do that, but I am trying to eat some of it with at least two meals a day, because it really is good for milk production -- not because it's milky, but because it's made with loads of fenugreek (aka methi seeds), which is probably the most recommended non-drug option for increasing breast milk production. So that wacky folk wisdom actually is based in something real and effective. Now, I'm not sure why you can't have chili powder in these -- I'm guessing that some babies find the spiciness transmitted through the breast milk irritating. But it just makes me too sad to eat curry without any spice, so I've been adding a little bit of normal curry whenever I have the white curry. Kavi doesn't seem to mind.

Other things that are supposedly good for milk production: caffeine, oatmeal, lots of fluids, as much sleep as possible, massaging your breasts while feeding/pumping, looking at your baby and/or hearing it cry, and being relaxed. The last one sounds goofy to me, but pediatrician Roshani assures me that it's true -- if you're tense and stressed, your body goes into fight or flight mode, not feed the baby mode. Hormones are weird. Where am I learning all this? A really excellent thread of comments on pumping and breastfeeding, which I recommend to all new mothers. It's not necessarily all authoritative -- I'm not sure there's any good reason for the caffeine or oatmeal recs. But it's all interesting and informative. I'm learning a lot.

I'm a bit cranky that I do have to learn so much about pumping. Kavi is still refusing the breast -- in fact, she's refusing it even more now than she was the first few days at the hospital. (The last day, when engorgement set in, she refused it completely -- that was when we were starting to get worried about jaundice, and so needed to pump / give formula.) I think the phrase 'nipple confusion' is confusing. It's not that Kavi's confused -- she clearly knows the difference between a real nipple and a fake one. It's that she *prefers* the fake one. I think it comes down to laziness; it's much easier for her to get milk out of the fake nipple, and she knows it, so when I offer her the real one, she takes a suck or two and then screams her head off. I suspect if we let her get hungry enough, she'd eat from it eventually, but I don't have the heart to let her scream for a couple of hours.

I'm just crossing my fingers and hoping that she does take the breast again eventually. It will save us so much time -- right now, feeding time is doubled, because there's stage one of pumping, then stage two of feeding. And perhaps more importantly, if she starts feeding 'direct from the source', it'll assuage my feelings of rejection. 'My breast isn't good enough for her,' is a stupid stupid thing to think -- I know that. But there's a horrible disappointment every time I try to put her to the breast and she hollers and pushes it away with her little flailing hands. I've put up with these annoyingly huge mammary glands for twenty-five years in the hopes that they would be good for something eventually. And now they're not working properly. Incredibly frustrating. We're coping, and baby is getting enough nutrition, so it's not actually important in the long run. I know. But still. It makes me feel like my baby doesn't like me. :-(

One final note: If you are breastfeeding, you need to get a boppy. Even if you're giving bottles (of formula or pumped milk) it's helpful, but if you're breastfeeding, it's essential. I don't know why maternity wards don't have them in every room, because part of what made breastfeeding so hard initially is that it was so difficult to find a comfortable position for both of us. They stuff pillows around you and under you and behind you, which is okay, but you can't do that yourself at first (because you're too sore to twist around that much), and likely they still don't get enough of them to keep your wrist from feeling like it's screaming in agony after fifteen minutes of trying to hold the baby's head in a well-supported position. It is *so* much easier with the boppy. All the little lists tell you to pack things like nightgowns and robes and toiletries and makeup for the hospital, but you can get by without those just fine. What you absolutely need to pack is your boppy. This has been a public service announcement.

P.S. -- I really want a 'Boho' boppy cover, but Target online seems to not be offering them anymore, and they didn't have any at my local Target. I couldn't find any anywhere else online. Very sad. If you're going to a Target and see one, and are willing to buy it and mail it to me, I'd happily pay you back for cost + shipping. Let me know!

8 thoughts on “Kavi is eight days…”

  1. From what I understand, baby’s immune system is supplemented by the lingering effects of yours for the first month or so, so this is not a big problem.

  2. I have no doubt your To-Do list will grow in direct proportion to Kavi! Hang in there and take care of yourself.

    I think the old-fashioned thing to do was keep baby in the house for at least a month (a “laying in” period, I think it was called?), but I see newborns everywhere these days. I think it’s much more accepted to take baby out and about. I think what the doctors are most worried about is people touching the baby without washing/sanitizing their hands first. So, don’t beat yourself up. You are NOT a bad mother– you’re just a new mother. And it’s a wonderful, amazing thing.

  3. Catherine Shaffer

    Mary Anne! I have not visited your journal literally in years. I am so delighted to come back and find you have a new daughter. Don’t feel bad about taking your daughter to Target! It is recommended that you not take them out where there are lots of other people in the first six weeks, but it’s not DOOM and times like these are all part of the learning curve. We ended up taking our son to his neonatal checkup slightly underdressed for the chilly weather which our doctor gently scolded us for. Boy, did I ever feel horrible! I think you are making a good choice about the convention, by the way. It would be more exhausting than you may realize right now, and it could become hell if something comes up with the babe, not to mention the exposure to con crud that you both don’t need. Keeping that in mind, though, it is very nice to take baby outDOORS, perhaps to a park or other place with fresh air and sunshine, and your ped would most likely approve of this. It will cheer you up and it will be either pleasantly calming or pleasantly stimulating for baby.

    You’ve got a kiddo with a poor latch and now she is rejecting the breast. Have you heard of the supplemental nursing system (SNS)? This is a doohicky you wear around your neck. You use it to inject formula or pumped breast milk into the baby’s mouth through a small tube while coaxing her to nurse at the breast. It’s a good way to supplement while avoiding artificial nipple addiction. It is labor-intensive, but from the situation you’ve got going, now, you may have to do something drastic to get Kavvi back on the breast. They can be very persistent with these nursing strikes. It is not the end of the world if you have to continue supplementing or pumping indefinitely, but life really is better when you can nurse exclusively, and you are unlikely to develop a full milk supply while supplementing. Also, I’m sure you’ve heard this already, but if you go to a la leche meeting, you will find a lot of help with this problem, as well as some needed comradery with other new mothers. (And consider that the exception to the “never take her out” rule. Moms show up with tiny newborns all the time.) You didn’t do anything wrong to cause the nursing problems. Some babies have trouble latching on and nursing from birth, and it’s always challenging. There are other women who have been through this.

    So happy for you! Don’t sweat the small stuff. Just enjoy. The time goes so fast!

  4. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Catherine, it’s nice to hear from you again after so long!

    I really appreciate the advice, but I truly hate the SNS. We tried it in the hospital, and it’s hard enough trying to get her to latch at all — getting her to also get a tiny plastic tube in her mouth made it impossible. I’m sure it’s a useful system for babies who latch well but whose moms aren’t making enough milk. But for us, it just made things worse.

    Hanging out with other moms sounds good in theory, but in practice, I’m not sure I’m up to coping with strangers right now. I just want to be home with my family, and have friends come to visit from time to time…

    Also, I really don’t know if I want to go to a La Leche meeting — so far, I’m finding that some of the professional pro-breastfeeding people can get a little intense and pushy for me; they tend to make me feel a lot more stressed and guilty, and that’s just not something I can handle right now. Every time I talk to one of them I end up crying. And I’m pretty sure that stress is bad for my milk production too…

    Re: nursing exclusively — see next post. 🙂

  5. We feel like bad parents

    Mazel tov on your first parenting mistake (and/or the first time someone else complains about your parenting)! There will be many many more. Trust me, I know from which I speak. 🙂 It is not a job you get to do perfectly, despite being a job that you are doing and will do very, very well.

    I am tempted to write “do not ever let anyone make you feel guilty”, but that would be an impossible request, because the world is very good at making parents feel guilty. But do recall that nobody knows your baby better than you do, and nobody has a right to judge. You get to do your best, and your best will be way more than good enough. You are going to screw up plenty, but you are never going to screw Kavya up. That is a crucial distinction.

    I have to strenuously anti-ditto Mr. Bellamy above. The reason to “lie in” the first month is not that the baby has no immune system. The reason to avoid people is that what would be an ordinary cold with a light fever for a two-month old means, for an under-one-month old, a possible multi-day emergency stay in the hospital with a spinal tap to diagnose (iirc) encephalytis. This happened to Noah and it was horrific.

    However, he is also fine. I’m not trying to scare you, just passing on the information that I wish someone had given me.

    Mazel Tov also on Kavya’s eighth day! “May the One who blessed Sarah and Rivkah, Rachel and Leah, Miriam and Abigayil and Queen Esther, bless this beloved girl with good luck and in a blessed hour; and may she grow up with good health, peace and tranquility; and may her father and her mother see her joy.”

  6. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Ben, that’s such a lovely blessing. Thank you.

    It’s so lovely, it makes me want to stencil it onto the wall of her nursery. Which would go nicely along with the gold cross my parents got her to make everyone think we’re much more religious than we actually are. 🙂

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