So, feeding a baby is not as easy as it sounds.
Most people with kids would probably agree, yet for some reason there are a lot of people (mainly people on the internet, who I suspect don't actually have any experience with children, or human beings in general) who say stuff like, "Don't worry about it! Those maternal instincts will kick in and it will just come naturally!" or "Babies are born with the sucking reflex, they'll catch on pretty fast, don't worry about it!"
But if you talk to actual people--lactation consultants, occupational therapists, experienced moms--you'd hear that in some cases, probably more often than people realize, one or both of those things don't end up being the case. Some moms really have to work hard to figure things out, and some babies just don't get it right away. And that's okay, because today there are so many people out there who can help, so many resources for new parents to take advantage of if there is any kind of problem.
Unfortunately, sometimes even those people are unable to help, or are just plain wrong.
Thankfully, Olivia and I started out great. She's my first, but the nurses in the hospital said I looked like a pro, and Olivia picked up on things right away. But after a few weeks, it became apparent that something was wrong.
Most babies end up losing some weight to begin with--even up to a whole pound--before they start gaining, so at first we weren't too worried. But, though most full-term, healthy babies regain that weight within about two weeks, Olivia was just not gaining much. Our pediatrician seemed worried that I hadn't felt the milk come in, like most people do--that hard, sometimes painful feeling that usually comes within the first week. But I never did. I was producing, but not much. Not enough, obviously, because by the time she was about 7 weeks old, she was still barely over her birth weight. So the pediatrician recommended we supplement her breastfeeding with a bottle.
But her father and I are probably some of the most stubborn people in the world, and it was soon obvious that she'd inherited the trait. We tried everything--every nipple, every bottle, formula, pumped breast milk, different temperatures of milk/formula, different positions and different people, the whole works. Everything out there. But she wasn't going for it. We even tried a syringe of formula with a little tube taped to the nipple, so she'd get the formula/extra milk while she breastfed, but she was also smart--she figured it out after two tries, and wouldn't go for that, either.
The pediatrician kept saying "Keep trying, babies won't stave themselves--if they're hungry enough, they'll eat," and I've heard the same thing from lactation consultants and experienced moms as well.
But not Olivia. We tried the waiting game--we went six hours without feeding her, and she still refused the bottle. After months of trying, I finally gave up, because I wasn't willing to risk making her sick by waiting any longer than that, and it was obvious that it just wasn't working. And I did finally meet a few people who said they'd had the same experience. It's not that the mom is lazy for giving up--I think for some reason people are quick to assume that's the case. It's difficult, but I was willing to do anything in the world I had to to get her to eat. But some babies are just stubborn, and they never take a bottle. Some will go strait to a sippy cup when they're old enough, and I'm hoping that, soon, Olivia will do that.
But in the meantime, I still sometimes struggle with milk production, and Olivia has remained barely on the percentile charts.
She finally chubbed up a little when I was able to introduce baby food. At first, it seemed like she wasn't going to go for that either. I ended up dipping a finger in the food and letting her suck it off, because for some reason she's okay with sucking on a finger, and after a few days, when she'd adjusted to the food itself, I switched to a spoon, and she took to that pretty well. And, though for a few weeks she'd only eat banana-related flavors, she's gradually expanded to almost any fruit and a few vegetables.
But for awhile I was really getting mixed messages--people would say "Don't worry, there's nothing wrong with you or her, if you stress out about it it will only make things worse," and then the same people would say "It's your responsibility as her mother to make sure she gains weight, and if you don't, it's called "failure to thrive" and child services might come after you, and she could have developmental delays."
I feel like it would have saved me an extraordinary amount of stress and worry if someone had just told me the truth to begin with--that sometimes babies are just stubborn, and that's okay--because you're not alone, and you can do this.