How to soothe an infant who wants 24/7 nursing?
December 10, 2006 5:28 AM   Subscribe

Nursing advice before I keel over? We've got an almost-two-week old here at home, and if she could she'd nurse (for comfort as well as food, I know, but there are no indicator lights to tell the difference) around the clock. If we thwart her drive to be hooked up every moment when not in deep sleep, it's howling time. We're trying every soothing trick in the many books to get her to calm down when not latched...

Yes, we're trying swaddling, rocking, pacing, singing, white noise, guiding her fingers to her mouth, swinging her in the car carrier...everything but a pacifier. That's because her well-meaning daddy introduced one in her first week to try to give mama some rest for an hour here and there at night, and subsequently the little one wouldn't latch on to the real deal. We were told by a nurse that we'd given her "nipple confusion" -- I won't go into the gory details of her associated over-10% weight loss and the hard row we had to hoe to get her back on track weight-wise, which she now is. I feel like I've seen more of lactation consultants and pediatricians in the past ten days than my family.

Have you gone through something like this? What calming methods have worked for you in the past? Or can you at least assure me that this too, shall pass?
posted by clever sheep to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
It passes. My kids are age 14 & 16 and I can assure it's been 12 years since I breastfed, and probably about 13.75 years since it was non-stop sort of stuff. It passes.

Car rides worked for my parents but not me. Surprisingly, in my house, the entertainment that worked best was my husband playing heavy metal on his car to the infant. Unfortunately, I can't stand heavy metal music so that was not much of an improvement.

I used to feed them in bed, and when they were asleep, I'd detach myself and roll out very gently. Make sure that the sides of the beds have bankets or pillows banked to make sure the infant can't roll out.

Good luck. My sympathies are with you.
posted by b33j at 5:33 AM on December 10, 2006

B33J nailed it: It passes. Be patient. Honestly, once she has the hang of the nursing thing, I'm a strong advocate of the pacifier. A lot of people will steer you away from them, but they are a parent's best friend. Give it a shot again soon.

But no matter what you do, this is all going to pass. The first 12-14 weeks are just rough no matter how you do it. This is the initiation rite of parenthood and all of the sleepless nights and headaches will just deepen your love for your kids and give you stories to tell them and others for the rest of your life. It's a wonderful ride. It really is.
posted by crapples at 5:40 AM on December 10, 2006

Baby massage.
posted by paulsc at 6:24 AM on December 10, 2006

Have you gone through something like this?

Yes, with both of my children. This is completely normal. I pretty much lived with my shirt off for the first two months. It's non-stop. Let her nurse when she wants. It all goes by very quickly.

I would nurse in bed also. As soon as you feel comfortable doing so, place the baby next to you in bed and let her nurse her head off. Then roll out as b33j says when she is in a deep sleep.

Consider using a sling. I loved mine. I used an over the shoulder baby holder. They feel close to you and the walking motion comforts them.

Also consider introducing the pacifier again when you feel confident that she is a good nurser. I didn't want to give my kids the pacifier because of nipple confusion but my first child liked his and quit at around 8 months on his own. My second child wouldn't take one at all. Some may think of this as a good thing. I would of given anything for him to take a pacifier. Instead I was the human pacifier, but that's life in the big city. The funny thing is I was heartbroken when he stopped nursing. The brand new-infant stage is very demanding and challenging, but you'll get through it.

Good luck, congrats, and enjoy your new baby.
posted by LoriFLA at 6:25 AM on December 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

Ditto to everything LoriFLA said. I'm on nursling #6 and it's been that way for every one. The one thing I would suggest, given that you've seen nipple confusion and know what a [expletive deleted] it is, is that you follow the IBCLC guidelines for artificial nipples and don't reintroduce a pacifier before 6-8 weeks. Before that their brains just cannot process the difference and you've seen what that means.

You had a baby two weeks ago, you're completely entitled to sit around, lay around or otherwise lounge in a position of your choosing, with nothing else to do but nurse your baby and look at your baby and fall in love with your baby. This is your babymoon, enjoy it.
posted by Dreama at 7:03 AM on December 10, 2006 [2 favorites]

My son nursed every 2 hours or so for the first 3 or 4 weeks, for about 20-30 minutes at a time, so I understand what you're going through. It's very hard, very tiring, and perfectly normal. I ended up spending time at my mom's after my son was born, as my then-husband did not take time off work. It was a godsend to just sleep and sleep myself and have someone bring my son to me when he needed me.

The more hands you have involved at this stage, the better off you will be. Make sure to stay hydrated to the point of squirting water out of your ears. Don't listen to any well-meaning family members who comment that your baby is obviously hungry because your milk is "not enough". Talk to your pediatrician for a sanity check on that one.
posted by ersatzkat at 8:02 AM on December 10, 2006

My wife went through this with our son. Constant nursing, and it was physically and emotionally tiring for as long as she wondered "Is this normal? Why won't he stop? Isn't he getting enough food?" Once she was confident that

a) It's normal (it is, read all the threads above)
b) He won't stop because he's hungry, and might not be effective at nursing yet, it can take as long as 8 weeks, that's why it's POTENTIALLY disruptive to give a pacifier sooner than 8 weeks.
c) He is getting enough food. Weight loss is normal after birth, even 15% is not THAT unusual, and he'll gain it back.

(I said he because I was referring to my son there. :P)

Also: Second ersatzkat: Your milk *is enough*. Period. Don't feel pressured into supplementing or vitamins or anything. If you're concerned about your own output, drink more water (if your urine is clear, it's generally a good sign that you're well hydrated) and maybe take a galactagogue like fenugreek (which is on the FDA's "GRAS" list -- generally regarded as safe). Warning on that: It'll make your every secretion and excretion smell like maple syrup.

Two more things:

1) One site that really helped my wife understand what was going on and get some great support was kellymom.

2) If you keep track of the number of times he nurses, how long he nurses, and at what intervals, you'll drive yourself crazy with anxiety or worry or a desire to restrict his schedule to something you read about as "normal". If she's gaining weight and the doc says she is otherwise healthy, and you *feel* like you're feeding her enough, chances are, you're right on the money.

3) A bonus one: Get some Soothies. Before your nipples get painful. That way, you can start to use them if you feel like they're STARTING to get painful.
posted by Merdryn at 8:31 AM on December 10, 2006

I agree with what everyone's said thus far. Just wanted to jump in and add to the assurance that it's completely normal. At this stage your babe is still getting your milk supply established and regulated to her needs (remember, her needs are ever-changing so this is an ongoing process, but I think it takes more "work" on both parts this early in the game). Babies will also go through growth spurts at intervals (a friend who teaches baby development classes uses the "rule of 3" - spurts often happen around week 3, 6, month 3, 6, 9, etc), so don't let yourself get overwhelmed when it happens again.
My best advise is find a baby carrier you LOVE so you can wear you baby comfortably (and nurse) when it's just not feasible to sit still and nurse as much as she wants. Personally, my favorites have been (and I have 3 kids, ages 7, 5, & 1 that I have worn & nursed on demand) a non-adjustable fleece pouch sling, a wrap (home-made, but similar to a Moby), and an Ergo carrier. Everyone is different, so find what works best for you. There's a wealth of online advise about baby-wearing. One of my favorites for learning about all the carriers, though, is
posted by moonlite at 8:37 AM on December 10, 2006

posted by moonlite at 8:37 AM on December 10, 2006

It will pass. In the meantime try as much closeness as you can - carry her in a sling, co-sleep with her if you're comfortable doing that (I found that really made it easier on me), have her nap on your chest (and you take a nap too). Don't reintroduce a plastic nipple until at least 6 weeks. Babies cling-nurse like that for closeness and comfort - very little babies want and need to be very close to you. It's crazy when you can't get enough sleep and you can't get anything done, and you start to feel like a human cow - but it does calm down after a while.

Kellymom is a great breastfeeding resource site.

One thing I did to soothe my son when he was very little and wouldn't calm down was take a back massager, turn it on, and stick it behind a pillow - then put him with his back to the pillow laying down and I laid down with him. Another thing like this is putting them in their car seat on the dryer while it's running (with you standing right there holding them of course). The vibration sometimes helps to relax them.
posted by Melinika at 8:52 AM on December 10, 2006

Read this thread from several days ago - it may help:
posted by chrisamiller at 8:59 AM on December 10, 2006

Sounds like you have a "leisurely nurser". My second son was like that. One night while watching a few movies, I propped him with some pillows in a chair and let him go to town, just to see how long he would nurse. I would switch sides every 1/2 hour or so, I actually had a second "let down", his record was 4 hours.

As all stated above, this will pass. In the mean time to keep from going crazy, try pumping a little extra each day. It can be stored in the freezer. When you have a nice little stash built up, take a few hours off for yourself, have a pedicure or something pampering.

WARNING you can not be in the same room as the baby and the person attempting to bottle feed the baby. The baby will bat away the bottle and scream for you.

Try having your hubby give the baby the pacifier.

I third, or is it fourth by now, your milk is enough if the baby is gaining weight. Dr. will let you know if this is an issue.
posted by JujuB at 9:04 AM on December 10, 2006

And this too shall pass.

Mom of two here, and they both had times like that. I ended up with two off-the-charts babies, in terms of length and weight -- maybe you're growing a big baby, too.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:22 AM on December 10, 2006

This too shall pass. I gave birth in late April and thought I would die for the first month. After a month I thought that it might be possible to survive and at about two months I was pretty sure I could do it. Now he's 7 1/2 months and nurses about 6 times in a 24 hour period, for about 10-15 minutes each time. It's a breeze.

Let me nth the sling. It saved my life that first month. I had two, a pouch type (hotsling was the brand) and a wrap (mamakangaroo). I prefered the wrap but this is very personal. When he wouldn't stop screaming I would put him in the sling and dance around to loud music. Arcade Fire worked well.
posted by Cuke at 9:23 AM on December 10, 2006

Are you getting out of the house at all? Find some La Leche League meetings near you. You'll still be nursing, but you will be in the company of other adults, which is very helpful, and they will be able to both tell you with words and show you with actions what they do for nursing tips. I would have gone nuts without going to LLL when my colicky #1 daughter was born.
posted by Addlepated at 10:11 AM on December 10, 2006

Cosleeping is the key to happiness in our family. Our little guy doesn't have a nursery or bedroom. We just have the family bed. He nursed non-stop for the first couple months, but after no time at all my wife was adept at anticipating his stirring during the night (before baby was alert/upset), pulling him in to latch on, and going back to sleep while he munched away. Around his first birthday, she stated that she could count on both hands the number of days since his birth that she felt tired from being awake too much during the night before.

Your baby is an EXPERT at being a baby and getting her needs met. Don't over-analyze it or second-guess her. Just trust her and give her what he wants. If you start with the assumption that she wants the breast more than anything else, you're on the right track.
posted by Bradley at 10:47 AM on December 10, 2006

As Bradley mentioned - 'cosleeping' is what worked for us long-term. As well, our daughter needed to nurse constantly, as she was slightly underweight and continued for 'comfort' for quite awhile. On the other hand, our son who was quite large, only nursed for 6 months and infrequently at best.
posted by jkaczor at 11:00 AM on December 10, 2006

A sling will become the best baby gear you own.
posted by dan g. at 12:01 PM on December 10, 2006

Here are some cool graphs of how one newborn fed. Scroll down, look around that site and you'll find, somewhere, the total amount she would nurse (time and volume) at different phases as she grew from newborn to about age 1.5. They went through a similar comfort-feeding phase.

And here are two previous Ask Me questions that might be useful.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:47 PM on December 10, 2006

One other recommendation: Chiropractor. The passage down the birth canal can be traumatic sometimes, and the events in a hospital post-birth even more so. I have heard dozens of stories about extreme "colic" (not that your case sounds like that) that were resolved by 1 or 2 visits to a chiro.

In our case, we had some concerns about the infrequency of our little guy's BM's. Took him to our chiro at age 2 weeks, and he checked him over and said things looked fine, but he thought his sacral area (near the rear hips/tailbone) needed some attention. He "clicked" it with a little spring-loaded device, and little guy immediately filled his diaper, and the frequency was more "normal" (if there is such a thing) after that.

Another thing we learned from our chiro: Pulling at the ear doesn't necessarily mean ear could mean that the bones high up in the neck (atlas, I think) are misaligned due to a fall or something. The 2 times our son has pulled at his ear, we've taken him in, and the ear pulling stopped immediately after the clicker treatment.

Just something to consider.
posted by Bradley at 8:07 PM on December 10, 2006

One other thing to consider - your daughter may have Thrush. My seven month old became a very fussy feeder from about three weeks old, always hungry, but often pulling off as well.

The main thing to look for is thick white matter on the tongue or cheeks. We were in Japan, and it was very humid, which only makes things worse. If she has it in her mouth, it will also get passed into the nipples which can make them red and raw, and feeding even more difficult.

We were prescribed Gentian Violet, which you can paint on the nipples and in the mouth, and it was miraculous. We are now hording the last drops, as it is not easily available in Britain. A current alternative here is Daktarin which also seems to work.

Of course, it may not be Thrush at all.

Good luck!
It will certainly pass.
posted by fizban at 5:39 AM on December 11, 2006

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