Thursday, March 5, 2015

Fail Baby

I was reading back in this blog, and I found an entry where I suggested that perhaps I should stop feeding the kids. They make an unholy mess whenever they eat, especially the little ones. In addition, if they were hungry they'd have less energy to destroy things when they're not eating.

My youngest son needs to stop taking me so literally.

I was slightly suspicious when I noticed that my two-month-old was wearing his sister's preemie clothes. It seemed he had been wearing these clothes for, well, a long time. Say, for two months. So I popped him on the kitchen scale (picture some shenanigans with a really big mixing bowl and a receiving blanket) to get an idea. And while my kitchen scale is not as accurate as a baby scale, I don't think it's two pounds off. If it were, my cakes would probably not work out. And my cakes are fine. My baby was not fine.

Well, he was _fine_ in that he was happy, and very pleasant, and really so happy and so pleasant that he was neglecting to mention that he'd really like to be eating a good 50% more milk than he'd been getting.

I generally only find these things out at 4 p.m. Friday, so that I have the whole of Shabbos to fret over them. I dragged the baby over to a pediatrician (it's a synagogue. Of course we have a pediatrician. We have _several_ pediatricians.)

"I'm not telling you not to be concerned," the pediatrician said. "You should be concerned about this."

The next week he approached my husband again. "I think I may not have been emphatic enough with your wife. I didn't want her to be too upset. Maybe I downplayed my concern too much."

Pediatricians are always telling parents not to worry, and here I've got one scared he might not be worrying me enough.

If you ever really want to see a sluggish medical system kick into high gear, show up at your family doctor with a two-month-old wearing preemie clothes. And he was full term.

"You shouldn't feel bad," the various pediatricians told me. "It's not failure."

May I make a humble suggestion? If we want to wash the stench of failure off of this starving-the-baby business, perhaps we could call it something other than "failure to thrive." I'm just saying, maybe we don't need to build the word "failure" _right into the name._ We could call it "exceptional smallness," or "flat growth curve" or "insufficient weight gain." I'm not saying that I would have felt A-Okay about the whole you-are-literally-starving-your-newborn situation if it had had a better name, but I'm saying it wouldn't have hurt.

The lactation consultant is the least exciting place you'll ever be topless. Mine had four different plastic breasts, and an angry looking plastic baby. She told me to go home and institute a feeding regime that would require about 60% of my waking time to be devoted to some part of the baby-feeding supply chain. Nurse, pump, feed the pumped milk, rinse, lather, repeat. So it was totally do-able with four other kids around.

And my mother. Oh, my mother. "I'm failing the baby," I tell her. "You are exactly the mother he needs," my mother said. "He's so lucky. He has a mother who is willing to go the extra mile for him."

I'm not sure that feeding constitutes "the extra mile" in infant care -- I'm pretty sure it's part of the basic package -- but I'll take what I can get.

The baby gained weight. Then he gained a little more weight. Then he went on GERD meds and gained a little more weight still. And he's fine. And he's still got that easy-going personality. You know, the one where he was so easy-going, he didn't mention he was starving.

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