I posted on Facebook about our struggles with Willow's sleeping right now, and how she is afraid to sleep alone. All of the feedback was amazing, but it really got me thinking, how did we let this habit happen?
They say that the sleeping habits of a baby will be indicative of their future sleeping habits. Which I guess to a degree is true for us. Willow has always been needy for physical affection, since literally day one. So her need to sleep with someone is not at all surprising. But aside from her natural desire for physical touch, we had a pretty rough go in the beginning.
For myself, I was recovering from a c-section and 48 hours of no sleep. It was just easier to keep Willow in my arms for the first few weeks (my recovery was not a smooth one). As the days passed, Willow's nursing was getting worse and worse. At the 5-6 week mark I hit my breaking point. We were quite literally nursing around the clock to the point where I began co-sleeping just for the simple fact that she could stay latched all night and feed when needed. In attempt to figure out a pattern, I timed her feeds. I knew something was wrong when she would nurse for 2 minutes, sleep for 5. I wish I could say I was exaggerating, but that was our "pattern" 24/7 for a couple of weeks. I called upon an angel...I mean a private lactation consultant, whom I met while taking a breastfeeding class when I was still pregnant. She came to my home to watch and assess. We concluded that Willow's latching ability was non existent. It was so much work for her to get any milk that she would pass out, hence the constant sleeping after a very short feed. The poor latch was a direct cause of her horrible gas, from air intake, which was NOT fun, for anyone who has not had pleasure of having a gassy baby. It broke my heart just thinking about any distress this was causing Willow. The LC inspected everything from how I was holding Willow to the tension in her neck. She had discovered a moderate/severe tongue and upper lip tie. The webbing under her tongue was so severe that it went almost to the tip of her tongue. OHHH! I vaguely remember the Doctor at the hospital telling me about this, while I was in my doped up state of drugs and exhaustion. They had cut the ties, but they grew back. She suggested a dentist in Calgary, AB who was a specialist with ties and was trained to laser them off.
Ya, tell me about it. A terrifying thought for a new mom who was sleep deprived with a baby who wasn't eating. But we had hit rock bottom, this was our only option. So off we went to Calgary for this procedure, which I should mention was HORRIBLE. A four hour drive with a baby who needed to eat every 7 minutes...like torture, I tell you. But we did make it eventually! The Doctor confirmed she had severe enough ties to warrant this procedure. He even said her tongue was bad enough that if we did not correct it, she would never be able to stick her tongue out to lick an ice cream! The procedure itself we were not allowed to be there for, which is probably for the best. They had to swaddle Willow tight in a special torture device...I mean protective cover. That alone made her scream. Hearing her blood curdling cries in the other room knowing it was because they were forcing her mouth open to stick a laser in there was painful. I was bawling just as hard knowing I could not go and comfort her. It was finally all over and all we had to worry about was the healing process. Massaging the areas several times a day was a must in order for the ties not to grow back. A couple weeks later her nursing improved DRASTICALLY. Slowly her gas went away and we were no longer on a 7 minute cycle of eating and sleeping. Thank God.
Now I know what you are going to say. Why on earth did I push breastfeeding so hard? Why did I not try to supplement with a bottle. Oh let me tell you we tried! Probably due to Willow's extreme attachment to me, she flat out refused a bottle, even with breastmilk. I tried every day, just to give myself a break. I tried every brand, bottle style and nipple, but nothing worked. We REALLY tested this when I had to have an emergency appendectomy when Willow was about 3 months old and I was you know, physically not available. My darling husband tried a bottle, syringe and spoon. NOTHING! I even told him to just take her to the NICU at the hospital where there was probably a room full of Mothers who would love to nurse her for their own supplies sake. Some of you might have just shuttered in disgust, but when you know your 3 month old baby could go HOURS without eating, you will do whatever it takes...so don't ever judge.
So now that I've given you a detailed background of Willow's first few months, the situation we are currently stuck with in the present probably does not seem all that surprising to you either. A baby who was held basically the entire time up to about 4 months might just carry those habits later on in life. Don't get it wrong though, it's not all her. Breaking ME of the habits is just as hard. Why would I start to put her down or put her in the crib when it was just so damn easy to have her on me? The habit did naturally break itself at the 1 year point. But here we sit again asking the same question. Why would I start forcing her in her own bed when it is so damn easy to have her next to me? I know in my heart she will grow out of it, so maybe I should relish in the cuddles while they are still being offered.
Hindsight is 20 20, so I guess only time will tell!
I would love to hear any of your stories or advice, so please feel free to shoot me an email! firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you or someone you know is struggling with a similar situation and is looking for a shoulder or someone to talk to, please send them my way. I am clearly not a Doctor, but my experience might give others the tools in finding the help with nursing!