Alice was born on Monday, December 24th, 2012 at 9.06pm, a bit in advance compared to her scheduled birthday: January 12th. As a consequence, she was smaller than expected, weighting only 3kg and 45 grams (6 lbs and 11 oz) when she was supposed to be 3.5 kg (7 lbs and 11 oz) if she was born on her due day. Still her weight was fine for her length of 49 cm (19.3″). Her first night with her mum in the hospital went well, the little Alice was sleeping a lot.
Leeloo was trying to follow the advice of the midwifes to breastfeed Alice. This was not simple at all, because if small babies have the suction reflex, they have no idea how to correctly latch on the tit! So the first hard task of the mum is to learn and teach how to feed her child, and this is no easy task!
Tuesday, December 25th, 2012, 2 kg and 990 grams, 6 lbs and 9 oz
Alice slept most of Christmas day. She vaguely suckled her mum who had only colostrum. Colostrum comes before milk supply, and is very important for newborns as it is very rich in proteins and antibodies, which are essential to protect the baby. The antibodies from the mum depend on the illnesses and vaccines she might have had during her existence, but are likely to protect the newborn in an similar environment.
Alice was very quiet. Midwifes taught us how to clean her and she was weighted (2kg and 990 grams, 6 lbs and 9 oz). She was supposed to lose some weight during her firs days, up to 10 percent of her birth weight waiting for the milk to “come in” and learn how to suckle correctly.
Breastfeeding is a real chance for a little baby, however some important vitamins such as vitamin K and vitamin D may lack, so we must provide them via some drops every day for the vitamin D and every week for the vitamin K. The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the six months of a child. This is not always easy especially when the mum has a job, still Leeloo would really like to breastfeed Alice as long as possible.
Wednesday, December, 26th, 2012, 2 kg and 860 grams (6 lbs and 5 oz)
The hardest part of breastfeeding is to have the baby latch correctly. The midwifes insisted a lot to help Leeloo and to encourage her, but Alice needed up to 30 or 45 minutes before suckling, and often she was too exhausted by then to have any food at all. As a consequence, she was sleeping a lot, and not eating enough. Her weight dropped again, to 2kg and 860 grams (6 lbs and 5 oz).
The medical team was also focused on the new mum, because childbirth is a traumatic event for the body. Everyone wanted to be sure that all normal functions were adequately recovered, urinating, defecating and healing from the various micro-tears in her vagina caused by the final push. Nowadays in France, you are just supposed to stay in the hospital for 3 or 4 days after birth, compared to a long week 20 years ago. However the check-list is longer and longer, and the afterbirth is a bit of a marathon for the new mother and the baby. The baby must take weight back, must sleep correctly, move, perform the Guthrie test, audition test, be treated for the jaundice if necessary ; and the mum must pee, poo, eat, sleep, heal… Hard to find any time to rest between breastfeedings and medical checks.
A lot of stress is added to mothers who are already worried not to properly take care of their child. Unfortunately, Leeloo was a bit preoccupied and did not pee on the first day, gosh! Motion to battle in the medical team! She was then checked every four hours, night and day. They used a little plastic tube and introduced it in her bladder through her urethra to empty it, make sure no urine was left behind and prevent any breakdown of the bladder. A bladder can contain up to 1 liter, about 34 oz, and when full this organ sends a signal to the brain which creates the need to pee. Sometimes this signal is not correctly sent and the bladder keeps filling up, up to 1 liter and a half, 50 oz, and breaks down, stops to work. This is a very serious situation and to avoid it the woman needs to probe herself several times per day until the bladder starts working again, this could last one month.
Don’t take my comment the wrong way, this is really reassuring that the medical team tries to prevent this situation, and the team at the Orsay hospital was wonderful, really open and helpful. Still, it has created a kind of a vicious circle, as Leeloo was too stressed and could not go pee anymore; moreover the urinary probes were irritating and added infections risks, leading to more stress, this situation rapidly became a calvary!
In the meanwhile, the mother must still take care of her newborn. 1 baby over 4 are developing a jaundice. This is a benign problem if detected and treated in time, the sign of a liver a bit too immature and can not process all of the bilirubin protein. This protein is the one coloring the urine in yellow, and when the liver of the little baby does not process all of it, the skin of the baby become yellow as well (jaundice is based on the French world jaune which means yellow). This protein is created during the renewal of red blood cells in the spleen and it is toxic if accumulated. While waiting for the liver to complete its task, the baby is treated with light therapy, placed under a special blue light that destroys the protein under the skin of the newborn. Alice was at the limit but did not received the treatment, still her nearly-jaundice might have tired her a bit.