As the arrival of baby number 4 is only weeks away we have been doing the standard get the baby clothes out of the loft for a good wash thing. Like all parents we started looking through the little baby vests and got that pang for how little our baby once was and how quick the time has gone. There are, however, a number of vests and baby grows in our box which aren’t little they are tiny. Because our Archer was really tiny when he was born. He weighed 4 lbs 14. Now Archer wasn’t a prem baby; he was born at full term, I was 39 weeks and a day. Ultimately Arch was healthy, something we are incredibly grateful for but having a low birth weight baby has brought some challenges for us and I wanted to share my experience for others mums who may go through this.
Firstly Archer was kept in hospital for 2 nights to keep an eye on his blood sugar levels; medical staff also insisted on giving him top-up formula feeds after I had feed him. This was difficult because as a family we weren’t really prepared for me and the baby to have to stay in hospital and I felt really guilty leaving my 2 older boys at home. In terms of feeding I knew he was feeding really well from me and I had committed to not letting him go longer than 2 hours without a feed because I wanted to exclusively breastfeed him myself. Yet the medical staff still insisted on the formula top-ups, I ultimately trusted their medical judgement but I didn’t feel that they way this is done is particularly supportive of the mother. A healthcare assistant came and sat on the end of my bed and fed Archer. Now I hold my hands up to being an insanely possessive mother but having a women I didn’t know feeding, cuddling and cooing over my new-born upset me.
I don’t feel that having a low birth weight has affected Archer, he has developed totally in line with his age; he’s just always been small, on the 9th percentile for growth. The only area we have struggled with slightly is feeding. While he has always fed really well, he has been very sensitive to certain foods and suffered from reflux. While I was breastfeeding him I had to give up a number of foods because he just couldn’t tolerate them, including all spicy foods, cheese and coffee (coffee that was a killer for me exhausted mum of 3!!) Again when we weaned him he loved his food but he would get tummy aches after certain foods and we had to be very aware of what we gave him and try to keep an eye on what upset his little belly. There is of course no way of knowing if this was down to his low birth weight or not.
There are a number of reasons why a baby can have a low birth weight and the 3 main categories were explained to us as being some kind of infection during pregnancy, a health condition in baby or a fault in the placenta. We have never known the reason for Archer being so tiny, both him and me were healthy throughout pregnancy, no infection was ever picked up and they tested my placenta which all came back normal. As a mum of a low birth weight baby there are things I have found difficult. Firstly I had major mum guilt that I hadn’t done my ‘job’ properly in growing our baby. I worried that maybe other people thought I hadn’t eaten properly throughout my pregnancy or done something that had caused this. I do realise now that’s silly and I know none of my friends or family blamed me. Yet as a mum I did feel this sense of my body having failed in a way but the truth is it didn’t. You can do everything you’re meant to and sometimes things don’t go exactly as they should and not even the experts know why.
My advice to other mums who have a low birth weight baby; firstly the chances are there’s nothing you did wrong. Secondly you might not ever get an answer as to why it’s happened, and while this can be frustrating it’s also just life; us humans don’t know everything we forget that sometimes. Thirdly while you may face challenges with your baby because of their low birth weight so do all mums with their babies. These challenges simply vary, all babies are so wonderfully unique and that’s part of motherhood. It doesn’t seem to matter how hard or overwhelming we find things, we stand tall and face them down. There seems to be this unbelievable strength in us mothers when it comes to our children. Don’t forget that all you amazing mamas out there.