Happy World Breastfeeding Week!
I read about a recent campaign started by three bloggers called “I Support You” which called for support of mothers however they chose to feed their babies. I think this is amazing to celebrate moms feeding their babies in whatever way works for their family.
The campaign asked bloggers to interview moms who fed their babies differently from themselves. And, although I didn’t do that (I found out about it the day before it was to be posted), I would like to share my own feeding story and ask that you share yours too, if you feel comfortable. Bloggers can link-up posts (old or new) and other moms can share their stories in the comments. It can be as simple as “I breastfed, and I support however your feed your babies” to a whole story. Just nothing negative about how others choose to feed their little ones please – those comments will be deleted so that no one’s feelings are hurt. We don’t need any more mommy guilt flying around!
Here are my experiences with feeding my babies:
The story about feeding my daughter actually made it into my very first post ever on this blog here.
But I’ve never told the story of my little guy.
He was born unexpectedly at 36 weeks. As I lay on the table after having an emergency c-section for a torn placenta, I could hear him but not see him. But he was crying and I was so happy that he was okay after such a sudden and frightening early birth. I smiled, thinking the worst was over.
Then the calm became panic as a nurse shouted, “He’s grunting! Where’s the NICU team?!”
They whisked my little guy, who I hadn’t even met yet, away to this scary-sounding place called the NICU. He would be fine, I was told. He just needed some extra oxygen because his lungs were premature.
When I was wheeled on my bed to my little guy’s bedside, we were told he just needed some time to adjust to being out in the world a little earlier than expected. I got to meet him, hold him, and cuddle him. I whispered his name into his ear and told him that I was his mommy. I instantly loved him so much. It was hard to see him with the oxygen mask (CPAP) on, but everyone was very encouraging. It would just be a day or two, they said.
When I got back to the room, I asked for a pump so that I could collect what colostrum I could for him. He had an NG tube through which he could be fed whatever I collected. I was familiar with pumping for my daughter, but this was some sort of super-pump. It was able to get the few drops that I was producing. I proudly handed the nearly empty container to the nurse who pushed it down the tiny tube that went down his adorable nose into his belly.
And I kept pumping. As my son’s condition worsened and we weren’t sure what was going to happen, I pumped. I pumped at his bedside for something to do since I was no longer able to hold him because of the IV’s, central line, and ventilator that were added to his bedside and his body. I was pumping when they told me that his heart had a defect that would normally require immediate repair but since his lungs were so sick, they would have to wait or he wouldn’t survive the surgery. I was pumping when they told me that he would have to have yet another blood transfusion. I pumped when he received what seemed like his hundredth heart echo or chest x-ray. I pumped after they sent me home without him. I pumped in the middle of the night when I woke up from nightmares and frantically dialed the NICU. And I pumped while I cried when they told me that they weren’t sure that his lungs would ever get better. It was all that I could do, the only bit that I could contribute to his health.
He wasn’t eating it, of course. His NG tube had been pulled long ago, and he was getting all of his nutrients from the numerous bags attached to the IV that drained into his tiny body. My milk was stored in the huge freezer attached to the NICU. But before I would hand over whatever small amount I produced, I took a few drops on a Q-Tip and touched it to his dry lips. They told me that it helped when the colostrum was put on a sick baby’s lips, but this was no longer colostrum. But I didn’t care. It was all I could do.
And Then I Stopped
His lungs slowly got better, his heart had the first two surgeries, and he was diagnosed with a condition with his thyroid. Things were getting easier as we adjusted to this new way of life, though there was a long road ahead. He was still in the hospital awaiting yet another heart surgery. He was suddenly switched to formula because of a suspected milk protein allergy, but I was encouraged to keep pumping and eliminate dairy from my diet.
It was then that I looked down at the pump in disgust. Every minute that I was attached to it was one fewer minute that I was holding him, touching him, connecting with him. It had been my security object through the worst times and now it was just a reminder of them.
And so I stopped. I chose to. I could have kept pumping, but I felt that my son needed me more than my milk. And I needed stress of pumping to be off of my shoulders. I still had some breastmilk in the NICU storage, but it wouldn’t last long. I was done.
I got some grief for my choice, from other moms and even doctors. But when I brought him home and set up the formula to go through his NG tube, I knew that having that extra time with him in my arms was much better than running off to pump.
And now, he is a strong and big guy who loves to eat. He has exceeded everyone’s expectations in regards to weight and development. He still has some health problems, but he is generally very healthy. I don’t regret giving up pumping for a second. It took some of the stress off of me, he and I were able to connect more fully, and he still got the nutrition he needed through the formula. It was the best decision for our family.