Monday, June 22, 2009


Breastfeeding. It's a personal choice but is also about how easy you can get the hang of it.

Funny how some babies do it so naturally and some do not. My Tressa was definitely in the "do not" category. We literally wrestled with breastfeeding for about 3 months before she and I got the hang of it. And when we did, it was wonderful! Very convenient and comforting for us. We still had our ups and downs but we hung in for one year. Lila was born without knowing how to suck her thumb. We were in the NICU for about a week while we learned to first "finger feed" then suck on a bottle, then breastfeed. Lila, like Tressa, was ravenous all the time but we had very little problems breastfeeding when we came home expect for having to breastfeed all the time. We were able to hang in there for a year as well.

And Wyatt, my poor little guy, he did not get that chance to learn at the breast. As you know, he could not even be touched at the beginning. Paralyzed, the only way he could eat was by receiving total parenteral nutrition or TPN through a central intravenous catheter in his umbilical vein. The goal was to get him off it as fast as possible so not to harm his liver. But is liver became enlarged, his bilirubin went sky high and jaundice set in. Yuck.

Eventually, Wyatt was able to drink my breast milk through a feeding tube. That took some getting use to! I had to pump and store it in a fridge right in the NICU because Wyatt was on a constant feeding program as part of his treatment. And my little guy had a real problem with reflux. He was affectionately called the "Prince of Puke" and the "Regent of Regurgitation." Once he was awake and off the breathing tubes, I could hold him and hold the tube to control the flow of milk by raising and lowering the tube. If the milk went in too fast, Wyatt would spew. Fun times, let me tell you!

I wasn't comfortable with tube feeding. I was warned that there was a huge possibility Wyatt and I would be tube feeding at home. Dr. S. and Dr. B respected my desire to attempt train him to breastfeed in the NICU while they were trying to get everything else that was going on with him under control. His brain scan had come back really bad and they weren't even sure if Wyatt had the brain capacity to suck on a soother. Despite these grim warnings, I could feel it inside me that Wyatt could do it. So, Wyatt and I worked really hard at learning how to suck on a soother. This picture breaks my heart; look how tired and sick he is here.

Wyatt needed to grow. Nutrition was the key and there could be no error in his receiving it. Unfortunately, no one told Wyatt or he was simply not listening. Wyatt's favorite game was pull the feeding tube out of his nose while the feeding pump was on and spray milk all over his crib. He could do it within seconds and always when Mommy or the nurses were distracted for a moment. These tubes were meant to stay in for a few weeks and were expensive. At first, the tube was taped on with cute surgical tape hearts. Latter, the nurses still gave him hearts, but there was more strips than hearts stuck to his face. After he was up to pulling it out 2 to 3 times a day, they started to put the daily disposable ones in. They don't cost as much.

From soother, to finger feeding, to bottle and finally to breast, Wyatt learned to eat and was able to come home. He had some very strange quirks though. He could not eat for more than 5 minutes for the first several months home. In fact, most times it was 30 t0 40 seconds before he was exhausted and needed a break. You can imaging how long our feedings would last. He also did not exhibit signs of being hungry. (Dr. B. thought that might be due to his brain being damaged in that area that controls that function, but I can happily say Wyatt now howls when he wants his food!) And to top it off, Wyatt did not want to be touched when eating. Football hold, cross-cradle, cradle, lying down, and the tailor positions? Forget about it! Very quickly we learned a variation of lying down with only my nipple in contact with him. Me with whiplash, bad back, and nerve damage. You can imagine how fun that was! After we were in and out of the hospital with feeding and not gaining weight issues, we eventually got the hang of it once we added "dancer hand" into the mix. Thank goodness for the lactation nurses and consultants in the Mother Baby Clinic at the D.E.C.H.!
Now that Wyatt is a year old I feel like patting myself and him on the back. Breastfeeding a child with challenges is VERY hard but definitely worth it. Breast milk is best milk but I don't knock a mother's choice for using formula. I had to "top up" Wyatt with a higher calorie formula to help ensure he would grow. We parents need to do whatever we need to do for our little ones!
So the question now is for how long should we breast feed?

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