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Breastfeeding Journey Of A Micro-Preemie

by Hava Rich

Yesterday was the first time in 97 days I didn’t pump. From the day I had Jameson I’ve pumped every three hours, minus a 5 hour stretch to get a little extra sleep. 

Day 1, Zach gives Jameson his first milk pop (cotton swabs dipped in breast milk). I wasn’t able to go see Jameson yet because I was still on magnesium. All I could do for Jameson on day 1 was pump. Day 2, I gave Jameson a milk pop, and got to see his eyes light up. It made me feel like we were working towards a goal. On day 25, I got Mastitis; I was trying to get my supply down to match Jameson’s needs. On day 47 Jameson was strong enough to come off CPAP and we got to dry nuzzle for the first time. I was so excited to take another huge step forward in our journey. A nurse at 6:00pm started his feed while I was pumping, and it broke my heart. I felt like an opportunity we had worked so hard for had been missed. This was the first full on melt down I had in the NICU. I couldn’t stop crying, and all the long days, and sleepless nights hit me.

The first time I made enough milk to fill a syringe.

We tried again later that night It was 9:00 at night and I didn’t care how tired I was, we had the opportunity to try and we took it. Jameson didn’t latch at all and hated every minute. We had a lot of learning to do and the next day I worked with lactation and speech to help Jameson be able to stay calm while we tried to learn together. With lactation and speech’s help we made it to day 54. On day 54 we started the 72 hour protective breastfeeding window. This would set us up to be successful at breastfeeding and help Jameson prefer breast over bottle. I set a goal to make it to all 24 cares; I failed and only made it to 21. At this point in our journey I was pumping before every feed so Jameson wouldn’t be overwhelmed. I was lucky to get an hour break between each feed. At the end of the 72 hours Zach gave Jameson his first bottle.

This moment was bitter sweet for me. I wanted Zach to be able to feed him, but I also didn’t want all the work Jameson and I had done to disappear, if he decided he liked bottles better. At this point Jameson was taking over 80% of his feeds by bottle or breast, and on day 63 he got his NG tube pulled. Jameson was working so hard to come home! Day 65, Jameson isn’t gaining weight, and breastfeeding is limited to 10 minutes to be followed by a bottle of fortified breast milk. This is the second time I lost in in the NICU. I couldn’t hold my self together. I didn’t see how I could nurse, pump, and give Jameson a bottle, and I almost decided to give up on breastfeeding. I’d read an article about breastfeeding in the NICU and kept remembering the phrase, “don’t quit on your worst day.”

Triple feeding: nursing for 10 minutes while pumping, then giving a bottle with fortified breastmilk .

That phrase, Zach, and the amazing nurses around me helped me not give up. Zach started coming to the NICU to give Jameson his bottle while I pumped, this helped me not feel so overwhelmed. With time I learned to pump on one side, and nurse on the other. We were able to work in two full breastfeeding sessions a day. This is how Jameson graduated the NICU on day 77. Day 85, after talking with Jameson’s home health nurse we decided to try 24 hours with out the fortified breast milk to see if he would spit less, and sleeps better. He did! We did three more day’s with out the fortifier and he gained more weight without the fortifier. We were still limiting breastfeeding to 12 minutes per feed with two full breastfeeds. Day 95, we made the jump to only breastfeeding. As a mom I was afraid he wouldn’t gain enough weight; thank god for Zach’s calm presence and reassurance that Jameson was full! At this point I still had to pump because my supply was more than Jameson needed. Yesterday when Jameson’s home health nurse weighed him he had gained 1.9 Oz in two days. That’s 0.1 Oz away from our goal. 

That brings us to day 98, as I sit in my rocking chair feeding Jameson, no pump with wires, no bottle sitting next to us, no Hakka to pour into a bottle. Just Jameson and I. This was the goal, this was the dream I had. I wanted to wake up cuddle my tiny and have it just be the two of us. In this moment, all 97 days are worth it. It doesn’t change how hard some days were, but it gives perspective on how much has changed from day 1.