My breastfeeding story started like many others: with difficult times, stress, doubts and many, many questions. With a plus: my baby was in NICU. Here’s our breastfeeding love story.
After a 3 day birth process (read more about it here) the unexpected, of course, happened. My son had a pneumothorax. That mean that half of his right lung was not working properly.
Therefore, he was taken immediately to reanimation and the first view I got on him was through the plastic of an incubator.
No skin to skin. No hugs. No immense happiness moments. No natural hitch.
10 Hours Later
I got sent to a room, 3 floors over my son. I knew from my husband that our little one was doing fine. I was more than tired. Everyone said that I should rest and no worry: my son was in the best hands.
But my heart felt heavy and in pain. What was he been fed with? What would he think and feel? Why can’t we be together?
With that on my mind, I fell asleep. And I woke up in the morning anxious and really worried. I didn’t notice any change in my body or my breast and the last three days seemed unreal: where was my baby? did it all REALLY HAPPENED?
I put on some pajamas and a robe and I wanted to run to NICU. Of course, I couldn’t run. I had to wait so a wheelchair was taken to the room, and then we got down.
It was, in fact, the first time when we were going to actually meet each other. And I was terrified of getting his rejection to me and my breasts.
Miracles Happen, Too
I hope that most of you have never been into a neonatal intensive care unit. You have to was your hands and arms. You have to wear strange clothes over your clothes. You have to put all your belongings in bags.
You enter the unit and you see many babies with their parents. Silence and low lights. Some of these warriors are as little as 25 weeks. I saw tiny babies on their incubators and I gasped. It’s still hard to admit this now, but I didn’t know how my little one looked. I could have not distinguish him by my own. We had so little time together when he was born that I did not know by that time how his face looked. How big or small he was…
Luckily, my husband was with me, and one of the ultra nice nurses. I saw him. I wanted to hold him and ask him to forgive me for our time apart. They teach me how to do it.
We got him out of the incubator. My husband passed him to me, I was sitting in a chair with my boobs out. I said “hello, Gael” and, of course, he did not said hello back. Instead, he grabbed my nipple with his mouth and started suctioning. Miracles happen too. Our babies are ready for breastfeeding and our breast is their home. We just need to trust in our bodies and in our babies.
The nurse was over excited. I was happy again and proud of my champ.
The Hardness of the Protocols
I would love to tell you that the difficult thing ended there. But no. The NICU has very firm protocols regarding weight gain in babies. And, although there are practices that today are beginning to be questioned (such as weighing after each breastfeeding) the truth is that these spaces still govern.
So we had to undress Gael, weigh him before the shot, dress him, let him eat, undress him again and weigh him again. As you can imagine, this is a real torture for a baby who just wants to be skin to skin with his mother.
Despite sitting in an uncomfortable chair for more than twelve hours a day and breastfeeding on demand, Gael needed supplements because he didn’t gain enough weight. So our breastfeeding, in its beginnings, was not much less exclusive. We did mixed breastfeeding.
Something that we also had to do during the first few days was to extract every tiny drop of colostrum. It fell into tiny syringes that filled droplet by droplet. Syringes of 3 or 5 milliliters. Each one was GOLD to help Gael recover.
Finally, and after cutting the frenulum on his last day at the NICU, we were discharged and went home. Of course, Gael was used to eating above what my chest could still offer him. So we live our first days at home, in relation to breastfeeding, quite overwhelmed.
Of course, we were determined not to offer Gael more teats and we did not buy bottles for home. What we did was buy a relator. If you don’t know what it is, I leave you a photo of this device: