As I mentioned before, The Chubs spent the first several days of her life doped up on anti-seizure medication. The nurses at the hospital where I delivered were convinced the activity they had witnessed from the Senorita was seizure related and to not risk possible brain damage, which seizures can cause if left untreated, she was given a very high dose of this drug that left her a very very sleepy newborn. Sure, most newborns are very sleepy the first days of their life, but most do not have a tube down their throat to help them breath either.
It was my goal all along to breast feed. I had heard the gospel of breast milk from a breast feeding class I had taken and knew that "breast" was "best" so I was bound and determined to make this work. I had heard the horror stories from other women. How could something so natural be so difficult? I had told many people that I would not give up and make it work. Those women that couldn't get breastfeeding to work were just lazy quitters.
Now that I was faced with an intubated and severely sedated infant, I was starting to see the challenges. Even once she was extubated and had full use of her mouth again, the medication was still so strong that she could barely stay awake to eat. Nothing I did would rouse her from her grogginess. This went on for days and days. Lactation consultants would drop in almost daily and work with me. We did everything but pour ice chips down her diaper to get her to stay interested and alert enough to take a full feeding.
Even worse than getting her to stay awake at the beginning, were the scales they used. Once she was stronger, they started weighing her. Her pre and post weight was supposed to reflect how much she took from me. Many times it would say she took a negative ounce. Did that mean she burned a full ounce off while she was eating? I found this hard to believe as milk dribbled out of her mouth and spit up stained my shirt, but they would continue to keep us at Children's hospital until the numbers reflected that she was eating enough. I felt like a prisoner and I was desperate to get my baby home and start living a normal life away from alarms, IV's and oxygen tanks.
We tried the bottle. The normal flow was too fast for her and she would turn blue because she couldn't take a breath amidst the swallowing and gulping. It seemed as though she did much better at the breast, but it also appeared (at least to the doctors and nurses) that she just wasn't eating enough, or anything for that matter, from the breast. It was time to try something new. I knew that if we could find the right nipple for a bottle we could show them exactly how much she was taking each feeding without messing with the scales, and most of all, we could finally take her home.
With a lot of patience and pacing on our parts, we were able to get her to accept a bottle that was specially designed for small and pre-term babies. Finally she was eating an amount that could easily be measured by the nurses and as long as she kept it up, we could bring her home in a few days. During those days I had one mission; get my child home as soon as possible. This meant I was exclusively bottle feeding The Chubs pumped breast milk. It was working and that was really all that mattered to me at the time.
However, I continued to be pressured by the nurses to "try" breast feeding her. I tried to explain to them how if I breastfed her, the scales would say she wasn't taking enough and it would extend our stay, but they continued to push. At this point my flow had gotten a lot faster with the combination of pumping and previous attempts at breastfeeding with the Senorita and she was now choking on my milk when I tried to feed her. This created a new problem since they do not usually let you go home if your baby "bradys" a certain amount of times a day. (this means their heart rate drops which usually happens if they choke or hold their breath for a certain amount of time). Clearly, things were not going well and it is extremely hard to pace an infant on the breast as opposed to a bottle. Finally I struck a deal with the nurses that I would try breastfeeding 3 times a day and they would not do pre and post weights if I offered the bottle to her after a feeding session to make sure she got enough.
In the end we finally too Senorita Chub Chubs home and in all honesty I felt much more comfortable feeding her with the bottle once we were home. Here was my reasoning:
A) I had witnessed on the monitors what her heart did when it went into bradycardia. I did not feel like I was in control of this when I was breastfeeding her and it scared me to death knowing I didn't even have a monitor to look at when I fed her.
B) Most breastfeeding sessions would end in tears on both of our parts. She would choke, start crying and push away with almost every feeding then proceed to do a mondo spit up all over me because the flow had come too fast.
C) Since she was so small when we left Children's (about 4 1/2 lbs.), it was critical she gained weight. The only way to be sure she was taking enough was to see the measurements in a bottle.
For 6 weeks I diligently continued to try to breast feed at least 2 times a day to see if she would magically take to it so I could stop pumping. For another 6 weeks after that I offered it to her occasionally with a bottle as a back-up. Now in her 13th week I continue to work at it but it seems all too clear that she prefers the bottle at this point.
I have to admit there isn't a lot of support out there for Exclusive Pumpers. Most women either breast feed or formula feed with a bottle. You won't find many that exclusively pump. There are many challenges that go along with my choice. For instance, when we travel in a few weeks, I will need to find a family bathroom at the airport to pump at and won't have any options on the plane. Breast feeding in public is widely accepted where pumping in public definitely is not! When I get The Chubs up for her middle of the night feeding, I have to change, feed her, put her down, pump for 15-20 minutes, clean the equipment and store the milk before I can go back to bed again. And during the day time instead of getting some "me" time as soon as I put her down for a nap, I need to pump, clean and store again.
I'm not trying to play the "woe is me" card, but I do welcome gifts and chocolates to lift my spirits.
But in all seriousness, it was never a choice. Breast milk is the best for The Chubs so that is what she's getting. And until I become a dry well, or the motor on my pump goes out, I will continue to provide her this liquid gold. I may not be pumped about all the hours I've spent chained to these motorized suction cups, but this is my life for the next several months and I've accepted it.
Now for a picture: