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My Precious Baby

Juanita H.
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 19 No. 3, May-June 2002, p. 91

Drew was our third baby, and because of problems in my previous pregnancies, I expected him to be early, but not 11 weeks early! My water broke at 28 weeks, and he was delivered vaginally a week later, when I contracted an infection. He was three pounds, three ounces (twice the size of most babies at 29 weeks). I started pumping five hours after he was born. The first time I pumped, I got only about 15 cc. I was so disappointed. I wondered how I would ever be able to keep up with his needs.

I continued pumping while I was in the hospital but never got much milk. I wanted to nurse Drew so badly and knew he needed all the extra antibodies that mothers of premature babies make. So I decided to wait until my milk came in before getting too stressed. I had breastfed my two older children, so I felt things would work out. When my milk increased two days later, I was able to pump 16 to 24 ounces at a time, so I always had more than enough milk for Drew. My doctor and lactation consultant advised a rigid pumping schedule, but I just pumped when my breasts felt full, which was at least six times a day. I didn't know until later that being able to pump so much milk each time was unusual.

When Drew reached 31 weeks gestational age, I finally talked his doctor into letting me feed him at my breast, although they said he wouldn't be able to suck, swallow, and breathe at the same time until 32 or 34 weeks gestation. He was being fed via a tube at the time. His little head was the size of my fist and only twice the size of my areola. Trying to hold such a tiny thing so gently and correctly because of all his needles and wires was scary. I settled on the football hold because of his size and the support his head needed. The little tiger latched on immediately and nursed for 20 minutes.

About two weeks later, we were up to three feedings at my breast a day. Drew was weighed on a very accurate scale before and after he breastfed to measure the amount of milk he was getting. One day, I arrived for an evening feeding only to be told the doctors had revoked nursing privileges because he hadn't been gaining enough weight. I cried all the way home. This was my baby and breastfeeding was the only thing I felt I could do to really help him at this point. The doctors were concerned that he wasn't getting enough nourishment from breast-feeding to grow properly. He would breastfeed for only five minutes and the doctors wanted him to nurse for 20. There was no convincing them that his breastfeeding was not the problem. They insisted on more bottle-feeding, which infuriated and isolated me.

Drew came home at 50 days. My doctors advised me to pump my milk and feed it to him in a bottle with a fortifier added. After just a week of this routine, my milk supply dropped to the point where I was only pumping two to four ounces each time. I am thankful for my LLL Leader, who suggested I feed Drew at the breast exclusively to rebuild my milk supply, which returned quickly. Drew has never had anything except my milk since then and now weighs 16 pounds at six months. We found out later that he also had allergies to the protein in cow's milk and to red sauces, so I am especially thankful to be fully breastfeeding him now. In retrospect, I feel that he was having a difficult time sucking from the bottle nipple, not at my breast. He took seven weeks to gain two pounds in the hospital, but when he got home, he gained a pound and a half in three weeks. Way to grow, my precious baby!

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