Sunday, August 4, 2013

Together at Last; Together Forever

For the last two days, Tootsie has been subject to standardized testing, regularly receiving scores on a Feeding Readiness Scale which involves nurses, doctors, lactation consultant, and occupational therapist looking for cues from baby which indicate preparedness for breast or bottle feeding (one of the requirements for discharge from the hospital, which can easily be viewed as a preemie's first milestone toward college acceptance).  We thought about hiring a tutor, but settled on cheating instead, openly cheering her on like sideline soccer parents when she sucked vigorously on her pacifier, and miming rooting behaviors.  We had limited opportunities to tip the scales in her favor as she spent most of the last two days with blindfold on, under the bili lights.

Nonetheless, we were told that her averages were good enough that she could try a "non-nutritive feed" today--basically a dry run in which I put her near the breast after pumping and during one of her scheduled tube feedings, so she could begin connecting the dots.  She was young, I was reminded, so we could expect her to maybe snuffle around, put her mouth on my breast, basically demonstrate interest.  There would be lots of opportunities to repeat this "pretend" breastfeeding until she began truly getting it.

I was super excited for this qualifying round of quasi-breastfeeding, as it represented hope that one day I'd be feeding Toots as easily as I did Big and Little Sis, with breastfeeding an act of bonding and downtime togetherness I view as a highlight of parenting.

But hey, you know, no pressure.  I know many mothers and children for whom breastfeeding was a struggle or not an option.  And it's only one of the myriad ways parents connect with newborns.
At 11AM, after I pumped and she had a diaper change, our nurse settled her onto my chest.  It was only my third time holding her, and the feeling of her in my arms was still overwhelming.

"You can go ahead and have her assume the position, if you'd like, and present her with your nipple," our nurse encouraged me.  Husband hovered nearby.  I clumsily shifted her to a cradling position as the nurse reminded me to position her so her body faced mine.  I moved her down slightly to align her mouth with my nipple.

And darned if that little girl didn't open her mouth wide, chomp down, and start sucking.  No big deal, she seemed to emphasize as she occasionally drew back and repositioned herself on my nipple.   We let her practice on both breasts till she passed out, milk-drunk, in my arms.

When Nap Time, AKA Break from the Bili Lights, was over, our nurse came back to collect Tootsie and return her to her tanning bed.   "We'll, that was a game changer," she shook her head, pleased.  "What we'll do next is have you pump a little beforehand so your flow doesn't overwhelm her, and a couple of times a day, we'll give her the breast first and see how much she eats.  Wel'll continue to supplement with tube feedings for now, and then discuss a combination of breast and bottle, as she will likely need additional nutrition."

Right, so tomorrow I could begin regular breastfeeding?  It was like Christmas in August.  "Thank you, girl," I whispered to the baby I'd only spent a few hours holding thus far.

Later it was Husband's turn for time with Tootsie on his chest.  He returns today to California, and likely won't see us until we return in a few weeks, headed home for good.  I watched my partner's body unwind from weeks of stress as he relaxed his muscles and allowed the perspective of be holding an infant overtake him (meanwhile, Tootsie got another A+ for rooting behavior as she scanned her dad's chest for a nipple in vain and settled for a binky, contentedly).

Her Big Sisters are Next. I can't wait to meet you! exclaims Tootsie
It was a banner bonding day.  No more desats, no growth on the spinal tap culture.  She might be about to join the ranks of the "grower/feeders," who hang out waiting to graduate with all their requirements met (weight, feeding, able to regulate own temperature, mastery of pre-Algebra standards).  We also need to mark 21 days of antibiotics (today was Day 4), and review the results of the MRI.  But we're on our way!  


Unknown said...

I can help with the pre-Algebra! I recall so clearly the first wonderful time I could hold Galen, Kaitlin and Dylan. Love to you all.
Bill Lemei

aitchpea said...

Goodie-goodie! So excited by the leaps and bounds she's taking! I suspect she will be a full-on booby sucker in no time.

vertigomama said...

Whoa an overacheiver already. Way to go Tootsie! So excited to hear all of the positive steps your mighty little one is taking.

Tara B said...

I read this and finished with a loud shout of "Triumph!" in my head! She's a little Rockstar! Keep it up baby girl!

Marisa Reichardt said...

Oh, the way she looks at her dad in that picture is simply amazing!