Thursday, November 17, 2011

World Prematurity Day

Today is World Prematurity Day.  I didn't know such a day existed until it came up on my facebook feed from Mothering Magazine.  1 is 8 babies is born premature.  During my pregnancy prematurity was something I didn't even think twice about.  Here's our story.

I guess if I'm going to deal with a premature baby I had the best case scenario possible.  Oliver decided to make his arrival at exactly 36 weeks.  He was considered a late-term premie.  When my water broke, at 3 in the morning, I did not react the way I had expected to react to labor.  I was extremely scared.  It was too early.  Why was he coming a month early?  I expected to react by going about my day until I couldn't ignore labor anymore, then laboring at home until I was late first stage.  Because of the fact we were doing this a month before we were supposed to, we decided to call the hospital.  We didn't take their advice to come right away because we wanted to make sure to see our Doctor and not whoever was on call.  I had no idea what to expect with an early baby, and especially a boy.  White, males are said to need the longest time to cook.  Dr. Brabson did a great job of reassuring me everything was going to be alright and really acted like he wasn't concerned at all by it.  Fast forward to our delivery.  We had a NICU Dr. present at Oliver's birth so she could check him out and whisk him away if need be.  Oliver came out screaming which was wonderful since the lungs are a huge concern with premies.  The Doctor checked him on my chest and gave him an apgar score of 8 and then 9.  Wow, isn't that great for a premie!?  I truly think that my labor and birth is part of why Oliver did so well when he was born.  Partially, he had the chance of clearing his lungs by emerging through the birth canal.  He also was not medicated with narcotics, pain killers, or epidurals.  He was alert and perfect.

Fast-forward to our breastfeeding experience.  NO ONE WARNED ME ABOUT NURSING A PREMIE.  WHY NOT!!??  I saw the lactation consultant at St. Mary's.  She came to our room every day a couple times a day during our stay at the hospital.  She was mostly concerned with me filling out her chart saying when he was pooping and peeing.  WHY didn't she talk to me about nursing a 36 weeker?  Why!?  I was as educated on breastfeeding as I could have been.  I read LLL's book The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.  I took a breastfeeding class.  I have been exposed to breastfeeding my whole life.  I never even had to consider how I would feed my baby, I knew I'd be a weirdo who'd nurse until he was 3!

From the beginning Oliver latched well.  We had to help him latch on because you can imagine how tiny his mouth was, he weighed 5 pounds even the day we left the hospital.  Kurt would sit behind me and pinch my breast while I would lead Oliver to the nipple.  He would finally latch and nurse.  I was so engorged and swollen, it HURT.  To everyone who watched, Oliver was nursing great and doing wonderfully.  He nursed often and on demand.  At our first appointment 4 days after leaving the hospital he was already up to 5 pounds 2 oz.  At our 2 week appointment he was 5 pounds 7 oz which was great, he was 1 oz. over his birth weight.  We continued to do exactly what we had been doing and didn't see our Doctor again until 4 weeks.

 --The details from there are very emotional for me to discuss and to share.--  Oliver was not gaining weight.  We did everything we could to continue to exclusively breastfeed but that was not an option for us.  Oliver started formula after being labeled "failure to thrive".  Those 3 little words, tore my world apart.  I had done absolutely everything right.  I birthed the best way I could, I was educated about breastfeeding and did everything I was supposed to.  I didn't even give him a pacifier to avoid missing a time to nurse.  I nursed on demand even when it hurt and I was exhausted.  Those words "failure to thrive" broke my heart in two.  I had to give my baby formula.  Formula?  I know, I sound like a total snob, but it's true.  I thought of formula as almost poison before this point.  I did my research and knew I was going to do everything in my motherly power to still nurse my child.  I told the pediatrician I wanted to use the Medela Supplemental Nursing System instead of a bottle.  He was fine with that.  We went straight to UT Medical center to rent and hospital grade pump and to purchase the SNS.  The LC there wanted us to wait to see her before taking our pump, so we waited in the postpartum hall of the hospital.  A cafeteria worker walked past and saw us with Oliver and congratulated us on our new baby.  She thought he was just being discharged--he was actually 6 weeks old. I wanted to cry.  It took all I had to stand there and wait for the LC.  The LC finally showed up and offered to show us how to use the pump and the SNS in a postpartum room.  I'm glad she did.  She taught us how to put together all the finicky parts of the starter SNS and gave us formula.  She said something that I will never forget.  I was crying and she looked at me and said, "Oh honey, I am so sorry. The system has failed you."  Great, the system may have cost us our breastfeeding relationship.  My sweet Kurt took a sick day the following day to teach me how to use the SNS.  We were up for every feeding that literally took an hour and a half, EACH TIME.  We nursed for 20-30 minutes first, then got the SNS with .5 oz. of formula in it and fed again, then I pumped for 15 minutes.  By the time it was all said and done all those steps took an hour and a half.  We did this for 5 weeks.  By the end of 5 weeks I was still only pumping about 10ml and was seriously close to depression.  I contacted Dr. Jack Newman in Canada to find out about taking some prescription drugs to help my supply.  Dr. Newman told me he wasn't a fan of pumping like I had been because of how discouraging it is to see such a tiny amount of milk.  I took that as my permission to stop the crazy schedule I'd been keeping.  I couldn't do it anymore.  There was one thing I could continue to do though, and that was nurse with the SNS.

I chose to continue using the SNS because it allowed me to still nurse which was a closeness I yearned for with my precious babe.  I continued the supplements and the prescription but I stopped pumping for every feeding.  Oliver and I still nurse with the SNS.  He is still breastfeeding and I estimate he gets about 10 oz. of breast milk from me every day.

My premie is now close to 10 months old.  He is strong, happy, growing, and full of love and curiosity.  He is doing well and has given my life meaning.  I still do not know why he was born early.  I pray that Oliver's brothers and sisters will be full term babies, but I am so thankful for my sweet, content Oliver.  There's our premie story.  I hope you enjoyed reading about the defeats and victories that have brought us to where we are today.


  1. You are right, mama, the system failed you. My hospital has a huge program on nursing pre/near termers. I am sorry I didn't contact you sooner. It's so hard to know what to say.

  2. Oh gosh, Denise. I have appreciated all your help along the way! Don't apologize. I actually forgot to mention I had one LC that didn't return my call and saw another one at my ped's office- plus the one I mentioned at the hospital.

    I think it's GREAT that your hospital gives so much information and support to moms w/ early babes. I think I just slipped through the cracks because he wasn't mega early and seemed fine. It's sad but true.

    Thanks for reading our story.