Slowly, I'm getting the hang of things. I've managed to catch up on my sleep, which helps in every way. I've figured out how to take advantage of Luke's naps to get things accomplished. I've stayed pretty patient when he bawls his little head off. I'm learning, and for the most part, I'm doing just fine.
There is one area I want to work on. Breast-feeding.
Right now, Luke's addicted to the bottle. We were so eager to wean him off his nose tube that when he started taking a bottle, we made it our only goal to re-enforce that. The result? He loves the bottle, he's gaining weight, and everyone is happy. Except that I am still spending my days pump pump pumping away and every time I try to offer Luke my nipple, he acts like I'm trying to get him to put a burning pile of poo in his mouth. He pushes me away and turns beet red and flails his tiny fists at me. Let me tell you, it's not a great feeling to see your adorable baby using all his little might to try and attack you. It seems that we were a little too good at re-enforcing the bottle, and now the idea of sucking much harder to get a natural flow coming from a breast really pisses him off.
So today, I set up an appointment with a lactation consultant at the hospital. I schlepped myself and the baby and all his doodads to a 1 o'clock appointment that I hoped would crack the code and get him moving in the right direction. Luke did his part -- he got hungry right on cue and then stubbornly refused to have anything to do with my nipples. The consultant repeatedly tried shoving his little head onto my boob, only to have him scream and scream and scream. She tried a nipple shield, to no avail. She then said she had one trick left to try. I'll have to wait and see to know if i was worth the $80 session fee, but it seemed like a good start. The magic key was a tube contraption called an SNS that lets milk run down to my nipple so that there's a flow as soon as Luke starts to suckle. With that in place, we finally made some progress -- after a few hissy fits, he latched on and started sucking. We weighed him afterward and learned he'd taking in about 1.5 ounces. The consultant was pretty sure most of the milk he got was from the tube, but still, he was on my breast, sucking. That's a big step.
Then I came home and set it all up to try myself. I had trouble keeping the slippery little tube -- it's about the width of thin piece of yarn -- on my nipple and in his mouth. But! He sucked anyway! So I left it out and let him go to town, noticing how his jaw was moving the way it was supposed to and listening for gulping and swallowing sounds. Check and check. I thought my little guy was a star. Then I plopped him on the scale they sent home with me and found out that after that 20 minute session of what I thought was successful breastfeeding, he actually lost 1.2 ounces. Meaning, he expended more calories sucking than he replaced with milk. Meaning, he probably didn't get much milk, if any at all.
That was demoralizing. I'm not sure why it seemed like everything was working right only to find out he was swallowing...nothing? I don't get it. The consultant didn't have any immediate answers when I called and asked her what was up. I'm going to keep trying throughout the day and see if we get anywhere.
I am determined to breastfeed this baby. I don't want to pay for formula. I don't want to spend the next few months pumping. I know breast-milk is best. And simply put, it's just something I want to experience, a bonding thing. Or maybe a woman thing. A natural thing. I just wanna do it.
So we'll keep trying. And in the meantime, I'll keep in mind something a new friend told me -- heart babies aren't like regular infants. He's been through a lot, and it's going to be harder to do some of these things than it would be if he were a regular healthy baby. I have to give him -- and me -- time to grow and to learn.