Henry is learning to nurse. They want to give him a week to get breastfeeding established before beginning oral feedings with a bottle. Preemie babies don't experience nipple confusion the way a full-term baby will if you give them practice at breastfeeding first. They want me to come to the hospital for two feedings a day.
First, let me say that Henry has been doing very well for a wee 33 week preemie. He's latched on, mastered breathing and sucking as well as sucking and swallowing. He is an Olympic master. Someone should raise the American flag.
Now let me say this: Teaching a premature baby to breast feed is tedious, hair-pulling business. It is slow and often frustrating. It's all about giving them an opportunity to do something they aren't really ready for. You have to keep working at it, but you can't push too hard because too much effort will stress out your baby and you will have gotten nowhere. Even when they get kind of good at it, you need to figure out how much food they got while nursing and then supplement with either the bottle or the tube feeding. We are starting now, but it will take about two weeks before we are anywhere near having an adequately nursing baby. Even when we bring him home, he won't be stellar and we will have to carefully monitor his weight gain at the clinic for a few weeks to make sure he is getting enough calories. They just run out of energy so quickly and breast feeding takes a tremendous about of energy.
[Here is where our heroine stands shaking her clenched fists at the sky] I am so sick of doing all of this. I am tired of pumping, measuring milk output that isn't quite adequate, driving to the hospital and sitting for hours in the NICU. I don't want to have to worry about milk intake, minutes nursing, and weight gain like I did with Thomas. I want Henry to be wash-and-wear. I have done this all once before and I really feel like I've served my time. I feel like I'm on mile 18 of a 20 mile slog and I don't want to have to go another step. There is very little about this that is made better by previous experience. I appreciate that I'm not the only parent in the NICU that is going through this, or worse, but this is my temper tantrum and I'll have it, by God.
I want to give Henry a bottle. Bottling Henry would make so much easier in the short term. He could progress with his feedings whether I'm in the NICU or not. We would know how much he's taking orally at each feeding and would be able to supplement with the tube feedings as needed. I wouldn't have to worry about his weight gain as much after we've brought him home. I would know how much he is getting. Also, I wouldn't have to speak to another lactation nurse for as long as I live. There is one at the NICU who always stresses me out and makes me cry.
I know that breast milk is far and away better than formula. I know that. And that's why I'm going to keep breastfeeding until it's apparent that it isn't working. We need all of the immunities Henry can get particularly because of his prematurity. But I still wish I could quit and give this up entirely without worrying that he'll be the worse for it. It's so different with these little ones. Babies get all of their immune system stuff in the last few weeks of pregnancy. It's the same with their stores of iron, too. Premature babies don't really recover from that so they need iron supplements and the immunities from breastmilk more than a full-term baby.
It's just so hard to feel like you want to quit, but not feeling able.