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Human milk is the preferred food for all human newborns.

- American Academy of Pediatrics






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Allison Ousterhout

Although John Harrisís early arrival was expected, I was in no way prepared for the roller coaster of emotions involved with having a child in the NICU. He was delivered by an emergency c-section at 32 weeks due to a placental abruption. It was 12 hours before I was able to see him, and I felt so helpless seeing my baby hooked up to all the tubes and monitors.

At this point he was receiving all of his necessary nutrients from the IV fluids, but I knew that as soon as he was able to start feeding I wanted to provide him with my breast milk. I started pumping that night and continued to pump at home after I was released. I rented a hospital grade pump to ensure that my milk supply would not decrease. They began bottle feeding him when he was 3 days old, and he did really well until they starting increasing the amount. He then started his feedings through a gavage, which is a tube that goes through his nose into his stomach. Breastfeeding was a non-issue at this point, because they did not want to do anything that would stress him out or cause him to expend any energy. (He was down to 3 lbs 14oz. at this time). They gave him a pacifier during the tube feeding so that he would associate sucking with getting a full tummy. Who would have thought!

When he was 9 days old we tried putting him to my breast using a nipple shield since he could not open his mouth wide enough to latch on to my breast. We did this for 10 minutes and he did really well. We were not concerned about the amount he received but instead wanted him to get used to being at my breast. Unfortunately, the next day we had an infection scare and they ended up going back to strictly gavage feedings. I was not allowed to hold him for the next 5 days and then I developed a cold and was not allowed up to the NICU for 3 more days. Once things settled down, they allowed me to try and start the breastfeeding again. I used the nipple shield and he continued to do really well. My greatest struggle at this point was that he would fall asleep while nursing. We would supplement every nursing session with a nipple feeding. At this point he was still receiving most of his feeds from a bottle since I could not be at the hospital for every feed.

We finally brought John Harris home exactly one month after his birth. At this point he was able to latch on without the nipple shield, but was not capable of receiving a full feed without supplementing from the bottle. I was very fortunate that he was able to go from a bottle to my breast without any confusion, (What a champ!). Once I got home I really had a hard time with the breastfeeding. It was not a physical challenge, but more of a mental challenge. I could not figure out if he was getting enough, and when he would start crying an hour later, I did not know whether he was hungry, had an upset tummy, or was just tired and fussy. In addition to this I had a 2 year old at home and was also trying to manage my blood sugars, (I am a juvenile diabetic). Needless to say, I was feeling overwhelmed. I remember there was a time when I felt as though I literally had him on my breast an entire day because I did not know what else to do. I knew I needed some help and I called Cathy. She had consulted with me when I first brought my daughter home 2 years earlier.

When Cathy came out I told her my concerns and she calculated how much milk he should be receiving in a day according to his weight. She suggested I feed him 40 minutes on my breasts and then supplement with a bottle if needed. I rented a scale from her and decided that for my situation I would weigh him before his feed and after his feed to see how much milk he received from feeding on my breasts. I kept the scale until he was consistently getting the amount he was required from breastfeeding alone.

I am no longer using the scale and John Harris breastfeeds for a majority of the day. The reason I donít breastfeed for every feed is a personal choice. Since he is able to go back and forth between the bottle and breast, my husband bottle feeds him during the evening to help me out.

I am so glad that I did not give up on the breastfeeding. He is now an avid breast feeder and I am rewarded knowing that because of my efforts he is a thriving, healthy baby.

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