Thursday, August 2, 2007

A Safe Place

I finally had milk. My son's great latch was back. Things were looking up. Then, our first day alone together, Peter began projectile vomitting. At ten days old, he was admitted to Children's Hospital, with surgery to follow the next day.

The doctors ordered me to quit feeding him, and I knew they were right. His pyloric stenosis (a hardening of the valve leading to the intestines) was closing, and the more I fed him, the more he threw up. Plus, I didn't want to place him at risk for aspiration in his surgery. A pacifier and constant cuddling were his comforts, and an IV was his nutrition. Meanwhile, I pumped.

While I pumped, I read some literature which Children's gives to all nursing mothers. Included was a section on how crucial the first two weeks of a baby's life are to building milk supply. It described in terms I no longer remember how getting it wrong at this stage could lead to a supply problem for the rest of the breastfeeding relationship.

Yikes! In the midst of our emergency room arrival and admission, I let seven hours pass without nursing or pumping. Could that have a permament effect? I wondered. And the pacifier-- and Peter's not being able to latch on to me for the next few days-- will Peter forget how to breastfeed? Adding to my fears, my milk supply dwindled each time I pumped. I blame stress and sleep deprivation.

Through those few days, my constant thought was, "If I could just nurse him... If I could just hold him to my breast and nurse him... I just want to go home and nurse him, and we will never want for anything again."

After the surgery, before checking out of the hospital, the doctors wanted me to re-introduce milk in small measured increments. By this point, my third day pumping, I could barely pump an ounce. I followed "doctor's orders" for the most part but at one point put Peter on my breast. I felt like my entire milk supply was at stake. (And, yes, he did throw up.)

We went home with orders to continue pumping and bottle feeding until we knew that Peter could hold down "X" ounces in one feeding. I don't remember what that magic number was. I forgot it by time I pulled out of the parking lot, because I knew I was done with pumping. I'd measure Peter's feeding in minutes, and gradually increase the minutes he nursed each session. He did not throw up again.

I well remember the comfort of coming home: plopping in the chair, holding Peter to my breast, his vigorous suckling a sign of our mutual relief. It was the first time that I experienced the relief of nursing, though I'm sure Peter knew it well. No wonder he wanted to be in my arms all the time. What a safe place, us being together.

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