My son was born a full term thought to be healthy baby. The first few hours after his birth were perfectly magical. We did skin to skin, nursed, and snuggled. Around 2 am the nurse alerted me that something may be wrong, his blood sugar was very low. He was nursing well so we weren’t sure what the cause was. They told me to give it 2 hours and we would retest him. I continued to nurse hoping his sugar would rise. Unfortunately, when we did a recheck, his level was even lower and a doctor was called.
Around 6 am, 12 hours after his birth, he was taken to the NICU to begin a series of tests and treatment. We weren’t able to go with him immediately but were brought in an hour later. My big boy looked so tiny surrounded by all of the wires they had hooked him up to.
A little while after we got there, a doctor came in to tell us they wanted to put a tube in his nose to be sure exactly how much he was eating. We consented and the tube was placed a little while later.
I had been nursing my 2 year old throughout pregnancy so I was able to pump for my son. The NICU was awesome about getting me a pump, and making sure to use that milk whenever possible. For the first day, he was fed entirely through that tube and I only pumped.
On the second day, we were able to try nursing. We struggled greatly with latching as he had a severe tongue tie which was eventually clipped in the NICU. He wasn’t taking much via nursing but his sugars were beginning to stabilize and we keep pushing along.
A few hours before his tie was clipped, he yanked out the tube. It was determined he no longer needed it and we began to only nurse, or so I thought. He would scream and thrash at the breast. He was only soothed by a bottle of formula. I was pumping, nursing, and feeding tiny bottles of formula trying to keep my son happy and keep his sugars stable. I later learned that being fed via tube satisfies them instantly so it took some time to get him adjusted to the flow of milk from the breast.
Our time in the NICU was thankfully short, but unexpected and scary. I learned in that short time to be my son’s advocate. Looking back, I wish I had been more assertive. It took us over 2 weeks once home to become exclusively breastfed. His stomach was so used to instant satisfaction and it took a lot of time, tears, and visits to a good lactation professional to wean from the formula.
Today my son is happy and healthy. Our NICU experience gave me a new appreciation for how difficult breastfeeding truly can be. It also made me secure in my thought that fed is best, and regardless how my son was fed all that really mattered was his health. Should you find yourself in the NICU please immediately ask for a pump and a lactation visit. Please make your wishes known, they are there to best meet the needs of your child. Unexpected birth experiences are terrifying but with proper support you can still meet your nursing goals!