Wednesday, August 31, 2011
There's No Place Like...
That's right folks. Kaia came to live at our humble abode on Sunday, August 28th, Day 50 of life (aka, a 7 week plus 1 day stay in the NICU). She came home weighing 2735 grams (which I think is like 6 lbs 1 oz).
And so far it's been...well, I don't want to say 'rough', but I will admit it hasn't been all sunshine and roses. Don't get me wrong, she is wonderful and great and I'm so glad to have her home and be able to function more like a normal family, whose members all live under one roof...but Kaia has come home with some feeding issues. These feeding issues have kept both Brian and I awake for the better part of 3 days. And people, let me tell you, no baby is cute after 3 days with barely any sleep. And the 'small' problem of feeding seems like a HUGE deal at 3 am when you're afraid your baby is not getting enough milk.
Let's go back to last week, Wednesday. Kaia had been off the low flow for almost a week at that point and when I arrived at the NICU after my morning dental appointment (No cavities, I'm such a superstar), the staff informed me that Kaia had been doing well with her feeds overnight. Her nurse then said cheerily "so you want to take her home?!" Now, had I been there to witness this stellar feeding behaviour perhaps my answer would have been a resounding "YES"...but since I had yet to witness Kaia take either a full bottle or a full breast feed, I was somewhat hesitant. She didn't seem ready to consistently take all the milk she needed to without needing to be tube fed. Plus we hadn't mastered breastfeeding yet, and I really wanted to get that skill under her belt. However, if she could feed well for the nurses...that would mean she could do it for us too right?
The answer, as we found out over the next few days, was 'sometimes'. I stayed over in the care by parent room on Thursday night, doing all the care for Kaia. The plan was that Brian would then stay over Friday with us both and we'd go home Saturday. Well Thursday night was an epic failure. Kaia was NOT taking her full feeding volumes, either by bottle or by breast. And we were both getting massively frustrated. I didn't sleep all night. So Friday afternoon I told the nurses that I didn't think she was ready, that I was going to go home, get some sleep and we'd try again Saturday night with both Brian and I there to do her cares. It felt awful heading home without her. Her issue was that she would latch at the breast, but not suck for long. She would take a bottle but start choking and coughing and occasionally turn a bit blue (SCARY AS FUCK when you have no resuscitation equipment sitting beside the baby's bed). I didn't feel she was ready, and with no sleep I didn't feel equipped to handle another night of frustration.
So Saturday rolls around and after a good night's sleep both Brian and I show up to the NICU and are informed that Kaia has done wonderfully bottle feeding overnight and they really do think she's ready for home. With both of us there to spell each other off and a great nurse to (figuratively) hold our hands, Saturday night went 'okay'. Kaia seemed to feed a bit better and her nurse worked with us coaching us on breastfeeding. It seemed to help and we all got a bit of sleep that night. So Sunday morning we packed up our stuff, waived good bye to the nurses and headed out the door.
To home...where Kaia's feeding behaviour has been ALL over the place for the last 3 days. Sometimes she seems to do well on the breast, other times we give in and are practically BEGGING her with a bottle to PLEASE JUST TAKE SOME!!! It's been scary and nerve racking and I hate that feeding has become such an issue.
So I wasn't surprised at her two day post discharge weigh in yesterday to find she had only gained 10 grams in two days. Generally they like babies to gain between 20-30 grams per day...so Kaia was behind, by quite a bit. The lactation consultant came in and watched me breastfeed (good position, good latch, good suck), but acknowledged that Kaia did not suck for long enough and seemed to tire quickly. She also urged us to stay away from bottles if we wanted to exclusively breastfeed...bottles deliver milk about 5x faster than the breast and some babies, learning they don't have to work so hard at a bottle, will just clamp down, refuse the breast and hold out for the bottle. Ah humans...programed from birth to take the easy way out. Awesome.
With the lactation consultants help we have been doing an alternate feeding method over this last day: finger feeding. Finger feeding is slower than bottle feeding so she won't choke, and requires the sucking action of breastfeeding so she learns she has to work to eat. It's where you have a bottle of milk and a tube that comes from that bottle to lay up against your finger. You place the finger and the tube in the baby's mouth and the baby sucks, basically drawing milk up the tube like a straw, with your finger acting as a support to latch on to. It has been WORKING!!! And since last night Kaia has been taking around about her 'full feed' volume of 55 mls every 3 hours and sleeping in between and waking up for feeds! Thank goodness!
The process however is quite labour intensive. I continue to have to pump (crummy!!), pumping stuff needs to be washed, finger feeding bottles and tubes have to be washed and oh yeah, Kaia needs to get fed and her bum changed somewhere in there too. The whole process takes anywhere from an hour or two, so sleep is a big issue. It is SO labour intensive, and Brian and I are SO tired from our 3 days of lack of sleep, that we took shifts last night. He stayed awake and fed her from 11 pm until 4 am and then I woke up and let him go to bed until noon. Then I had a nap when he got up. Thankfully Brian is taking some of my parental leave time (4 weeks) so he'll be around to help me for awhile.
Which is why I have the energy to update you today! We are going to persist with the finger feeding for a few days, and will go to visit a lactation consultant on Friday to get some tips about switching back to breastfeeding. We also have another 'weight check' on Saturday, so I'm hoping to pull in some BIG numbers that day.
It's been hard to just 'enjoy' her now that she's home, with the lack of sleep and the stress of trying to get her to eat, but I hope that soon we'll get into a better routine, Kaia will be strong enough to breastfeed consistently and life will be good again.
Thanks for caring about us everyone. It was nice to see that you'd noticed my absence. Sorry it's been so long between updates. I'll try to do better in the future (sleep permitting).
If you have some baby war stories you'd like to share I'd love to read them! It's hard to keep sight of the fact that things do improve when you're 'in the trenches'.