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 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'.


  1. Wow, I'm so happy she is home. I had been wondering how things were going. I hope her feeding continues to improve and that she can be breastfed exclusively soon and you both start getting more sleep.

    More pictures of her please!

  2. oh I'm so glad to hear she's home feeding issues and all!!

  3. I'm crying great big tears of joy for you right now! I can't believe that your sweet baby is finally home with you guys! Congrats once again!

    Hang in there. She will get it soon and things will start to become much more normal!

    Lots of love xoxox

  4. Seems so rare anyone can bring a baby home from hospital, premmie or otherwise, and not have any feeding problems. It is SO hard and as you say, when you're in the trenches it is hard to imagine things will improve. But they will. One way or another, eventually, they will.
    When we brought Angus home from hospital, my nipples were mutilated, for lack of a better term! Practically chewed right off due to some bad advice in hospital and incorrect positioning. And things just got worse when I got home, despite hundreds of dollars spent on a private lactation consultant.
    I ended up using a nipple shield for three weeks to let my nipples heal. It was still hard when I used the shield as my flow slowed down so he was feeding more meaning I was getting less rest, but once the cracks and grazes healed, things did get better. People told me it would be six weeks before it got "easy" but for us it was more like 12. But hey, we got there in the end. Bloody hard work at the time, but I look back on it now and it seems as if it went so fast!
    Soooo happy to get this update. I've been hanging out to hear if Kaia was home or not. I'm so thrilled, as we're home with our (second) rainbow baby now as well. Our pregnancies followed the same time line, but I know were anything but similar. But we both made it and we both have our little girls at home where they belong. I'm so very happy for you.

  5. She is the cutest thing ever!!! So glad she is home where she can be with her mum and dad. Wyatt was 11lbs at birth and i still freaked out about my supply, he was 10lbs when we left the hospital.

    You seem to be the type that reads all the manuals especially by just using rolled up towels instead of the ones you can buy in the store. my rule is to never use anything that doesn't come with the car seat (barring any receiving blankets for head support or one in front of the crotch buckle to prevent slouching. Anyways it is nice to see a baby properly restrained in a car seat. I would move the chest clip up higher so the straps are more on her shoulders if possible

    Best of luck!

  6. I'm so so happy to see an update! I was hoping sleep was the only thing keeping you from posting, and I'm glad that was correct.

    Although I'm sorry that you're not getting much sleep! Thanks for the update =)

  7. Oh wow, great to hear you are all at home! It's such a weird feeling after only being able to visit your baby at the hospital for so long, then poof- she's home and it's kind of shocking, isn't it?

    Feeding a former NICU baby proved difficult in my case as well. It took a lot of patience, then a big re-adjustment of my priorities, but 8 months later he is doing well and packing on the pounds.

    Take care of yourself and your pumping/sleeping/eating schedule as well. It's amazing how quickly a once abundant milk supply can go downhill. I'm sure you will all settle into a routine soon. There are a lot of changes for all three of you to have to deal with. Good luck and enjoy it!

  8. I've been wondering how you all are, but absolutely understand not having the time to update.

    I'm sorry about the feeding issues and lack of sleep, but so glad to see that sweet girl is home with her mama and daddy.

    Continue to care for yourself as well as her.

  9. Hi! I've been reading your blog for a few months, but this is the first time I've commented.

    My son was born in January at 36 weeks, weighing 5 lbs 4 oz, and in the hospital he dropped down to 4 lbs 12 oz. We had a lot of trouble feeding him at first as well. For the first 24 hours, he couldn't latch properly, so we did cup-feeding and finger feeding. The second day, he figured out the latch, and I was like, great, we're all set. Then the third day, my milk came in, and I was so engorged that he had trouble latching again.

    Anyway, things were kind of downhill from there - once he figured out how to latch on again, he'd lost so much weight that eating tired him out, and he would only stay latched & sucking for a minute or two. The lactation consultant said that he was burning as many calories just sucking as he was getting from my milk. We'd come home from the hospital on a Thursday, and I spent the weekend feeding him as often as I could. Monday, we brought him to the lactation clinic and discovered that he'd only gained a few ounces over the weekend. I was beside myself - not only had I had an early and unexpected c-section and I was dazed with postpartum hormones, but now I couldn't even get my kid to eat!

    The LC gave us a nipple shield, and that is seriously what saved our breastfeeding relationship. It meant that my son didn't have to expend as much energy trying to get milk, and as a result he would feed for longer. He started gaining weight like crazy, and at 6 weeks he weaned off the nipple shield. And just 5 minutes ago I finished nursing my 18 lb 7 month old to sleep.

    But yeah - problems with feeding are SO HARD. You're frustrated, te baby's frustrated, you feel like you're failing at one of the most fundamental requirements of parenting.

    But it will get better. I know that sounds trite and stupid now, but I promise that it will get better. If you decide to continue breastfeeding, there will come a time, probably not too many weeks from now, when you wonder, "when did this become so easy?", and you will never look back.

    - Anne

    (I blog at - this blogspot account is an old one that I don't use anymore)

  10. I too am happy to see an update, I was concerned!

    I've said it before but I'll say it again, I brought home a mundanely full-term infant and still found it all really difficult. I had supply issues, and it was exhausting and oh ... the nursing (I was nursing), the pumping, the supplemental feeders (and then later the bottle) and all the cleaning and as you say, time to start all over again. I remember being up in the evenings (no, I mean, 3 a.m.) and I would lay my little guy on the kitchen counter (!) while I was dropping stuff in the sink to wash later. Oh, the exhaustion and the frustration (in my case with supply problems).

    Hang in there, it really does get better, and I hope your experience will be like mine in that several years out, well, you won't have forgotten but neither will it feel all-consuming the way it does when you are going through it. And if you can get any help from anyone, anywhere, with anything, please accept. I was lucky to have my mom around and more than once handed my son to her and said, "I'm going to take a nap, I don't care what happens, I don't want anyone to disturb me for 2 hours." Bliss.

  11. Hello,

    I've been reading your blog for a while and am so glad to see that your precious baby girl is home and healthy. I did want to say though that you had mentioned her having an issue with her head shape in one of your posts and that you hoped people wouldn't look at her and wonder if something was wrong with her. I have to say I have looked at all the pictures you've posted of her and I think her head looks fabulous. I would never think her head was a weird shape or anything. In fact, the picture of her with a green onesie on - she looks so cute; I just want to squeeze her little cheeks. She is adorable. And actually, all my babies had these huge fat heads and were bald, so you can just imagine what that looked like. :) I wanted to share a breast feeding war story with you that hopefully will make you laugh. With my 2nd child, I had a schedule C-section and I had to take some kind of medicine to stimulate my bowels and I was laying in bed and nursing my son and it caused my uterus to contract - which then caused my bowels to contract - which then had me trying to heave my fat and just operated on self off my bed and try to run to the bathroom (I'm still holding my son by the way who is still trying to nurse and my boob is like hitting him all over the face) and of course I couldn't make it in time and literally shit myself. I was so embarrassed; I didn't want to ask anyone for help and I didn't want to quit feeding my son because it took him forever to latch on. After that, I wouldn't nurse anywhere in public, unless it was in the bathroom on the toilet - just in case.

  12. I am so, SO glad that she is finally home with you. I hope the feeding continues to improve. Take care of yourself, too, Emily!

  13. Not much to say other than when I saw you had updated I opened it as fast as my computer would let me! So happy you guys are home!

  14. I'm so happy Kaia is home with you (adorable pic!), and you have my full sympathy about the feeding issues. My first several weeks of breastfeeding were highly stressful (oh, how I love nipple creme!) and that was without all the extra concerns you have to deal with.

    You're doing so well with the pumping and the feeding. I hope it gets much easier very soon.

  15. I am so glad that Kaia is home :) and babies are not easy but I can tell you it does get easier.

    I nursed twins for the first 6 months, no bottles allowed unless a family member had to babysit then I used the playtex bottles with the disposable liners along with the breast milk I pumped.

    For the first 2 weeks of the twins life, they lost weight, they were born at 5 pounds 8 ounces and 5 pounds 9 ounces at 36 weeks. But at the end of 2 weeks they were more like 4.5 pounds. It took a while for me and the babies to get breastfeeding down, I thought it should have been more simple. And my daughter basically used me as a pacifier, she would always fall asleep right after latching on, it took forever for her to feed, it seemed like I had a baby attached to me at all times, but it did get easier, I think after that 2 week period, they finally got it down, and so did I. I encouraged my daughter to take a pacifier, her brother already did, so she wasn't on me constantly.

    Good Luck to you, I am so glad she is home
    Oh, and along with breastfeeding I suffered through cracked nipples and mastitis a few times, the joy of motherhood :)

  16. I'm beyond happy that she's home with you guys! I can't believe it!

    We did not have an easy time breastfeeding. She seemed to latch fine in the hospital, but shortly after coming home I just had unbearable pain. I ended up having mastitis TWICE, thrust (twice), she had tongue tie...pretty much anything that can happen, did. And on top of all that, she wasn't gaining. That led go a schedule of nurse, offer bottle, pump. That routine took about an hour and a half...and she wanted to eat every two hours, day and night. So I had half an hour at any given time to sleep, eat, shower, do whatever. That lasted about three weeks. Thank god it's over now!