Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Breastfeeding a sick baby in the hospital

A baby is the most precious gift in the world. If you struggled to carry a successful pregnancy (like me) or if you struggled to get pregnant, then you know that holding your newborn is like holding a miracle. In fact it IS holding a miracle. I remember while I was pregnant with Pooker (I did the same thing with Kit Kat) EVERY morning I would cradle my growing belly, in my arms, and have a conversation. I would say the same thing each morning, I made the same promise every time. Not too many people know what I am about to tell you...... But in honor of World Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day (October 15) I thought it would be a good time to share.

(and yes I still remember word for word)

"Hello my little Sticky Bean (replace Sticky Bean for Lover Bean when I was preg with Kit Kat.) You are loved, wanted and needed. I need you to be strong and brave for Mommy. I need you to hang in there and grow healthy. You can do it, I know you can. I am here, you are in there and we can do this together. I will fight if you fight. As soon as you get out of there, we will shake on it." Every once in a while I would get a strong kick at the end of our "conversation" as if to say "yes mommy!"

So when Pooker was ACTUALLY born (41 hours long!) holding her seemed so surreal. So surreal in fact, I forgot to shake her hand and complete our deal. It wasn't until she was 3 days old that I remembered our deal........ while she laid in the metal prison, known as the Children's Hospital crib, with a dozen wires sticking out of her, a spinal tap needle mark on her back, a dozen or more xray results being waited on, medicine being given, her catheter being removed, monitors and alarms every where..... and two scared parents watching.

(I did get my hand shake in. As soon as I remembered.... I slipped in between the nurses and reminded Pooker of our deal. I told her to hang in there, to be strong and brave. I reminded her that Mommy was here and so was she. And that was the way it was suppose to be, I reminded her of our promise.)

I was so scared that I was the reason she was in the hospital, as all the problems began as soon as my milk came in. So I only wanted to pump. I had convinced myself (in a very short amount of time) that I would be EXCLUSIVELY pumping and that I would never again actually "breast" feed. In my sleep deprived mind I was okay with this.

But let me rewind a little bit. We took Pooker to the ER, for a far different reason for what she was rushed to Scottish Rite. She had some bloody poops and we were concerned about that. (Which thankfully turned out to be fine. She had pooped sooooo many times, in the first 48 hours, that she had a little tiny tear, which is what caused some blood.) But while we were there, my husband mentioned that she had stopped breathing while nursing. (Which looking back should have been a HUGE RED FLAG.... but we were previously told it was probably nothing as some babies can do that.) That is when our world went speeding by at the speed of light. We were rushed into a room and waited for a doctor. Fastfoward an hour or so and we were getting into an ambulance and being rushed to CHOA.

For the first 2 days I pumped like a mad woman! Every two hours (around the clock.) At night, I would "sleep" for an hour, wake up, go to the nurses station, get the pumped milk from the last "session", warm it up, feed Pooker, put her back to sleep, assemble the breastpump, begin pumping, fill out the little stickers with Pooker's name, room number, time and date, bring the fresh nummies to the nurses station, go back to our room, clean the supplies and go back to "sleep." Exhausting? Yes... but I was a machine, on cruise control. I did what I had to do, as my promise to Pooker. (All the while battling the dozen or so wires and sensitive monitors attached to her, and her tiny little arm all wrapped up, to her elbow, in tape keeping some kind of monitor on her. She was so wrapped up, her arm was as hard as a cast.)

(We never left Pooker's side. During her whole stay we stayed together. My husband and I shared a twin size pull out couch. Leaving her there, all alone, never even crossed or minds.)

I did, however, feel "safe" to breastfeed on day 3 of her hospital stay. All credit goes to the awesome Lactation Consultant there. She spent hours with us, each day. She even gave me her cell phone number, told me to call her when I was about to nurse and she would come rushing. She even put a sign on the room door, "Breastfeeding Mother". That way no one would come in with "unwelcomed" food.

I am happy to say that although Pooker was very sick for a long time, our breastfeeding relationship was mended. (wahoooooo)

If you are one of the "unlucky" Mummies who finds herself breastfeeding a sick baby (in a hospital) here are some tips.

*First I HOPE your hospital is breastfeeding friendly. (Most children hospitals are.... Children's Health Care of Atlanta even feeds breastfeeding Mummies for free. I was able to order all my meals from the cafeteria and they were 100% covered.) If your hospital is bfing friendly...... then that is half of the battle.

*It is important to let EVERYONE who works there know that your baby is breastfed only. Let them know that you CHOOSE to have nothing enter your baby's tummy but your Nummie's (well and maybe the medicine too.) Ask for a sign, for your door, that states you are a breastfeeding mother. That way there is NO question.

*Stay with your baby as long as you can. If you have to leave your baby, remember to pump as much as possible. Bring all the milk you pumped with you each time you visit your baby. Have the nurses store the breastmilk in their station... that way your nummie lover will have your nummies even when you are not there.

*Know how the breastpumps work! Just in case..... Those things have a crazy amount of attachments. It will save you time and energy if you know how they work BEFORE you need one.

*Get the pump ready for the next "session" when you are done using it. Clean the attachments, get the bottles and labels ready. This will help save you time and knowing that everything is ready and set to go will help ease some stress.

*Get to know the nurses and staff. These are the people who will be saving your babie's life.

*Know the layout of the Children's level, know where the Nurse's Station is, know where the waiting area is (they normally have the vending machines with ice, juice, water, microwave, ect) close by there.

*DON'T let a doctor tell you "oh I will be right back" when he walks in and sees you nursing..... cause his "right back" is like 3 hours later. Tell him to come in, you don't mind.

* Ask for the Lactation Consultant. With luck you will find her to be the biggest hero, like I did.

* Be the voice for your baby. Be the voice for your baby. BE THE VOICE FOR YOUR BABY.

*Ask for help. Ask the first person you see.

*Hold your baby, as often as possible. I REFUSED to let Pooker lay in the crib for any amount of time. To me..... if we were going to lose our miracle, we were going to lose her in our arms. NOT in the cold metal crib. Don't let someone tell you "you are going to spoil that baby." Well when you find yourself in a children's hospital with your 3 day old baby..... you can choose to let her be in the crib. BUT WE WILL HOLD OUR BABY. (Yes a staff made that comment to us... luckily it didn't come from a doctor or nurse.)

*Most importantly try to stay positive. This was VERY hard for us in the beginning. Trusting other people to "fix" our baby was so difficult. Trying to cope with what was happening, trying to heal from JUST giving birth, and not knowing what the outcome was going to be was the worst. Luckily I had my husband, who NEVER left our side (well okay he did leave to get himself some food, but that was all.) You will need a "rock" to help get you through.

Did you experience a situation like ours? Was your hospital supportive? Unsupportive? Do you have any other tips for other Mummies?


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