Of course, even though we moved the tube to his nose to prevent him from tonguing it out, this wily one always finds ways. In this video, he had one minute ago been seemingly motionlessly pressed up against Kraemer's chest and the next covered in milk that was spewing out from the feeding tube he'd somehow yanked from his nose. This is the aftermath; he wore himself out fighting having it replaced and is left to ponder his existence.
I worried (based on nothing any doctor or nurse had said, of course) that all this movement out suggested he wasn't picking up on the need to create movement in, to suck.
I’m still in wait-and-see mode, but at the moment, he is showing signs of both the “rooting” and “sucking” reflexes, two reflexes that promote the ability to breastfeed. We noticed Calder would go after his blankets with his mouth when they brushed up against him, making it look like he thought his swaddling blanket would make for a good breakfast! Our nurse explained that this was “rooting.” The rooting reflex prompts the baby to move his head toward your hand when you stroke his cheek or the corners of his mouth and is designed to help the baby find the nipple. To master breastfeeding eventually, though, he’ll need to root, suck, swallow and breathe, which requires a fair amount of coordination. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Despite the increases in his feeds – he is now up to 16 mLs per hour – it’s doubtful he’ll ever need all the milk I've pumped. While just weeks into his birth the lactation specialist recommended against donating, two deep freezers full later, it’s time.
When Calder was still so little and unstable, and everything seemed more uncertain that I thought possible, the uncomfortable natural reminder that I needed to pump when I was behind schedule could have me in tears wondering “what if.” What if Calder wouldn't need my milk in the future, but this reminder remained? A little dramatic it seems now, to be sure, but not then, to my emotional self. Would donating be something I’d feel obligated to do, but didn't want to, something that would augment rather than alleviate my grief? The thought felt selfish.
A colleague recently sent around a poignant article published in O! Magazine that struck a chord with me. Providing breast milk has been one of the only things I felt I could do for Calder, at least in the early stages, and I can only imagine how it might feel to not even be able to do that for longer than a few days when you so desperately want to help.
I've decided to donate via the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, a collection of nonprofits that follows specific standards and processes when it comes to facilitating donations. They require donors to be screened first over the phone, then complete a written interview, have their doctor sign off on their health, have the baby’s doctor sign off on the baby’s health, and complete a blood test for HIV, among other things. There are only 14 banks nationwide that belong to the HMBANA, and none of these are in DC. It took some doing (a long and boring saga), but I’m now fairly well into the process of donating to the bank in Austin, from which Inova Fairfax gets most of its milk, so I expect that a lot of it will wind up back in the hospital where Calder is being cared for.
As young as he is, Calder’s system is still getting used to digesting milk, and he’s been a little bit grumpy the last couple of days working some things out. It’s not unusual for a baby to have trouble digesting lactose, which could be present in higher levels due to the amount of milk I produce, but there are a number of other foods that could be giving him trouble. It’s nearly impossible to pinpoint the culprit quickly, and the doctors have been hesitant to tell me change anything in my diet just yet. It’s also common for a baby to grow out of these reactions as he gets older.
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