This happened for the first time this weekend, and it was the most beautiful thing I have ever known. It is one of the two best moments of my life–the first being when Abi was born, and the second being breastfeeding Ana for the first time! Many of you probably know the moment that I am talking about–the moment I was blessed enough to have with Abi only moments after she was born. She finally came out, screaming about how terrible the journey through the birth canal was, only to be instantly soothed by simply being placed on my chest. And slowly she made her way down to where she instinctively knew she would find comfort, opened her mouth and sucked. Whether you choose to breastfeed your children or not is your choice, and whether you are able to or not is probably not your choice, but the purpose of this is not to make breastfeeding sound superior or cast any judgement upon any mother’s circumstance. This is purely my experience, but my experience has been that this moment when your baby knows you and needs you in this most special way is the most beautiful thing. With Abi I had this from the start, but with Ana this has been something I have been waiting for for weeks.
For over 9 weeks I have exclusively pumped every 2-3 hours around the clock (okay fine you caught me, I don’t wake up every 3 hours at night!) because I decided that this was something that was important to me and to my baby. When you have a preemie as young as Anamaria, breastfeeding becomes so much more important than a personal choice. It can literally be the difference between thriving and suffering, as formula is so much harder for their tiny stomachs to digest. For this reason, all the doctors strongly encourage pumping, at least in the beginning, for babies who are as tiny as Ana was. I have kept pumping, and thankfully God has been so good in providing me with a solid milk supply. But anyone who has pumped knows that it’s usually up there with all of your least favorite things, including traffic jams and cavities being filled. But I did it, day and night, for 9 weeks wishing for the day when I could provide milk for my baby directly.
Today was that day.
Yesterday (Saturday) the nurse told me that I could start “social nursing,” meaning that I would pump right before, and then we would just let Ana lay skin to skin and see if she wanted to suck, not with the intention of actually getting anything out of it. “Babies born at Ana’s very early gestation often have trouble latching and sucking,” she reminded me, “so don’t be surprised if she just plays around and doesn’t really latch. I was prepared for this to happen. I was not prepared when, immediately after being placed on my chest, she opened her tiny mouth, latched onto me and starting sucking. The nurse was stunned. Tears welled up in my eyes as I looked at my sweet baby girl, doing exactly what her big sister had done only moments after she was born. It was the first moment that she truly felt like my baby–the baby that I had been praying for for months.
Today was even better. After 3 more “social nursing sessions,” they told me to only pump a little bit, to see what would happen if she actually started to get some milk. “Usually babies end up choking on the milk and de-satting,” her nurse reminded me. “I will be close by and we will just see how it goes.”
Once again, Anamaria Milagros has surprised us. After about 10 minutes of trying to decide what she was going to do, she made up her mind and went in for the kill. She latched on and never let go, sucking and swallowing for a good 5-10 minutes. This might not seem like very long to you, but for a 4 pound, 33 week baby girl who was born at 23 weeks this is pretty much accomplishing the impossible. Babies are not even supposed to completely develop a suck-swallow reflux until 34 weeks. This time I was 100% certain that she was drinking milk because I could clearly hear her swallowing and feel the milk letting down. I have never been more proud of her!
And, I’m not sure if you have noticed, but little miss Rockstar also came off of her little whiff of oxygen today! So she is tubeless yet again, except for the feeding tube. We’ll hope for the best oxygen-less. It wasn’t actually planned. She just did so well after being off of it during bath time, that they decided to give her a try. 11 hours later, she is still going strong.
Here are some pictures of her cute post-bath outfit…
Thank you for praying with us and sharing this journey with us! We do not doubt that your prayers have been a powerful part of our experience and we covet your continued prayers for Ana as she learns how to feed and prepares herself for life at home!
OH and Anamaria is now 66 days old and weighs 4 pounds 2 ounces!