La Leche League Leaders

La Leche League Leaders
La Leche League Leaders

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Celebrating Paxton; A NICU, Pumping and Breastfeeding Inspirational Story!

** Guest Blog Post **
La Leche Leauge of Charleston, SC would like to thank Katie for her story of perseverance and hope!  Happy Birthday Paxton!
For support in your area, call your local La Leche League Leader too!

Celebrating Paxton; A NICU, Pumping and Breastfeeding Inspirational Story!

I had always planned on breastfeeding.  It was one of the few things that I knew for certain I wanted to do whenever I thought about having children. I found out in June 2013 that I was pregnant, and I had a rather uneventful pregnancy until December 10, 2013 when I woke up between 11:30 and midnight wet.  Great, I thought.  I peed myself!  Because the leak hasn’t like the flood that I had seen in the movies, my husband and I decided to wait to call my nurse midwife in the morning.  Little did I know that I had just experienced preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM).  I was 28 weeks pregnant.  Our son’s crib hadn’t arrived yet.
The next day, I was admitted to labor and delivery at MUSC.  Knowing that I would inevitably have a premature baby scared me.  Everyone has this vision of what the delivery of their first child will be like…cue the rainbows and butterflies and epidurals.  No one pictures isolettes, nasal cannulas, and wires. When I didn’t deliver within 24 hours of my water breaking, I was moved to a room in the antepartum unit where I would stay until I gave birth. I tried my best to keep a positive attitude and concentrated on my goal per the dry erase board in my room:  not having a baby.
Among the flurry of visiting friends, family, coworkers, residents, nurses, and doctors that I saw during my first few days in the hospital, I met with one of the lactation consultants who asked me if I planned on breastfeeding my son.  Of course I did!  She explained to me about renting a hospital grade pump so that I could pump to provide him breast milk while he was in the NICU.  It really hit me then that our birth wouldn’t be this magical time with rainbows and butterflies and baby’s breastfeeding moments after birth.  I made it a week on hospital bed rest before I gave birth to our son, Paxton, at 12:49 am on December 18th via emergency C-section.  When I was in recovery, we saw him briefly in his isolette before he was taken to the NICU.

Not too long after I arrived in my new postpartum room, I was introduced to what I would come to call my “Little Yellow Friend” aka the Medela Symphony Pump.  Pumping was definitely more difficult than I had imagined.  It was painful.  I was barely producing anything, and I wondered how I could do that for any length of time.  One of the nurses taking care of me realized that I needed larger flanges which made the whole experience so much better.  MUSC provided donor milk for my son until I was able to produce enough for him.  The day after he was born, I did kangaroo care with Paxton, and for the first time, I actually felt like his mother.  When I was discharged from the hospital, my Little Yellow Friend came home with us instead of our son.
On Christmas Eve, Paxton was moved from the NICU to the Special Care Nursery, and I was devastated because I didn’t want to leave the nurses that had become such an important part of our lives.  The good news was, however, that Paxton was getting stronger.  The Special Care Nursery was the first place that we attempted to breastfeed.  The nurses and lactation consultants were very helpful when working with us, and even though Paxton was able to latch successfully, he always fell asleep in my arms.  My husband and I continued to do kangaroo care with him almost every time that we came to see him.  
We were in the Special Care Nursery for 2 ½ weeks, Paxton was moved to the Level II Nursery in the main hospital at MUSC.  He was a feeder and grower at this point which gave us more opportunities to work on breastfeeding though he still wasn’t getting it.  Everyone told me that “something would click” when he was closer to his due date, but I was beginning to doubt it.
Pumping had become a major part of our family’s life.  I made sure that I pumped 6-8 times a day.  I kept a pumping log that I turned in when I would bring my milk in to the hospital.  Getting up in the middle of the night to pump was so hard to do, but I had to do it for Paxton.  I was on a mission since my body had failed to keep him safe inside my womb.  I didn’t feel like I had a choice.  One of my friends had warned me that pumping could be very emotional, and she was so right.  Anyone who believes that spilled milk isn’t worth crying over never pumped exclusively.  I was never a huge producer.  I got down when I compared my output to how much the pumping logs said that I should be doing.  I found an online community for exclusive pumpers on, and I learned things that helped me survive and increase my supply.  I participated in a middle of the night check-in where I posted with other ladies who were up, too, so I didn’t feel so alone when I was up with my Little Yellow Friend instead of a cuddly baby.
When I returned to work at the beginning of January, I visited Paxton every day and pumped by his bedside. A few weeks later, they began talking to us about his discharge.  It was such an emotional time as we waited for the big day.  We had two false alarms before that day finally came.  On January 26, 2014, Paxton came home, and I went out on maternity leave.
Once he was home, we got into a good routine:  feed him fortified breast milk and then pump while he slept.  I kept logs of how much he ate and how much milk I pumped.  We continued do kangaroo care because sleeping on my chest was his favorite place to be. We also continued to work on breastfeeding, but over time, he got more and more frustrated with it.  When we attempted to do it, he would scream and cry.  I would get upset and cry because yet again, my body was letting him down.   I started giving up on breastfeeding, and I made a decision in March that I would continue to pump until he was 6 months old.  

I returned to work in April, and the nightly feeding-pumping schedule killed me on my nights to feed him.  I was such a zombie at work that I didn’t think I would make it to 6 months.  An odd thing started happening right before I went back to work, though.  When Paxton was lying on my chest, he would root around like he was looking for my nipple.  I honestly laughed when it happened because I knew that if he actually tried to breastfeed, it would be a cry-fest.  On Easter Sunday, he was doing it, and I decided to let him try.  Much to my surprise, Paxton got it!  I was so happy I cried.  My son was breastfeeding!  I believe that having that skin to skin contact made the difference for Paxton. I am so proud of him for figuring out how to breastfeed and of myself (and my husband) for hanging in there. Paxton is my hero for everything that he has overcome in the short time that he has been alive.  Being able to breast feed my son has helped me to heal from some of the emotional trauma of our NICU experience, and for that, I am truly thankful.

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