Saturday, May 20, 2006

All hail the nipple shield!

I can only imagine the Google searchers who will head my way as a result of this title, but it's absolutely true. The nipple shield has been our salvation in the last few days. Suggested by one of the hospital lactation consultants, it has made breastfeeding an entirely different -- and much more successful -- experience.

How successful, you ask? Well, that little piece of silicon is responsible for the fact that, barring any unforseen events in the next 12 hours, sweet Ess will be coming home tomorrow. I am hesitant about even typing those words for fear of a jinx, but we just got back from the hospital and all is well. Ess is nursing like a champ, curling her little hand around my breast and grunting in contentment as she eats. When she's done nursing, she gets a bit more breastmilk in a bottle, and when I'm not at the hospital, she gets her whole meal from the bottle.

I was wary of going the bottle route for fear of nipple confusion (may as well get all these hot-button phrases in one post), but everyone from the pediatrician to the lactation consultants to our friend the doula said that preemies just aren't strong enough to get all their food via nursing. I doubted much of the advice because it was coming from people with agendas, most of which revolved around getting us out of the hospital as soon as possible -- a goal I appreciated, but not if it meant a lifetime of pumping. But a long conversation with our friend J., a doula who has worked with tons of families with multiples, meaning lots of small, early babies, convinced me that we could do a combination of breast and bottle.

And she was right. Since we introduced the bottle a few days ago, we haven't looked back. Ess is over her birth weight today, and she seems to have no problem going back and forth between the Avent bottles and the breast -- wherever there's food, she's happy to be there. This morning when we got to the hospital, they'd removed her feeding tube, and at her next diaper change we were able to take off the remaining wires that were monitoring her heartrate and respiration. She nursed for 20-30 minutes each time we fed her today, and followed that with a tiny bit of breastmilk from a bottle each time.

This evening, we gave her a bath. And when we left an hour ago, she was strapped into her brand new carseat for the 90-minute test all preemies get to make sure they can breathe when they're in the seat. We'd been hoping that she would get to come home in the next few days, but were surprised this morning to hear that it'd be tomorrow as long as nothing surprising happened between now and then. So my sister and brother-in-law made a run to the Evil Baby Superstore and Tarjay to stock us up on diapers, wipes and other essentials. Armed with our debit card and a brochure from the hospital, they also had to select a carseat; they ended up getting what the car-seat-expert nurse said was her favorite seat. And during the afternoon, D and his parents headed over to the unfinished furniture store to buy a dresser for Ess's room.

Thanks to my parents, who left this morning, any number of household chores have been completed. My mom finished altering the curtains I started when, unbeknownst to me, I was in pre-term labor two weeks ago, cleaned our bathroom, cooked for us every night and provided a shoulder on which I cried many a hormonal tear. And my dad not only hung shades in Ess' room, installed a phone jack to take care of the protruding wires and replaced our crappy back door, but he and my brother-in-law also quickly and efficiently replaced the porcelain bathroom sink I managed to shatter a few hours after being discharged from the hospital (word to the wise: do not use a glass bowl to wash your pumping supplies in a porcelain sink, especially when you are doped up on oxycodone).

So all we have left to do tomorrow morning is do a quick run to the grocery store, throw some laundry in and put together the co-sleeper. This evening, we sat on the couch with the pooches and shared a toast to what is potentially the last child-free night in our home (D had a glass of wine, and I had a thimbleful). We can not wait to bring little Ess home; it's amazing to think she's spent her entire life thus far -- all 10 days of it -- in the hospital. Now we get to show her the wide, amazing world, and begin our lives together beyond the watchful eyes of her nurses and the tyranny of the hospital schedule. We can. not. wait.


I will try to put up a quick post tomorrow with an update, but I can't make any promises... And I also want to say a hearty THANK YOU to all of you who commented about the difficulty of breastfeeding. It's one of those things ahout which I had absolutely no idea before the last 10 days, and your support and words of encouragement (and shared misery!) were really helpful.