Feed Das BabyPosted: July 8, 2011
Parents have to feed their kids. It’s a non-negotiable responsibility, like keeping them (marginally) clean, giving them a place to live until they’re eighteen, and teaching them that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is sheer genius but Twilight is what’s wrong with America.
From March until two weeks ago, feeding Das Baby was absolute hell.
First, a brief history: Because Das Baby was born early and tiny and had massive breathing problems, he was fed by IV for the first few weeks of his life as they gradually increased his tube feedings. Babies generally develop the ability to suck, swallow and breathe around thirty-four weeks gestation, and that’s when preemies will start bottle feeding.
At six weeks old, Das Baby got his first bottle. He haused it. Babies with breathing issues can have difficulty eating because they have to choose to breathe or eat. They always choose breathe. Not Das Baby. He chose eat, which to us was a sign that he was truly our child. It was also dangerous because he’d hold his breath while eating, sometimes until he passed out and turned blue. But we worked on that, and got him to drink responsibly. By the time of his discharge, he was taking half of his food by mouth and half by a naso-gastric tube, which Herr Husband and I learned to insert ourselves. Das Baby and I also also worked on nursing while in the NICU (I actually have pictures of that, too, but I won’t post them for fear of alienating my current reader(s) and drawing perverts to this blog.
At our first visit to the pulmonologist, Das Baby was put back on fortified breast milk. This means that I pump my boobs to make milk (I do not have any photos of my being milked by machine, so don’t ask) which then has formula(booo….) added to it to raise the calorie count, so that Das Baby gets more calories per ounce of milk consumed. The pulmonologist also said that if Das Baby couldn’t come off of the tube feedings soon, he would suggest a G-tube, which is the surgically placed tube that goes straight to the tummy.
So we got Das Baby off the NG tube. Because the pulmonologist had raised the amount of oxygen Das Baby was getting, it was actually pretty easy. We then entered a brief period of feeding bliss.
Then the squirming while eating began. Das Baby would vigorously shake his head from side to side while being offered the bottle, as if to say, no, no, no f-ing way! Unfortunately, oral aversion in preemies is common, especially if they’ve had breathing apparatus for an extended time (like their whole lives). So we called the pediatrician, who said that it was normal preemie reflux, and that we could try meds if it got worse. Then Das Baby wouldn’t be held while eating, so we had to start feeding him in a swing or bouncy. This was worse, so we put him on Zantac, then Prilosec. Then he started screaming and crying sometimes while eating. And sometimes gagging and projectile vomiting. Reflux, we were told. Then he started refusing some meals. Reflux, and he was still gaining weight, so we shouldn’t worry. Then his weight gain slowed. Reflux. Then stopped. Unfortunate, but reflux. Herr Husband suggested several times that we should stop the fortifier and see if that helped. But the doctors wanted him to get more calories, not fewer, and I was afraid to go against their advice. If it were the fortifier, they said, we’d see it as a lower GI problem.
Then in early June, we finally saw the feeding specialist we’d been waiting since April to see. “Has anyone ever considered an allergy?” We decided to try a dairy free formula for Das Baby and a dairy-free diet for me. For those of you who know me, you know there is no greater sacrifice I could make than cheese, yogurt and ice cream. This, I tell you, is a mother’s love.
It worked. He’s still not putting on weight as fast as we’d like (and is still down from a month ago), but he’s eating. Feedings take twenty-five minutes instead of an hour and twenty-five minutes. He doesn’t gag and vomit. He doesn’t cry. I don’t cry.
Seriously, it’s a miracle. I feel like I have my life back. If you had given me a choice between having him off of oxygen and having him eat better, I would have picked eat (again with the picking eating over breathing. What is it with this family?) That’s how bad it was.
While Herr Husband might hope that the lesson here is that I should listen to him more often, I think the lesson is actually that I should listen to Das Baby. It’s not that the professionals who take care of him were wrong, but they didn’t know. They hadn’t seen him eat. So when it comes to the next issue, I’m not going to assume the professionals know because they’ve seen a thousand babies like Das Baby. Because no baby is exactly like Das Baby, and no one knows Das Baby better than I do.