So no progress on actually nursing Johnny, but there have been some really good victories that I cannot help but feel really, really great about. I haven't even been attempting to nurse him because we are trying to work on building more of his oral muscle tone by having him use a pacifier and chewing on our finger. Our therapist suggested a gloved finger (oh, right, ok), but we have just been making sure our hands are clean before we go sticking it in his mouth. We are hoping that a little bit more of those "exercises" combined with him getting older and stronger will lead to some great success soon. And if not, pumping is going well.
In fact, pumping is going so well that I decided to drop my mid morning session. In my first session I get enough for 2.5 to 3 feeds so I figured I could stand to drop that mid morning session if it meant happier times for me and the kids by being able to get out, do some fun stuff, and not have to be at the house until after noon. It was the best feeding decision I have ever made. We have actually been able to have a normal for us schedule and I can feel the crazies leaving my head. I felt so trapped here at the house by being tied down to that session. It was making me crazy and I feel like the kids were starting to suffer because of it. When we are used to being out and about for hours at a time, being limited to a 2 hour window was interfering with a lot of our normal activities. Additionally, I knew I could pick up the session again if my supply suffered because of it. I was more than pleased to see that my body adjusted and has now doubled it's production for the next session meaning I haven't lost much milk in the process!
One of things I have been sad about not having with Johnny is that intimate contact that breastfeeding provides. Skin to skin contact is so important for their cognitive development and breastfeeding automatically builds a lot of that in. It is also important to have that time for milk production. The nurses in the NICU laughed at me when I told them I couldn't wait to get Johnny out from under the lights because I needed to smell him. They knew exactly what I meant though, we Mommies need that contact with our kids in order to increase all those hormones! I have also missed those long sweet strokes and kneading into your skin that babies do in response to long nursing sessions. Those tender touches that simply radiate with absolute bliss and love. I like to imagine them as being little "thank you mommy" signs since they can't utter it to you yet. In not having as much of that contact as a side effect of nursing, I have had to be more deliberate about taking time to snuggle him while he naps, mimicking a nursing position as much as possible while he takes a bottle, and cuddling him close when I can. I think he instinctively craves that time too. When I let him sleep on my chest he will fuss and move until he is touching my skin whether it be on my chest or wedged tight under my chin. In fact, if I am wearing a t-shirt or something without much chest "showing" he will pull at it to get some skin close to his cheek. I love that he wants to be so close to me. And in turn for not being able to knead into me, he gives me the gift of holding my hands as I feed him a bottle. He strokes my fingers and laces his through mine as he drinks his milk. It makes my heart feel good to have that loving action given to me. That little boy sure does make my heart pitter patter!
I have been wavering back and forth on contacting the milk bank about donation. I want to donate again, I love to donate our extra milk and help out teeny tines, but I am worried because of the fact that I have to exclusively pump. The Milk Bank has to commit to a lot when they accept a new donor and I don't want them to have to pay for my testing and it not be worth their time and money if I have to stop donating in order to use up my stash for Johnny. You can imagine my delight when a friend contacted me about a sweet Baby Boy she knew who was in the NICU here in town. His Mommy is pumping desperately for him, but they were in need of donor milk. My friend immediately thought of me and asked if I would be willing to donate a bit to help out. I jumped at the chance to help someone out without a long term commitment (since hopefully his Mommy will be able to take over and hopefully he will be able to nurse before long). All I needed to know was how much they needed! Because they are unsure of how much he will take and when Mommy can take over, I approximated two days worth and sent it with my friend. We found it ironic that I kept my milk cold with the ice packs given to you by the formula companies in the hospital. I felt so validated in being able to help someone out with nourishing their child since I feel I need to wait to contact about further donation. It was definitely one of those rewarding circumstances when you help others!!!
I hope to have more news on actually nursing Johnny soon, but I am happy with where we are now. Would I love for him to be nursing? Of course. But if this is how it has to be, then I am thankful for this situation too!