I cannot say enough good things about the nurses and other staff at the Lehigh Valley Cedar Crest NICU. They supported and cared for Paul and I through PJ’s whole stay, and encouraged us to help take care of our baby at every opportunity.
Just a few of the standouts were Laura, who was the first one to let me pick PJ up for a second, Kathy, who chased down a doctor to sign the order ending PJ’s CPAP so I could hold him for real for the first time,
and Alyssa, who helped me make a breakthrough in teaching PJ how to eat.
Lehigh Valley advocates “infant led feeding,” which is a fancy term for paying attention to what your baby is asking you for and giving it to him. While all of the babies are on a three-hour schedule of being fed and changed, the nurses are always aware of what’s going on with each baby, and constantly watching for signs that they are ready to progress. So when Alyssa told me, “I think he’s ready to try a bottle today,” she wasn’t kidding! She handed me a tiny little bottle, and sat there with me while I awkwardly balanced the baby in a side-lying feeding position, and taught me how to pace his sips so he could breathe, and what to look for in his face and hands to know whether he wanted more or was ready to stop. And don’t you know, he took the WHOLE bottle for me! It wasn’t this first time, but a few days later Paul took my favorite NICU picture of all when PJ reached out to hold his hand while I was giving him a bottle – a beautiful family moment just in time for Father’s Day and Paul’s birthday!
“You mean you aren’t just going to put it in my belly for me anymore? How disappointing.” thing, but when he did, he REALLY did! Poor Erin was on duty the day that he took every bottle in a row for nine hours, then screamed and screamed for the next six when she gave him a break (because his breathing and heart rate showed he needed one) and used his feeding tube again and he wanted that bottle back NOW!
When that happened, silly mommy here thought, “Oh great, he’s ready to breastfeed now and I can stop pumping!” Nope. Not by a long shot. The look on his face the first time I tried nursing was hysterical, but also pretty insulting – it clearly said “Hey Mom, I don’t know what you think I’m supposed to do with those, but it ain’t happening!” Kind of like this…
By the time he graduated from the NICU, we had attempted nursing three times, and were successful once. They told me not to worry, he would get the hang of it, and they were right – eventually.