When your baby is in the NICU, there are all sorts of physical changes that the mother goes through that just kind of get overlooked.
One of those changes is the breast milk coming in.
After a few days, it sort of hit me – at some point, my breast milk is going to come in and what do I do with it?
Hudson was being fed through a series of tubes, a bag of protein that looked like Mountain Dew and a syringe of fat. A few nurses in the antepartum area left me thinking that it’d be best to avoid pumping in order to shut off the milk as quickly as possible. I felt like it was an admission of defeat but didn’t want to argue.
I’m so grateful for the Hubs, who talked to our NICU nurse, who talked to the doctor, who told us that I’d be able to feed my colostrum and breast milk to Hudson with a Q-tip and save the excess for her to use later. If she wasn’t able to use it, I could donate it to the hospital for other babies.
The lactation specialist came to talk to me, and set me up with a breast pump and all the goods to “get things pumping”. She warned me that I’d probably only produce a few drops of colostrum the first time, but that whatever I was able to produce could be used.
I got a half an ounce.
I was so proud of that little jar of colostrum, “Liquid Gold”. I came back upstairs with my treasure, feeling a little weird about waving it around “Look what I can do!” The family and friends we had in the waiting room all were suitably impressed. Mothers who’d been through the breast feeding regime all oohed and ahhed and commented on how much that was, and I was proud of myself: I was born and bred to be this baby’s mom and provide for her in any way.
I couldn’t wait to get in to Hudson with my Liquid Gold. It was the first best part of that day.
Nurse A hooked me up with a Q-tip, told me to soak it, and once it was soaked I could rub it on Hudson’s lips, gums, tongue. I let that Q-tip soak much more than it probably needed to. Moms with cameras were summoned.
Oh so gently, I rubbed the goody-soaked Q-tip on Hudson’s perfect little lips… careful to avoid the breathing tubes but trying to cover the entire surface area of her mouth. Her tiny, juicy tongue protruded just a little as I ran the Q-tip over it, stayed resting on her lips for a while after the feeding. I lingered perhaps a bit too long, wanting to savor every second, wanting Hudson to get every drop on that Q-tip.
I know that breastfeeding mothers form a special bond with their baby as they feed them. While I was never able to hold Hudson’s face to my breast and feed her the way a mother should, the moments when I was able to bend over my beautiful daughter with a few drops of colostrum were some of my most personally fulfilling and special memories in the three short days I was blessed to be Hudson’s mommy.
I pumped two more times that day, yielding 1.5 ounces the second time and having to switch bottles from one side to the other for risk of overflowing. The third time I pumped, I got 2 ounces of colostrum!
Too much information? I don’t know that I care – these were proud moments in my brief days as a mommy, and I want to brag a little, to remember every detail.
Pumping was a bonding time for me and the Hubs, too. I married such an incredibly supportive and thoughtful and wonderful man, who went out of his way to help me experience just a fraction of what every mommy should. Feeding our daughter was a privilege I’m so glad I got to enjoy, but I think it was satisfying for my husband too.
Later that evening I got to feed Hudson again. I’m pretty sure I “milked” that second feeding too, drawing it out more than probably necessary, exhausting that Q-tip and hovering over our daughter’s precious little mouth longer than I needed to.
Friday with Hudson was the best day, filled with memories that I cling to and cherish when her absence hurts my heart and makes it hard to breathe.