While Yousef checked out with the on-call pediatricians, I lay there getting stitched up and being reassured, again, that “everything will be fine.” As it turned out mostly “everything” was fine, but not all of “everything.”
Although Yousef was a preemie, he was in good health: his lungs were healthy, his temperature stable. He was breathing normally and he passed his initial screening. He did not require any time in the NICU and was free to join us in the recovery room. Then, his weight dropped. It dropped so much it raised flags. We were not worried. The doctors were.
There was only one intervention that could counter the weight loss: supplementing his diet with manufactured nutrition. As dedicated to natural feeding as we both are, we did as we were told. We followed the instructions to the letter. We remember the words clearly: feed him this much and not a drop more. And so we fed him the bottle and measured how much he ate. I nursed, I pumped. He ate. We recorded every feeding on a sheet and handed it to the nurses at every weight check. He was still losing weight. Jeff looked it up. Here is what he found:
"It appears neonates exposed to increased fluid before birth might be born overhydrated, requiring the baby to regulate his or her fluid levels during the first 24 hours after birth." (Read full article here)
While Yousef's primary pediatrician did not seem to be as alarmed over the weight loss, the discharge pediatrician was. She voiced her concern repeatedly and heatedly. She reprimanded us for our parenting approach and all but accused us of "tarving our baby. "I am very concerned about your child," and proceeded to talk about time in the NICU. She informed us that Yousef was not where he should be in terms of weight and that unless we worked to put some ounces on him, I would be the only one being discharged from the hospital.
The thought of going home "empty handed" was terrifying. We tried to explain to her that we were simply "following instructions," but our words were merely met with a nod. From her point of view we were falling short of our parenting duties and she was Yousef's advocate.
Finally, many ounces and conversations later, we discovered the culprit: the wrong feeding instructions that we were given. The nurse in the recovery room had initially instructed us to feed him no more than 5ml per feeding. "They eat all they can get," I remember her saying, "so do not give him too much. He doesn't know when he has had enough." And with that, and not to our knowledge, we spent the next four days denying our son the nourishment he needed most when he needed it the most.