As a near-term baby, Yousef came with his own set of challenges; he was a great pretender. Earlier in my pregnancy I had gotten in touch with a lactation consultant friend who had prepared me to life with a later-term infant who is like a term baby but does not act like one. He was super sleepy, tired quickly, and tended to have poor sucking skills. I needed lots of coaching on how to best feed him and had to factor in a fair amount of pumping to compensate for baby.
And so, with these two constraints alongside Jeff and I tried to pump as much nutrition as possible into that tiny stomach. I breastfed, pumped, bottle fed breast milk and then supplemented with “high-calorie” newborn formula. I had lactation consultants coach me. I had nurses help me. Yousef got weighed at every chance. We recoded, they recorded. He gained an ounce. We had a heart-to-heart with the pediatrician. She agreed to discharge the family.
We were to see her first thing Monday morning and to continue formula feeding him. It was heart-wrenching. I was determined to breastfeed him just as I was determined to have a healthy pregnancy and yet again I was being made to compromise my goals and expectations. I took it all in. What is a mother to do. I tried to fight it but it was stronger than me. I protested. I refused to take part in the formula feeding. I did not help decide what brand to get him. I did not care. What I had was enough, and yet it was not. I breastfed, I pumped, I sustained, or at least I tried. The numbers would tell us all, soon. The plan was to continue this routine for a week and reassess. I kept seeing numbers in my mind’s eye and the day I would let the man-made nutrition for my infant go.
Monday morning came quickly. We put Yousef on the scale. He had put on a few more ounces. “Keep doing what you are doing,” came the instruction, “and come back for a weight check on Thursday.” “When can we stop the formula?” I pleaded. “By the end of the week, if the numbers keep creeping up.” The end of the week brought hope. I did not want to lose my last breastfeeding journey to a bottle. I was not ready to give that part of my motherhood up so soon. I had given it up before I was ready with JR and I was not about to have a repeat with my last child.
And I did not! Yousef continued to put on weight. By March 6th, two weeks after he was born, Yousef weighed 7 pounds 5 ounces up from 5 pounds 12 ounces at discharge. Not only that, he had already exceeded his birth weight of 6 pounds 8 ounces. The pediatrician was now fully satisfied with our parenting. We were doing a good job feeding him, so good of a job that six months later, our near-term tiny infant tipped the scale at 18 pounds 10 ounces. If only, however, the journey to get him to that weight had been simple.