Last night Thomas woke up crying. Máté picked him up while I made the bottle. When it was ready Máté put Thomas in my arms. Thomas drank it very sleepy but at a nice slow even pace. It made me think of his first days of life where we were teaching him how to drink from a bottle.
The nurses and our speech pathologist were very impressed that Thomas had the suck, swallow, breathe pattern down from the beginning. He drank from 5oz bottles with the smallest amount of milk in them to begin with. I didn’t write down what he started at, but 5 days after he was born in one feed he drank 55mls. When we were released he was drinking almost 3oz.
Each night they would weigh Thomas and then the following day they would up his amount of milk that he would get based on his new weight. As you can imagine it was always going up. I remember one day I was sitting in the chair with Thomas in his room and the Doctor came in. He asked me how things were going, aside from making your baby eat 5 gallons of food of everyday! He knew that they were constantly upping his food but that is how it works in the NICU. He joked around and told me he would play bad cop if necessary! That day he did give Thomas a “stern” talking to and it must have worked but it wasn’t long before we were discharged!
During this time what Thomas didn’t eat via mouth had to go down his feeding tube. There were days where it seemed like we were never going to get to go home. Some feedings were horrible and he took very little by mouth. I would cry when I would tell Mate how the feeding went. Others Thomas couldn’t get the food fast enough and some times want more. They explained to us that it took Thomas as much energy as we would use if we were running a marathon to eat. The good part is in the NICU they do averages for the feedings based on the 12 hour shifts. Thomas had to take at least 70% (I think) via his mouth before we could go home. It was a constant ebb and flow, until one day it just clicked and they were telling us we were going home the next day!
Thomas had to eat laying on his side on a pillow with us supporting his cheeks. This lasted several months before we decided to try to sit him and see how he did. Just like the eating after only a few times he figured it out and we have been doing it ever since. It was on St. Patrick’s Day that he graduated to the 9oz bottles. I remember thinking how big they looked.
I would say about a little over a month we stopped supporting his cheeks when he eats. We will still help him when he is really tired if it seems like he needs it. In the beginning it was to teach him how to get his mouth around the nipple and help support his tongue. Now here we are 6 months later and twice today he has tried to hold his own bottle. Soon he won’t need our help, he will once again figure it out and he will be off and running.
Tonight though while he sleepily eats I will hold the bottle, kiss his face, and stroke his neck just like I did when I held him on his side supporting his cheeks and encouraged him to eat.