Yesterday, I met an angel....in the form of the NICU lactation consultant. Not only was she knowledgeable, but she was incredibly patient and kind. Her name was Tracey and she worked with Charlie and I for about an hour during his 3 o'clock care time. Before we started, she asked me about his eating habits and what his issues were. She also asked me how I was feeling about his progress and how I was taking care of myself. This surprised me, but it was incredibly helpful to talk to someone about my concerns. I told her his short history of sleepy eating, his need for phototherapy, and the various and conflicting recommendations we'd been getting from different nurses. I also assured her that I wasn't living in the NICU and did get out for sleep and meals. :-)
She next took Charlie and tested his sucking - she let him suck on a gloved finger so she could feel how he was moving his tounge. Through this she discovered two things; Charlie has a very high pallet (like me and the rest of the Simon kids) and that he has an uncoordinated suck (like many preemies). These two issues put together made it so he wasn't causing a suction between his pallet and tounge in a way that moved milk into his mouth. She was surprised and slightly upset that he didn't get a feeding tube when he was born like most preemies do. She confirmed my belief that because he weighed more than the average 34 weeker, that it was probably assessed (or assumed) that he could do more. With a feeding tube, most preemies get a jump start in energy to learn to feed. Charlie struggled a bit with feeding at first, causing him to fall more behind. That's okay though! We've figured out his problem and are working on fixing it. With some "suck training," Charlie should be able to continue becoming a stronger eater as the weeks go on. Normally, babies learn to suck/swallow/breathe during the 33rd - 35th weeks in the womb. Charlie just has to learn it out here.
Another huge accomplishment for my little man was finally figuring out nursing!! With the help of a few new holding positions, a breast shield, and a little patience, he latched for the first time and nursed for the whole feeding session! It was like magic. I'd heard about having "ah-ha!" moments with lactation consultants before, but I didn't believe it until I saw it. Now, my guy is eating like a little piggy - about 45-50 ml or 30 minutes breast feeding per session. His bilirubin levels and weight are holding steady at the moment, but if these new eating habits hold up, hopefully bili will go down and weight will go up.