Saturday, January 15, 2011

Baby Bradley: A Preemie Story

Thank you to Jenny for sharing such an incredible post about her baby son, Bradley, born prematurely. What a struggle your family endured to bring your son to health! I am not familiar with the intensive energy and love it takes to care for a premature baby, and I certainly appreciate your giving us a new perspective on mothering a newborn preemie. Your concern over the supplemental formula is valid...I as well question why, when you were producing such an abundance of colostrum and milk, they felt the need to add in formula. Like your milk didn't have everything Bradley needed already in it? And like you couldn't nurse him more if he so desperately needed extra calories?

Anyway, without further ado, Bradley's birth story:

Well, I have wanted to contribute to this blog for a while now but have never really known what to add. With all the comments on nursing and birth experiences I decided I would weigh in on the subject and add my experience as a mother of a preemie.

My preemie was my second child – I am a mother of 4 children – 4 ½, 3 ½, 2 and 4 months. My pregnancy was not out of the ordinary - some mild morning sickness and fatigue but an overall healthy pregnancy with no complications. When I was about 30 weeks pregnant we went to the Boundary Waters camping and had a great time. We came back and about 3 days later my knee locked up and I had meniscal knee surgery at 33 weeks pregnant. The baby was monitored very closely through surgery and did extremely well. I did fine after surgery and felt great. I did not take any pain meds in fear of what side effects they may have.

About 5 days after my surgery at 34 weeks pregnant I started having some cramping/contractions and bleeding. I called my midwife and was told to come in. I was in the hospital having my contractions monitored. I was not dilating and my contractions were not regular. Being at 34 weeks I was in the gray zone for trying to stop labor. After about 3-4 hours of monitoring they were preparing to send me home when I suddenly started having much more intense contractions and I suddenly dilated to a 3. My husband and one year old child were in the hospital this entire time with me. I was immediately admitted and told that I was going to have this baby today. I was in tears immediately and didn’t know why this was happening. What had I done wrong? What was going to happen? Would my little boy be okay? I felt like a terrible mother.

I knew I had to make it through labor and delivery and my little guy maintained well through the entire process allowing me to avoid an emergency c-section. The only issue I had through the entire labor process was that I spiked a fever but I was already receiving IV antibiotics since we did not have a Group B Strep result.

I delivered in the OR in the event that an emergency c-section would need to be performed and since the NICU staff needed to be on hand. As he delivered, the cord was immediately cut – my husband was not even given the opportunity – and my little boy was whisked away. I only had a quick glimpse of him as he was run through the doors. This was nothing like my first experience or any of my experiences for that matter. He did not cry for a little while and I was experiencing shock. I was taken back to a room to recover and left alone not knowing how my baby was doing. About 2-3 hours later I was finally taken to the NICU to see my baby. He was laying there with so many cords, an IV through his umbilical stump and was on a ventilator. I was only in there for a brief moment before I was again separated from him and told I need to rest. I still could not believe my little 4 lb 3oz, 17 inch baby boy was in this world. It all seemed like a bad dream.

Like Melanie, I was left with a breastpump and told to pump every 3 hours to get my milk to come in. I did so faithfully still blaming myself for Bradley’s early arrival in this world. At about 12 hours old Brad was overbreathing the ventilator and was able to breath on his own, but we were still far from out of the woods. At about 3 days of age he was found to have some common heart defects in preemie babies and needed to be put on meds to help take care of them which was going to delay milk feedings by another few days. Finally on day 5 I was able to hold my precious little boy, but only for a little while before the nurses made me put him back since he was not able to maintain his body temperature. Day 10 he was finally given breastmilk through a tube but was still not allowed to nurse since he has started having apnea episodes. He was sometimes having up to 13 episodes a day. I pumped for him every 3 hours around the clock. It was very emotionally and physically draining. Even though I was told this wasn’t my fault I blamed myself. I was made at God. Why was this happening to me? I had a one year old at home that needed me. I had a baby in the hospital that needed me. The nurses are telling me I don’t need to be there all the time, but it’s my little boy laying there. I was so torn. Finally at about 2 weeks of age, I was allowed to nurse my little boy for the very first time. He was a champ!! He did absolutely amazing right from the start. I was so happy. We had been told it may not go well but he did great. I was only allowed to nurse once a day since he was still having multiple apnea episodes daily.

Finally at 5 weeks old we were able to take him home! He left the hospital with an apnea monitor but he was home. We were told to allow him to nurse and then supplement with a bottle after every feeding to be sure he was getting enough. The bottle was to be formula – Neosure. Why? For extra calories?!? I was pumping about 12 ounces every morning and was able to pump 3 ounces after a feeding and about 5-6 if he wasn’t eating. There was plenty of milk for him. At a check up 2 days after coming home he had gained 4 ounces and we discontinued the supplement. He was doing well. We did end up having the apnea monitor for about 3 months but he did well!

My Bradley is now a strong healthy boy but I still get very emotional over the entire thing. There are some things that happened during his stay that bring up other points for another topic but for now this is enough. This was a very emotional experience and very challenging for me as an individual and for us as a couple. I spent a lot of time blaming myself. There are days I still ask why? Or what could have I done differently to prevent this? But then I look at him and realize he is a perfectly normal, healthy little boy and I did everything I could for him despite the circumstances.


  1. When a baby is born prematurely, they often have you supplement with formula because it's higher in calories than breast milk and all though someone may produce plenty, they burn a lot of calories nursing so it's kind of a catch 22. I'm of course a pro-nurser but having worked in the NICU, I have a little insight.

  2. Thanks for clarifying, Becca! At least they're able to give colostrum and breastmilk, even if the little one has to have a supplement of something higher in calories.