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Five Weeks and a Day - A NICU Story - Day 27

Day 27 - September 9, 2014

With all the time I spend sitting at hooked up to a breast pump, I've been able to enjoy a little light reading. My sister-in-law gave me her copy of "Breastfeeding Made Simple" which I have been voraciously absorbing. I knew I wanted to breastfeed, but I didn't know it was going to be something I would become passionate about. I am encouraged by the medical team and the importance they place on human milk as part of the medical treatment plan with respect to recovery from premature birth. I am amazed by the seemingly magical powers of not only the nectar itself but of the process and ritual of mothering at the breast. I learn of the many benefits to both myself and LoLa that breastfeeding affords us.

In my career as a physical therapist and as a student of the human body I have been amazed many times at the capabilities, consistencies, inconsistencies and anomalies of human form and function. If LoLa's birth is a perfect example of the human body not doing what it is supposed to, LoLa's life is a perfect example of the human body thriving under fairly adverse circumstances. Today I witness the human body do exactly what it was supposed to, yet it completely shocks me.

I decide today is my redemption day for skin to skin with LoLa after our disastrous attempt at a session a few days ago. I ask her nurse bluntly, what is the hesitation on the part of some of the nurses about doing skin-to-skin at this point? She explains that some nurses feel that when the baby is older that it isn't as necessary, that the baby may get cold, that the hassle of it outweighs the benefits at this point in development. But everything I read and everything my wise lactation consultant guru Andrea tells me points to evidence that this ritual only has the potential to benefit, if not the baby, then at least the mother.

Spending time with mother's bare skin in contact with infant's increases oxytocin production in the mother. This feel-good hormone is also responsible for the mechanism that causes the let down of breastmilk. And so this can only serve to prolong and support the breastfeeding relationship, which continues to be supported and emphasized by her medical team. So discontinuing kangaroo care would be counterproductive in my estimation. Andrea also has educated me that when a baby is placed against the parent's chest, the parent's body automatically regulates the body temperature of the infant, adjusting to either increase or decrease in response to fluctuations in the baby's temperature.

I undress my 4 1/2 pound nursling down to her diaper that is the size of a pantyliner, take her temperature, 97.5, and place her on my chest under my tank top. I cover her back with a receiving blanket to shield her from the cool air blowing from the overhead AC vents.

We spend an hour in this position, conjoined, just quietly breathing together and learning each other. I do not fall asleep, but enter that state just before sleep, deeper than consciousness, but with all of the senses a bit muted. We end our session when Sean arrives for a visit. He asks me if I am hot because my cheeks are flushed. I am not. In fact my bare feet are chilly. I recheck LoLa's temperature before getting her dressed again, 97.6. I go into the bathroom to change my shirt and look at my bare chest in the mirror. Where her body laid, my skin is rosy and warm. I just stare in complete amazement at the realization that my body had successfully regulated my baby's core temperature. If it'd been her making me feel warm my body would have shunted my blood to the periphery to cool me, but instead it directed my body to warm locally to maintain her body temperature. This thermal synchrony has me in a state of excitement, despite the bomb of oxytocin working to keep me in a state of near-coma. The stress of the week's earlier events dissolves away and I feel relaxed and ready for all that the rest of this week has in store for us. Thank you, LoLa, for only you could have given me this beautiful gift!

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