Nursing Under Special Circumstances
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Nursing Under Special Circumstances

"This post was written as part of The Breastfeeding Cafe's Blog Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to For more info on the Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Timbra Wiist landslidephotography {at} hotmail {dot} com. Today's post is about nursing in special circumstances. Please read the other blogs in today's carnival listed in the comments section at The Carnival runs July 16th through the 31st!" 

Today’s Prompt: Have you nursed in special circumstances? Did you feel supported or like you were paving your own path? If your circumstance included a lot of medical procedures and staff, did you get interesting, strange or just BAD advice from medical staff? Family members? Or did you have support? Where would you encourage moms to go if they were in a similar situation?   

Day 4
Day 4
Half the tubes have already been taken out. I could not bring myself to take a picture when he was attached to all the machines and IV's.
Day 5
Day 5
Nurses are checking out his meds and lines at shift change.
Day 5
Day 5
Giving baby Bruss a little massage to let him know I was there.
The special circumstances we faced only lasted a few days:   
Our son Bruss contracted RSV when he was three months old.  We got a helicopter ride from Payson Regional Medical Center down to Phoenix Children’s Hospital.  His right lung had collapsed, he was intubated and he had two chest tubes poking into his right side to release the pressure in his chest cavity from the oxygen he was receiving.    

By the time we landed in Phoenix, his oxygen level had dropped to 20%.  I was a bystander as the pediatric EMT’s and the pilot evaluated taking extreme measures right there in the elevator, or making a run for the emergency room.  They decided to make the run for the emergency room.  The three of them moved a lot faster together than I could on my own.  I will never forget that sinking feeling as they ran away from me, wondering if our child would be dead or alive the next time I saw him.  Nightmare.  Still makes me tear up as I write those words.   

Happy ending – between the amazing care we received from doctors and ER staff in Payson, and the staff in the ER at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, they saved his life.  Once he was stabilized in the ER at the children's hospital, we were moved to a room in their Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).  Our son needed to be fed through a feeding tube since he was completely sedated, and at the time, the go-to hospital solution was formula.  I was utterly opposed to the idea – not my exclusively breastfed child!  I wanted to do breastmilk only – we compromised by using my breastmilk as the major component, and they added some formula to each feeding “for calories”.   

We requested and got a hospital grade pump for our room.  I pumped dutifully every three to four hours to mimic our feeding pattern.  I would say the staff was beyond supportive.  They brought me the supplies we needed.  They helped keep the pumping area and supplies sterile.  They even went out of their way to encourage me and praise me for making the effort to feed our son breastmilk.  It surprised me to hear that very few mothers went this route – most of the babies in the PICU were formula fed without question.   

The staff started to notice  and comment on the difference.  Bruss gained weight while he was there.  He made incredible progress – many of them commented how quickly he was recovering in relation to the severity of what he had to overcome.  We were also told he was making more rapid improvement than RSV babies usually made.  Several of the nurses wondered if the breast milk was making the difference.   

My husband supported the choice to use breastmilk because he believes in the benefits of breastfeeding for Mom and Baby.  He thought it was great that we were able to do it in the hospital.  He whole-heartedly believed that his recovery was a result of our choice to give him breastmilk in the feeding tube.  He even remembers that Bruss gained weight when we there!   

I know that the breastmilk made the difference.  By the fourth day in the hospital, the lack of sleep and the stress were starting to get to me.  My production started to tank.  Luckily, we had a stash of frozen milk at home that my husband brought to the hospital.  He encouraged me to take a break from the pump and use our frozen milk instead of fretting over my milk supply.   

Once again, the hospital nurses were encouraging.  One of them was also a lactation consultant when she wasn’t wearing her PICU nurse hat.  She took the time to explain that given the lack of sleep and the stress of our son’s illness, it was not uncommon for milk supply to wane.  She assured me that once we got home and started nursing again, my supply would be very likely to increase again to meet his needs.   

Thankfully, on Day 5 they removed the last of the tubes and he was able to nurse.  I was scared to nurse him in case he rejected me.  I talked one of the nurses into bottle-feeding him to see if he still knew how to suck.  He did!  He devoured that bottle!   

The next time he was hungry, I took a deep breath and put him to the breast.  I cried with joy as my son and I found each other again.  Mama joyfully feeding her baby.  Baby nursing as if he hadn’t been in a crib attached to tubes for the last five days.   

What I have learned since then: you can say no to anything in the hospital.  It is your body and/or your baby and it is up to you to decide what care providers can and cannot do, no matter how the staff words their wishes for your care.  If I had to do it again, I would ask them to allow him to be exclusively breastfed until he showed signs that he was no longer thriving.  If he started losing weight by being exclusively breastfed, then I would consent to adding formula to his feeding tube.  If he maintained the same weight or gained weight, he could show it was okay to stay formula free.   

If another mom finds herself in a similar situation, with her child being in an intensive care setting, I would suggest that she surround herself with support.  Spouse, partner, care team, prayer.  If someone is not on board with her choice to breastfeed in spite of the circumstances, I would ask her if she was comfortable asking for a new care team.   

I would also encourage them to get lots of rest, meditate on the food they were making for the baby when they were pumping (talking to myself did help), covering the tubes and collection bottles with a blanket to take the focus off the ounces and just let the body work (a new tidbit I learned recently), and to research different galactagogues and consider giving them a try in order to keep supply up in the face of sleep deprivation and stress.   

We are blessed that our special circumstance had a happy ending.  One more anecdote that testifies to the wonderful healing power of the unique food we make for our unique species. 

Bradley Method® natural childbirth classes offered in Arizona: Chandler, Tempe, Ahwatukee, Gilbert, Mesa, Scottsdale, Payson  The material included on this site is for informational purposes only.
It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult her or his healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation.  Krystyna and Bruss Bowman and Bowman House, LLC accept no liability for the content of this site, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided.  
This blog contains information about our classes available in Chandler, AZ and Payson, AZ and is not the official website of The Bradley Method®. The views contained on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of The Bradley Method® or the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth®. 

1 Comment to Nursing Under Special Circumstances:

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Yolanda on Monday, July 30, 2012 5:16 AM
Yay! So grateful that you persisted and it is wonderful to see him enjoying life today.
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