Friday, April 11, 2014

The Little Baby Black Hole

Dear Ellie,

One of the last big unknowns was whether or not you could nurse or eat from a bottle.  Many, many micro-preemies get stuck in the NICU because it takes them a long time to figure it out.  It seems like a thing that nature should infuse in the instinct of every baby, and in fact, it does.  However, micro-preemies often spend weeks or months with tubes jammed into their mouths and down their throats and this can often create oral aversions.  What's more, they are used to being fed directly to their stomach and this, of course, doesn't take any work on their part.  It's very common for babies born as early as you to refuse bottles or breasts, suffer from severe reflux, or even suffocate themselves by breathing and drinking at the same time.

Whenever your mother and I were with you during "feeding time," we gave you a pacifier soaked in breast milk while you were fed through the tube, hoping that you'd associate a progressively filling stomach with the sucking motion.

On the upside, when we first gave you the opportunity to nurse a few days ago, we were confident that you wouldn't have any trouble latching or sucking.  Since the day you were born, you sucked on virtually everything you could get your lips on: your endotracheal tube, your feeding tube, your fingers, your blankets, your clothing... so we weren't so much concerned about whether you could get the milk into your mouth.  In fact, we were worried that you'd suck like a wild girl and forget that you shouldn't breath and swallow at the same time.

As it turns out, you surpassed our expectations.  With just a few days experience, you're pounding down more than half of your feeding from breast and bottle without any problems.  Even after you've sucked the bottle clean, you "root around" with your little head, looking for the next nipple to conquer.  You're like a little baby black hole.

In a few days, we might even remove the feeding tube all together.


  1. What a gal!
    I am so proud of you, Ellie! :)

    Love, Grandma Smith

  2. I look forward to referring to Ellie as the bottomless pit a few years from now when she's the 8 year old in the restaurant that can down a 18 oz steak.

  3. Yeah, I'm really glad she got past this. She still needs a bit more practice before she's off the feeding tube, but a lot of babies get stuck in the NICU a lot of extra months because they either refuse to suck or they can't coordinate their swallowing.