Rooting Around

It’s hard to post about David’s progress over the past week without letting you in on some intimate details. David’s next big step in life is learning to feed by mouth (instead of by tube). And he can’t even dream a little dream of going home until he can do this. So over the past few days we’ve started our “breast visits.” I place David skin-to-skin on my chest to let him root around before giving him his tube feeding. It’s a bit of teaser, if you will, to get him to make the association in his brain. Being a beginner I wasn’t quite sure what “rooting around” would be like. So the nurse placed David on my chest and then she left me alone behind the curtain to help another baby at the other end of our pod.

At first nothing happened for us. We were just bonding. And breathing, of course, both of us—that’s always been our main focus. Then David started to lick his lips and move his hands toward his mouth, so I decided at these cues to wiggle him closer for a visit.

I’ll tell you openly, this was going to be my big maternal moment. I wasn’t able to hold David immediately after he was born, for obvious reasons, or even that first full day of his life, and perhaps even the next. I can’t remember when, exactly, it was that I held him first; I just remember how they placed him on my chest and how fragile he felt, and how still. He was so small, and breastfeeding then seemed a lifetime away.

David is now twice the size he was then. He’s over 4 lbs. A lifetime has not passed of course, but forty something days of looking at and touching David through plastic holes and taking him out to be held only with the help of two nurses, and pumping through the night with no baby anywhere near, and filling a chest freezer full of milk has made it feel like ages.

What I’m saying is that I was prepared for this. But as I moved David closer for a visit he started flopping his head from side to side, frenetically, like a fish, using his face as a pivot and loosening his nose prongs as he did so. I didn’t know what I should do, but I thought this must be rooting so I let him flop away until his nose prongs came out and his oxygen needs went up, and all of the sudden the monitor was beeping and flashing red which meant he was desating big time, and by then (which was maybe a minute total) he had managed to get himself into a position that looked like he was one of those body contortionists, with his face planted into my chest and his back pushed into the air, one leg up by his ear and his hands who knows where, so when the nurse came rushing in and was like “whoa, what’s going on?” it made me sort of feel like I had failed my first real test for maternal-ness.

We’ve both gotten better at it since then. It took a little coaching for me and some repositioning for David and we did great. We won’t be breastfeeding for at least another week or two, or until David’s breathing improves to the point when he can feed and breathe and not tire out.

He's flat out from rooting.


We dressed him in one of the hats we made. He wasn’t impressed with our fashion show and I’m not sure if the bow is really his thing.

All in all, all is good. He’s fattening up for Christmas and longing for the New Year.

J & G & D


7 thoughts on “Rooting Around

  1. Oh my, he has grown so much, he looks quite content even with his bow.
    You must be relieved to know breast feeding “for real” is just around the bend.
    David is going to do just fine once he gets to suckle for real, I’m quite certain it won’t take long.
    All is good, great news, and once again, thanks for sharing. This Christmas you
    and Graham have one precious miracle to celebrate! Love & Hugs Diane & Peter

  2. Hi Jane……I have NO doubt that David, being a good ole red-blooded American male will find his target quickly !…..I must confess to having been a bit intimidated by the whole process myself at the outset……It took a while to get comfortable, both physically and mentally, with this new kind of
    ‘ attachment ‘…..but it leads to many beautiful, satisfying and bonding moments when it works…..( until, of course, the first time he chomps down with that new tooth and sends you into orbit ! )………If he decides he’s more comfortable with bottles, you still get to give him all your own healthy milk and have the loving connection…..and it saves wear & tear on certain body parts……..Thinking of you with all good wishes……Karen

  3. Such an honest and vulnerable and hopeful post, Jane. Thank you for it. You inspire everybody with your no bullshit, positive approach. I want to comment every single time about how thankful I am that you are reaching out to all of us who are thinking of you and Graham and David – you are so generous! Big love from B-town! Hugs to the boys and Daisy!

  4. I just stumbled on your site today while looking up info on toaster head. Had to say hello when I saw the date your son was born. My daughter was born on October 29th as well, just a smidgen over ten weeks early. So much of what you say here I can relate to. I have this thing with the elevators as well. There is one that has a burned out eight (the floor where the progressive nursery is) and I hate getting on that elevator. I will actually ride with my eyes closed so I don’t have to see that burned out light. And then there is floor three, where the NICU is. A couple of weeks ago my husband was working with the term babies and I came down with him to get some test results before we went to lunch, as we turned down the hall that I had to walk so many mornings alone on my way to see my daughter I burst in to tears. It is a weird feeling to have so much hope for you child, feeling so blessed in their progress but also carrying pain from the process. Wishing you the best! Hope we can both be home soon with our babies!!!!!!

  5. Hi Jane – I’m so glad I got to say hi to you last week and meet both you and David. Thank you for giving me the special gift of memories. You are in good hands there and I do hope your kicking that cold’s butt too! I know this isn’t how you were planning on spending Christmas, but know that you are in a special place and that this will become a cherished memory in time.

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