Here's what's been going on lately. We had a feeding evaluation done by a speech pathologist, who is also a lactation specialist. Her name is Helene, and she's completely wonderful, so funny and someone who makes you feel comfortable right off the bat. Anyway, she did an evaluation and it was determined that Elsie's gag reflex is really far forward. Most ordinary people can stick a good length of a finger or almost an entire finger down their throat before they will gag. Elsie gags after about an inch of a finger is in her mouth. Consequently, as she has gotten bigger and stronger and is able to suck harder, she gags more. I'm relieved that it's not something that I'm doing wrong. I mean, logically I knew it was nothing that I was doing wrong, but you tend to have moments of self-doubt when your baby gags every time you try to feed her. Anyway, the feeding therapist said that there is no physical reason why Elsie can't overcome the gag and be able to feed by mouth eventually. It might take some time and lots of patience, but this is something that we can conquer. Hooray!
Let me just mention that Helene was absolutely thrilled to meet Elsie. She said that after reading about Elsie's medical history, she was expecting to see a much more different baby. Had Elsie not been wearing an oxygen cannula, she said she never would have guessed that Elsie was a preemie. She was amazed at Elsie's size and her generally healthy appearance. What can I say, my little miracle baby has some good chub :)
After our initial evaluation, we were given a homework assignment. We needed to help Elsie rediscover that eating is enjoyable, and not scary or painful. For two weeks, we were to take a bottle nipple or a binky, dip the tip in milk, and place the drop of milk in her mouth. This we did, and Elsie loved it. She would get so excited to see the bottle and would kick her legs like crazy.
Today was our follow-up appointment. Helene was thrilled with Elsie's progress, and said Elsie was doing much better than she had anticipated. Then we tried a fun little experiment and fed Elsie some pureed bananas. We did the same thing as with the milk; dipped the bottle nipple in the bananas and placed it gently on her lips. Initially, she was pretty wary, but after the first few mouthfuls, she did great. Her tongue and swallowing coordination was really good. She only gagged twice, when Helene challenged her with a big mouthful of banana to see how Elsie would handle it. This is very encouraging. Some children with eating problems will refuse to take any food by mouth at all, so this was a huge step in the right direction. Helene, again, was way impressed.
Our homework for this week is to feed Elsie pureed baby food one time a day. We're also going to try breastfeeding again and see how she does. Chances are she's not quite ready for that yet, but we're going to try.
In other news, Elsie had a physical therapy evaluation because her head is flat on one side. Generally, when a baby has a flat head, there will also be tense neck muscles on the opposite side of the flat head, and the baby will need PT to help strengthen and stretch the muscles. However, after her evaluation, it was determined that Elsie doesn't have any muscle problems, and doesn't need any physical therapy at this time. She basically has a "positional" flat head, meaning, her head is flat on one side because that is the position that she was always in while in the NICU. So we have some simple exercises and things to do to help improve the shape of her head. Once again, the physical therapist was thrilled and amazed by Elsie. That makes me happy.
|She's crying because she's so happy.|
|She's happy because she doesn't wear diapers anymore!!|
Oh, and did I mention that Elsie is completely off of oxygen now? No more tubes, no more tape on the face, and no more monitors. She is completely unattached, we are free and liberated (as liberated as you can be when you're still sort of quarantined) and loving life.