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The story of Eric, as told by his mom, Amanda

Story of Eric

I had trouble conceiving my second child. When I finally did become pregnant, I was afflicted with a number of complications. I developed the worst form of nausea and vomiting and had to be placed on a PICC line to keep me hydrated, starting from 10 weeks of pregnancy until the day before I was admitted into the hospital at 26 weeks. I lost roughly 30 pounds.

At 26 weeks, I lost my mucus plug and was swiftly airlifted to the ONLY neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) available in Hawaiʻi, which happened to be on a different island. I spent 1 week at the new hospital before I fully dilated and the doctors decided to break my water.

The NICU Stay

Eric was born at 27 weeks’ gestation. He was 15 inches long and weighed 2 lb 5 oz. I remember hoping and praying that I would hear a cry when he came out. My wish was granted when I heard the quietest, tiniest, sweetest cry. Our NICU stay was filled with so many ups and downs. At barely 2 days old, Eric still hadn't pooped, and his tummy was becoming distended and dusky. His intestine had a hole in it, and a tube was placed in his stomach in order to allow the meconium, bile, and stomach acids to escape.

Eric NICU with Mom-1.jpg

The Power of a 100% Human Milk Diet

Because of Eric's intestinal issues, he wasn't allowed to eat as much or as quickly as a baby without tummy issues. For a long time, I could only swab his mouth with breast milk. The volume of his feeds and his caloric intake slowly progressed. I pumped for months to ensure he had a breast milk diet. When Eric was about 30 weeks’ gestation, my milk was fortified with Prolact+ H2MF to increase his calories.

The NICU doctors and nurses all swore that this was the best possible fortifier, as it was made from human milk. Eric’s medical team members all said that Prolacta’s fortifier would be the gentlest on his tummy and would help alleviate his gut issues. I am a firm believer in the power of human breast milk, so I agreed to give him Prolacta’s fortifier, which is the only one made from 100% human milk. He tolerated it extremely well and had little reflux and bloating.

After about 4 weeks on the fortifier, Eric transitioned to breastfeeding. He latched on instantly and never broke his seal. As he graduated from CPAP, from high flow to low flow, I decreased my pump time before each breastfeeding session and increased the amount of time he was allowed to breastfeed. Eric spent 97 days in the NICU and left weighing a little over 7 lb upon discharge. But unfortunately, he was readmitted to the NICU because of hypertension and abnormal growths on his abdomen and liver. The growths were diagnosed as hemangiomas and disappeared eventually. He finally left the NICU for good after spending an additional 3 days there.

Post NICU Life

Eric will be a year old in a few weeks (adjusted age of 8 months). He can roll and pivot very well if he wants to get somewhere quickly. He can hold himself up on all fours, though he still "leapfrogs" and "inchworms" rather than crawl. It looks as if he may skip the crawling stage because he is able to push up into a "downward dog" position and lift each foot individually.

He's almost able to sit up, too! He has an amazing grip and is almost able to pincer-grasp small objects. When a bowl of poi (a staple food of Hawai’i), he understands and attempts to use a spoon to feed himself. Eric has reached the age where he reaches at my chest and pulls my clothes when he's hungry. He is saying "mama" and making lots of different expressive noises. I'm so impressed by how quickly he learns!

Eric at home from the NICU

Advice to NICU Parents

Self-care is important! Take a long shower, eat a nice meal, go for a nice walk; don't forget to do things you enjoy. Ask all the questions you want and ask the doctors and nurses to simplify explanations in as many ways and as many times as you need them to. Don't be afraid to be hands-on with your baby.

Make friends with other parents who are going through the NICU experience at the same time. I've made lifelong friends from this journey, with people who understand the tribulations and triumphs with empathy rather than sympathy. Sing to your baby, play soft relaxing music for your baby, read to your baby, practice kangaroo care with your baby, and most of all, let your baby know that they're not fighting alone.