Nathan did very well on the low-flow oxygen system and they had him down under a liter in just a few days. That meant that we were very, very close to coming home! The biggest decision we faced at this point was how we were going to feed Nathan once we got home.
Almost all babies are born with a very strong, natural urge to suck. It is known as the sucking reflex. A reflex is a movement or reaction that is performed involuntarily or automatically in response to a stimulus. In other words, you do it without needing to think about it. For newborns, the sucking reflex is initiated when something (finger, pacifier, nipple) touches the roof of the their mouth. Around 2 or 3 months, the sucking reflex fades and the baby's ability to suck becomes a conscious effort rather than a reflex.
Since Nathan spent 10 weeks on the ventilator, he missed out on the opportunity to develop his sucking reflex into a conscious effort. Since he never developed the skill while sucking was a reflex, he never learned to eat. So all of his feedings in the NICU were done through a nasal-gastric (NG) feeding tube. It ran up his nose and down his throat and into his tummy.
The big question we faced now as Nathan was getting ready to come home was if he would come home with the NG-Tube or if he would have a Gastrostomy Tube (G-Tube) placed. The G-Tube is surgically placed directly through the abdomen into the stomach.
Nathan's NICU team consulted with Dr. Scaife, the surgeon who had performed Nathan's hernia repair surgery, to see what he recommended as a course of action. Dr. Scaife decided that it would be in Nathan's best interest to wait a few months for a G-Tube. Since Nathan's body was still small and he had already been through so many surgeries (7 if you're counting at home), the doctor wanted to give Nathan's body a chance to rest, recover, and get stronger.
So that meant that Nathan would be coming home with an NG tube!
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