Sometimes you just need to know that you are not the only one having a hard time with breastfeeding. People tell you that it is a wonderful and glorious thing, and it can be, but it can also be very difficult and challenging.
My Battle with Breastfeeding Premature Babies – Part 1
Breastfeeding is a word that can start a multitude of debates and judgemental looks between all types of mothers and people and I never thought my breastfeeding journey would involve breastfeeding a premature baby. I remember sitting in a plastic surgeons room, asking if I could get a breast reduction done at 16. My mother brings up the topic of breastfeeding. Clearly that thought never entered into my 16 year old mind, and the idea of it shocked me. Did I want to breastfeed? Was it something I could justify NOT getting the surgery done for 15 years because I MIGHT want to breastfeed? But after several conversations, and research completed I decided to hold on the surgery until I was done breastfeeding; because that IS what I was going to do.
And then something happened that derailed all my dreams of being a mum meant, I had two preemies, and no one told me that breastfeeding a ‘regular’ term baby was going to be so hard, but breastfeeding a preemie is next to impossible. I went through every challenge a new mum could go through with breastfeeding between my two babies born 20 months apart. I suffered through, no latch, no flow, too much flow, using a shield, not being allowed to use a shield, pumping blisters and bleeding, thrush and yeast infection on both my baby and me. Not taking a bottle, not pumping enough, pumping too much foremilk and not enough hind milk, reflux, colic, basically you name it, we went through it.
My first born, Hayden was born at 29 weeks so I wasn’t even allowed to attempt to put him to the breast until he was almost month old, about 33 weeks. He was barely taking enough milk through his NG tube as it was. We had to do a full feed on continuous slow bolus, and for those of you who aren’t familiar with this NICU speak. He had his milk put in a syringe, in a machine and the machine would slowly pump milk through a tube that when into his nose and down into his stomach over the course of 3 hours. At which point a new syringe would be put in the machine and it would start all over again. There was not a time in which he was not getting food pumped into his belly. The reason for this was because he would aspirate and spit up almost his whole feed if we attempted to feed him at any other rate; he had a severe case of reflux, and he did since his first time trying to eat 1ml. It took him so long to finally get up to full feeds (which was only 20 ml or 2 teaspoons) that by the time he was finally able to take full feeds I had at least a grocery bag full of breast milk that I painstakingly pumped every 2 hours. There was literally my blood, sweat and tears in those little pink top bottles of milk. I had a really hard time getting my milk to come in which apparently is normal for preemie mums due to the stress and low hormone levels (because we couldn’t carry our babies to full term).
Once he was at full feeds, and still having problems with his reflux I of course turned to the internet as one does when all you do is sit beside a baby in an isolette for hours and hours every day for days on end. I eventually asked the doctors if we could take him off caffeine (given to him to help stimulate his brain so he would remember to breath on his own). Caffeine can often make reflux worse, and by this point in his stay, he wasn’t having enough bradycardia or apnea (spells when he stops breathing) to warrant still being on caffeine. Between this and them finally believing me that he WAS getting milk when we tried NNS (non-nutritive sucking) and reducing his tube feedings his reflux was starting to get better. His latch on the other had was awful. He would suck for a few minutes, and then pull off, then again and again he would repeat this action. Finally the Lactation consultant brought me what my family and I would fondly come to call Ned (don’t ask me why) which was a nipple shield. I put that around my nipple, and voila he would latch, and drink. It took a good month and a half to two months AFTER we brought him home to be able to finally say goodbye to our lovely friend Ned. I remember the first time I left the house with him just a day after we brought him home my mum and I drove the hour to the doctor’s office only for me to realize that I had forgotten our precious Ned. My lovely, and sweet mum dropped me off at the Doctor’s office and rushed to the closest Babies R Us to get me one to use. Not only did she get me one, but she got me several, so I wouldn’t run into this problem again. Thank you mum.