When I found out I was pregnant in August 2020, I eagerly and meticulously started to plan every aspect of my birth and made decisions regarding how my baby would be fed. I wanted to do the golden hour after birth, the delayed cord clamping, the colostrum harvesting. I did a holistic birthing course and planned a natural water birth. However, all my birthing dreams came crashing down when I became ill…
My son arrived prematurely, weighing just over 3lbs
Due to preeclampsia and placenta failure my little boy Spencer was delivered 7 weeks early by emergency C-Section weighing just over 3lbs. After his birth – due to my own health – I wouldn’t see him for another 24 hours. Because he was so small, he was unable to feed so was tube fed using my expressed milk for the first two weeks of his life.
Due to his size he was unable to feed so was tube fed my expressed milk for the first two weeks of his life.
I was still in hospital at the time due to prolonged preeclampsia so pumped every three hours using the hospital grade pump. I was exhausted, on heavy medication but I tried to put on a brave face for my new tiny baby and family.
During this time I established a good supply whilst attempting to latch him onto the breast at every opportunity. It may be because of COVID, but I did not receive much help whilst Spencer was in the neonatal in terms of breastfeeding. I was continuously told that baby would need to leave hospital having a bottle or tube-fed. However, I was determined to breastfeed him!
Breastfeeding after a premature birth was more difficult than I could have imagined
He left hospital two weeks later doing a mixture of bottle and tube feeding. This routine continued for a few more weeks and we continued to struggle to latch.
My pumping ability and patience also started to dwindle as being a pumping mamma felt like double the work of ‘normal feeding’ and I was advised by health visitors and outreach nurses to give formula, something personally I didn’t want to do.
My pumping ability and patience also started to dwindle as being a pumping mamma felt like double the work of ‘normal feeding’ and I was advised by health visitors and outreach nurses to give formula
On a last-ditch attempt to breastfeed feed I turned to nipple shields which whilst controversial in the breastfeeding community absolutely saved our breastfeeding journey! Spencer was able to latch using the shields, and eventually by the time he was around 10 weeks old he was weaned from all forms of feeding other than the breast. He is now 8 months old and is exclusively breastfed.
The support was minimal but we got there in the end
Although my breastfeeding journey is positive, the support I received whilst in neo Natal and whilst at home with health visitors was minimal.
I was continuously told that giving formula would be easier, even though the health benefits of breast milk for any baby – let alone a premature baby – was worth the exhaustion of pumping.
I was continuously told that giving formula would be easier
I still pump occasionally to build a freezer stash and if Spencer stays overnight with grandparents, which he was done a couple of times.
New mums should know however that not everyone is able to pump mass amounts. It takes me three pumping sessions to make enough for one bottle (5oz) and sometimes I only get 30ml!
For anyone going through a similar situation, remember never give up on a bad day, and every unsuccessful latch is one step closer to a successful one.
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