“I was blown away by the amount of milk I was able to produce for my premature baby”

Nothing in this life will prepare you for having a premature baby. Despite my first born arriving five weeks early, when Felicity appeared at 32 weeks I was at a loss.

Even though Felicity tried to make an appearance when I was only 23 weeks pregnant, I was so proud every week she stayed put. But shortly after, my body started shutting down and I became bedbound, only just able to make it too and from the toilet. The last day of July was a 50/50 on whether or not we had to go to hospital as my contractions were worsening, but worst of all, I couldn’t breathe. When things eased off we decided to wait until the following day to speak to someone as I had a growth scan booked. Once they saw me they wanted to admit me for the rest of the pregnancy to make sure both baby and I made it in one piece.

I was sent to the labour ward for close monitoring

The morning of the 2nd August 2022 is still a blur. I woke at 8am with horrendous contractions but didn’t think much of them as they were pretty much normal at that point. I was hooked up and Felicity just didn’t want to sit still. Even though the midwife told me everything was probably fine, she wanted a doctors opinion just to be sure.

They examined me and told me my cervix was closed but due to a bad trace they wanted to send me to the labour ward for closer monitoring. I was so used to this that I honestly thought nothing of it. But once I got to my room at around 9:30am, I knew something was wrong.

Felicity was becoming too distressed and they needed her out

Immediately, I was offered gas and air as the contractions were worsening despite my cervix remaining firmly closed, and I was asked to sign a consent form for if I needed an emergency C-section. I’d been texting my husband Matt and just after 10am I told him he might actually need to travel over as everyone was acting a bit odd. When he rang after dropping Melody off at his parents, the doctor was back in the room wearing scrubs and informed us he had to take me through to theatre right away as Felicity was becoming too distressed and they needed to get her out. I just remember sobbing with Matt on the other end of the phone and what seemed like 1000 miles away…

Sophie Nichols and baby in shower

At 10:53am, Felicity Mae Nichols arrived and was taken straight through to the NICU. 17 minutes later Matt arrived. We found out a week later I had placental abruption which was why it was all so quick.

I worried I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed

The first thought I had as I lay in recovery was that I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed. I’d been through this before with Melody. It would be several days before my milk came in, it might be weeks before we can establish breastfeeding because of how premature she was. With how quickly everything had happened I just felt helpless.

On the way out of recovery my amazing team wheeled me in to see my tiny girl and I fell in love instantly. The tubes, the smell, the noise, non of it bothered me. All that mattered was the babe that lay before me. I knew whilst she was fighting, I’d fight to do the only thing I could for now – feed her.

colostrum milk for premature baby

By four days postpartum, I had 26 50ml bottles stored in the NICU freezer

Providing milk for my premature baby

When it got to about 5pm, a midwife came to help suction what she could from my breasts with her little 10ml syringe. Oh how the milk did flow! 30ml in fact! I actually burst into laughter and tears with my boobs out for the world to see! The midwife was blown away and told me she would bring the pump to my bedside as I was definitely going to need it.

By four days postpartum, I had 26 50ml bottles stored in the NICU freezer and was producing 450ml-650ml during each three hourly pumping session!

I was incredibly proud, but exhausted

My nurses, midwives, gosh even my doctors, would comment every time they saw just how much milk I was creating! We all joked that I could supply the whole NICU and maternity ward from just a single session. I remember being extremely proud yet exhausted at the same time.

Sophie Nichols breastfeeding baby daughter who was born premature

Don’t get me wrong, if my milk never came in then we would have just used formula and that would have been that. But I’m so thankful I get to breastfeed Felicity. I’m thankful my midwives, my nurses and most importantly, my husband were there to cheer loudest when I needed them most.

I cried when I put her to the breast for the first time

At 9 days old, I was allowed to put her to my breast with no expectations. Being the amazing girl she is, she latched perfectly as soon as my nipple was close to her and fed for 10 minutes. I cried the whole time.

She’d been struggling with her tube feeds and I had it in my head we wouldn’t be able to breastfeed. Yet there she was, my tiny preemie, with milk all over her chops, passed out in a mamas milk daydream! After that, everything happened so quickly and she was home by 13 days old.

Sophie Nichols breastfeeding baby daughter

I love the closeness, the calmness, just about everything.

Seven months on and we’re still going strong

Felicity is now 7 whole months old and amazingly we are still breastfeeding! It’s been tough at times, don’t get me wrong, but every day we keep going. Melody was off the boob by 4 months and with how poorly I can get, and how bad my diabetes is, I genuinely never imagined I’d be lucky enough to still be feeding Flic!

She has two meals a day, as well as one bottle of formula (my feeds never properly recovered after getting the flu in December!) but other than that it’s all me. And I love it. I love the closeness, the calmness, just about everything. Plus it helps she still wants to breastfeed, that was half the battle with Melody!

The only advice I can give to any mother looking to breastfeed, is just keep going. It can get tough those first few days and weeks but once everything fits into place it truly is the most incredible thing.

Everyday that I get to continue this journey is a blessing!

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