As Parents There Is Nothing More Powerful Than The Stories We Share..
Welcome back to the #BreastfeedingStories guest post series, an opportunity to bring together stories from other mums who have breastfeeding experiences that they would like to share.
This weeks guest post features Kim from Odd Hogg who shares her story on the challenges of transitioning her premature baby from bottle and express feeding to exclusive breastfeeding.
For me, breastfeeding was never really a question. It was something I just always assumed I would do. It never occurred to me to buy bottles or formula to have in the cupboard just in case. I was going to breastfeed, simple as that.
Piglet was born at 36 weeks, so he was almost a month premature. There were some complications with his delivery and he was taken immediately to the paediatricians. It was a short visit and he was back with me fairly quickly for skin to skin and that all important first breastfeed. He wouldn’t latch, but apparently that is fairly common after the shock and effort of delivery so the midwife said not to worry.
I hand expressed for him and he was fed with a syringe. Unfortunately his condition deteriorated and he was taken to the neonatal unit. There he needed additional oxygen and that stopped all breastfeeding immediately, his feeds were through a nasal gastric tube. I continued to express, but without the skin to skin contact I struggled to keep up with his needs and formula was introduced after 24 hours. I had no problem with this, as the focus was of course to give him the energy to get better.
It was 2 days before I could hold Piglet again and it was just a brief cuddle. He started to take small feeds from a bottle from within his incubator. I continued to express using the hospitals pump and was getting quite good volumes but still needed to top up the occasional feed with formula.
I was discharged after 3 days, leaving Piglet behind. That was hard enough in itself but I also continued expressing around the clock to keep my milk supply going. I was still hopeful we would be breastfeeding soon. I tried 2 different manual pumps at home (one borrowed, one I bought), I didn’t want to spend a lot on an electric pump if it wasn’t going to get a lot of use.
At 5 days old Piglet no longer needed oxygen so I was able to take him out to try breast feeding. He had been taking bottle feeds for a few days from within his incubator and he wasn’t keen to give them up. He would fuss at the breast and not latch, eventually getting himself too worked up. As he was eating well from a bottle it was recommended I try a nipple shield, as they are shaped similarly to a bottle. At the time I thought it worked really well, but in hindsight he wasn’t feeding properly. He had very low weight gain so all feeds were supplemented with a bottle, so the fact he wasn’t actually breastfeeding properly was missed. All his overnight feeds were given via a bottle as I was not able to stay in the hospital with him.
At 8 days old it appeared that Piglet was demand feeding and breastfed. We were discharged and I toddled off home with him. We continued to try and breastfeed using the nipple shields. Unfortunately we were readmitted to the hospital at 14 days old due to some fairly advanced jaundice. Usually babies are able to handle it themselves but as Piglet was not eating sufficient amounts he wasn’t able to process it.
Due to low weight gain bottle top ups after each breastfeed were recommended. I wasn’t able to express enough to keep up with Piglets needs so we reintroduced formula. Piglet fairly guzzled down the feeds from the bottle – he likes a bottle!
I found the breastfeed, bottle feed, express, sleep and repeat routine exhausting. At around 3 weeks old I decided enough was enough. I wanted to continue to give Piglet breast milk, but the breastfeeding clearly wasn’t working so I opted to try and just express for him. I bought an electric pump as it was going to be a long term plan, however home pumps are not a patch on the ones at the hospital and I struggled to keep with with Piglets demands.
I had all but given up on breast feeding, but something kept me going. Everyone around me was telling me to stop but I wasn’t ready to cave just yet. Once a day I’d pick a quiet time to try Piglet on the breast before his bottle feed. I dispensed with the nipple shields as he wasn’t really feeding anyway and just let him prattle around in that general area. I figured that if nothing else it would maybe help with my milk production and it give him a little comfort.
Suddenly, at 8 weeks old, it all clicked. He latched on one day and hasn’t looked back since. The following day I decided to ditch the bottle and just see what happened if I let him feed exclusively from me and he had no issues. My life instantly became a lot less hectic and so much easier. Gone were the hours of pumping per day, my bottle washing and sterilising has dropped dramatically.
But why did I persevere? If I’m honest, the easiest option for me would have been to let Piglet continue with the bottle. He didn’t appear to want to breast feed, so why push it? He would have been a very happy chap on the bottle, whether it be expressed milk or formula (he’s also a very happy chap breastfed too though. Babies are easy like that!)
I have some purely selfish reasons for breastfeeding. Reasons that have nothing to do with health, or Piglet:
- Weight loss – breastfeeding can burn 500-800 calories per day. I could not bother to work out and still have dropped any baby weight pretty sharpish. Unfortunately it won’t tone you up though. Damn.
- Cakes galore – hand in hand with the weight loss, if you’re burning calories you might want to be replacing them. Personally I don’t want to lose any weight so I’ve been enjoying not having to watch what I eat. If I’m going to have a Piglet sized parasite for a year or so I might as well reap the cake-y benefits.
- Instant comfort – if in doubt, breastfeed. When Piglet is having a rage at life, a breastfeed always comforts and settles him regardless of what the issue actually was. It makes my life 10x easier – although not so easy for his father when I’m not home!
- Ease – I can’t forget my boobs when I leave the house. It’s just not possible. I don’t have to faff about with bottles and formula and all that jazz. Just grab the baby, some nappies and hit the road! (ok and maybe my keys, purse, phone….. but you get the picture). And the middle of the night – no mucking about. Just up feed and back to bed. No pratting around with boiling water and sterilising. More sleep for me – hooray!
- Flexibility – I can change plans with no (feeding related) repercussions. If we decide to stay somewhere later than we originally thought then no problem, got the milk on tap. No fuss!
So there you have it. A really tough and emotional 8 weeks, but a happy ending. Because if you want it enough anything is possible!
For more stories on pregnancy, babies and family life check out http://oddhogg.com
If you’ve got a breastfeeding story you would like to share as part of the series please get in touch with me at email@example.com or on Twitter. I’d love to help you share your#BreastfeedingStories.