29 April 2014

Breastfeeding a Preemie - Part one

While pregnant with J, breastfeeding him was the least of my worries. After all, I'd been breastfeeding A for over two years already - I knew what I was doing. I never imagined that those first few days would be anything but easy. 

Instead of having J latch within the first hour after giving birth (I missed out on this with A as well and regretted it), I had to wait until day 11 before I could first try breastfeeding J. Eleven days! That first latch on was pure magic. 

But let me back track a bit. 

With J in NICU it was of utmost importance that I start expressing to provide him with colustrum at first and finally breastmilk. The hospital issued me with a breastpump that same day and I started expressing for him that evening. I remember crying, thinking this was NOT how it was supposed to be - me hooked up to this mechanical device, my baby not with me, not even able to hold him and trying desperately to squeeze out a few precious millilitres of colostrum. 

Results of my first pumping session on the evening of J's birth

Expressing for him was probably one I the most difficult things I've ever had to do. I was still in such an emotional state from his birth a few hours prior, trying to wrap my mind around what happened, but at the same time I knew that I had to pull myself together, that I just had to focus on this task. Expressing for J was one of the few things I could actually do for him in those first few days in NICU and I was determined to get it right. The medical staff took care of him in every other way, but this was my chance to actually feel like his mom in a small way.

He needed only 3ml per feed at first - I managed to get about 10ml out on my first try, but barely got 1.5ml the next time. It was incredibly frustrating, not to mention stressful. I felt like I was failing him. I kept plugging on though - from previously expressing milk for A while at work, I had picked up some tricks that would make it easier. I would go and visit him in NICU, touching him as much as was allowed. I took photos and videos of him on my phone that I could look at later while expressing to stimulate letdown. I also added some hand expressing along with using the pump. And I set my alarm to express every 3 hours - day and night. Waking up to an alarm and  hooking yourself up to a pump while next door you hear a baby waking up and mom feeding him/her directly at her breast sucks. Big time. Afterwards I would walk down the passage to the NICU, gripping the cup containing the precious few mls, trying to avoid looking at the other moms and babies playing happy families in the maternity ward. 

The magic of KMC - yield directly after the first skin-to-skin with J. 
I was due to be released from the hospital on day 3 and was worried about how I would be getting milk to J in time for his feeds. On the evening I was expressing about 10ml at a time - I wanted to have a buffer of at least 24 hours' worth of feeds since I wouldn't be able to be with him 24/7. But good news awaited me on the third morning when I walked in to the NICU - I could kangaroo J! And boy oh boy, did that skin-to-skin have an awesome effect on my milk production - I pumped almost 40ml directly afterwards. To put that amount into perspective - the session immediately before KMC yielded literally half that amount.  I continued to pump at that level the rest of the last day I spent in hospital. This meant they had enough milk to feed J during the night without us doing a 2am emergency drop-off of milk at the hospital. A huge burden was lifted off my shoulders and for the first time I saw some light at the end of the tunnel.

I went home that afternoon with my breastpump, leaving J behind in hospital...

1 comment:

  1. Your perseverance paid off! It must have been awful at the time, but at least you made progress. I also struggled at the begining, but at least I didn't have ICU to contend with. Looking forward to your next post.


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