With World Breastfeeding Week upon us, it’s a wonderful chance to recognise the different experiences and journey that Mama’s go on. Here, Megan shares her story on the challenges that come from breastfeeding a premmie and shows that whilst it’s different, it is possible and can be just as rewarding.
Tell us about your breastfeeding journey
I have been very fortunate to have two very successful and two very different breastfeeding journeys! My first ‘Willow’ was what I would call a normal pregnancy and very normal breastfeeding experience, the usual pain and agony in the first few weeks of feeding her, I was very fortunate that she was a ‘natural’ at it and made it so easy for me. My second little babe on the other hand was born eleven weeks early due to placental failure, and my breastfeeding journey with her began and ended with a pump.
How did you feed your premmie?
I would pump every three hours everyday for ten weeks whilst she was in the NICU. It was stressed to me by our doctors that it’s particularly important to breastfeed premature babies (however if you can’t then a fed baby is a happy baby in my books). Premmie babies are particularly vulnerable to necrotizing enterocolitis, a condition in which their little tummies are unable to digest formula. This leads to parts of the intestinal tissue become damaged and beginning to die and little ones having parts of their intestines removed via surgery. Knowing this I was very keen to breastfeed little Blair.
Blair was fed via a nasogastric tube for the first six weeks of her life and we began our breastfeeding journey when she reached approx. 36weeks gestation. She was very slow to start. The doctors wanted me to feed her on an ‘empty breast’ as she had to learn to suck, swallow and breath all at once. We slowly allowed her to take milk from me and before we knew it she was a champion breastfeeder.
Blair was born 11 weeks early. Here she is in the NICU.
The highs and the lows
The high of breastfeeding for me was that I found it definitely strengthened the bond between myself and my little one. I took pride in being the food source for my little babes. Another high I have been fortunate to experience is that the second time around (due to exclusively pumping milk for Blair for nine weeks) my milk supply was HUGE!! So much so that I have been able to help feed multiple little babes who were in need of breast milk due to medical conditions. Charities such as Mothers Milk Bank can make the impossible possible. The lows for me have been the initial stage of breastfeeding, the pain and bleeding (ugh!!!) it’s not fun!!! In the initial weeks with Willow I also found myself second guessing ‘how much’ milk she was getting and all the cluster feeding drove me batty!!
How long did you breastfeed for?
I breastfed Willow for about six months, she was far too busy in the end and could never stay latched on for long. She just wanted to see what was happening!! Blair was breastfed for about nine months, I pumped exclusively for the last month but my supply just continued to drop even after all my attempts to boost it.
What didn’t you know that you wish you did before breastfeeding?
That there is no ‘right’ way to breastfeed, do what works for you and your baby. Hold you baby however you feel comfortable, learn your baby’s cues, trust yourself and your body (it will never lead you astray). Feed your baby as often as you think they need (trust me the little one will let you know!). Relax and enjoy the breastfeeding journey and if it shouldn’t work out for you, don’t beat yourself up at the end of the day – a fed baby is a happy baby!
Were there any must haves or products that you want to share with other breastfeeding Mamas?
A good maternity bra: I found New Beginnings Breastfeeding Bra to be SO comfortable, easy to wash and really good quality.
A good pump: Consider investing in a good double pump (it will save you so much time pumping double!!!). I purchased the Spectra S2 double electric breast pump and cannot recommend it more.
Lactation cookies: Great for giving you a little boost of milk when you need and these ones from Milk and Cookies by Jewels taste amazing. I could never stop at one (whoops!).
Breastfeeding Tea: I have always used Mama Body Tea and have had just the best results with their Mama’s Milk tea. I’ve also gifted it to so many of my friends and have had rave reviews each and every time.
This post was originally published on Mama Body Tea and republished here with their permission. Click here to read the full article.