You can find this mom’s birth story here.
One thing I was sure about when I got pregnant was that I would definitely breastfeed my baby. I thought about the moment often of when I would deliver and the baby would be placed on my chest immediately for a latch on. Skin to skin, immediate bonding and the start of something amazing. All part of being a mother. It was at the top of my birth plan, even above not having a cesarean section and the uncertainty of an epidural. I started pumping right away after he was born even though he was kept in the nursery and later separated from me. I was able to provide the nurses with the colostrum and they tube fed it to him. I kept pumping, determined, even though not much was coming out. I was told eventually, probably around the 5th day, that my milk would come in and it did. I was so happy and even though I didn’t get the start I’d hoped for, I was still able to provide my breast milk to my baby in the NICU. Lukas was tube fed for about a week and afterwards a lactation consultant helped me with getting the first latch. He latched right away which was exciting! Then he unlatched. I was told this was normal since he had breathing issues. We kept trying. Due to all of the aggressive pumping I developed severe “milk blisters” on both of my nipples. Lukas and I never established a great breastfeeding relationship in which he would latch and take a full feeding. Because of that, my supply never got to where it should have been and I wasn’t producing enough for him. I would still let him nurse though and if I felt he didn’t get enough I would supplement with formula, although I hated it. I continued with the pumping. It was nice to give it to him in a bottle and know for sure how much he was getting, but I still missed being able to exclusively breastfeeding naturally. Once I went back to work when he was 3 months, I noticed my supply really started to decrease. We went to supplementing just 1-2 bottles a day with formula to eventually only giving 1 bottle of breast milk a day, the rest would be formula. It was hard and became stressful which didn’t help my supply at all. I continued with my pumping/breastfeeding journey for 5 months. In ways, I felt like a failure but at the same time, I know I did the very best that I could have. I would have loved to have more support from a local lactation consultant and other moms, but I do feel good about what I was able to provide.
I did learn a few things during my journey that I’d like to share;
If your goal is to breastfeed make sure the doctors and nurses know. It is critical for you to be able to start immediately once the baby is born. As you will read below, during the first 2 weeks of breastfeeding, your prolactin levels surge and establishes your milk production to meet the needs of the baby. If this doesn’t happen there is more of a chance of low supply, similar to what I experienced. Even if you have a cesearan section, you should make every attempt to start breastfeeding as early as possible, even if dad or support person has to hold the baby to your breast.
Be prepared for round the clock work. Baby will likely eat every 2 hours and by the time a feeding is done it will almost be time to start again. It’s hard work, but so worth it. It would help to have lots of support on hand to help with household chores and to keep you furnished with water and snacks. I loved nursing Lukas at nighttime; it was so much easier than getting up to fix a bottle of formula.
One thing that I don’t quite understand is when women give up in those first few days because “they’re not producing anything”. Know that in the first day or two, all that you will produce is a tiny bit of colostrum. It takes 3-5 days after baby’s birth for your milk to come in. All that baby needs in the first few days is the colostrum. Their stomach is tiny and they just don’t need much.
The bond that is established during breastfeeding is one of the most special bonds you will ever experience. To know that you are giving your baby exactly what he/she needs is so fulfilling and rewarding. It is the perfect blend of nutrients and vitamins, not to mention the perfect temperature. No bottle warmer needed!
Below is a post that I found on a breastfeeding website and it helped me last as long as I did. There were plenty of times when I wanted to just give up, especially since I wasn’t exclusively breastfeeding. I did feel like a failure. This helped me keep going and made me realize the truth about breastfeeding and the baby’s behavior. This will also serve as a helpful reminder for my future babies. :-)