never far from my trusty pump
I’ve been stumbling across lots of articles on Breastfeeding today, so i thought I would share our experience. I hope it will offer some reassurance and useful information to families in a similar situation.
Whilst pregnant, I knew I wanted to breastfeed, had heard it often wasn’t simple and many people struggled. I also knew little about the Science nor the realities of it, prior to having my baby. My daughter was born nearly two months early. Not the start I had planned! I was fortunate that the night before she was born, an incredible Midwife showed me how to hand express colostrum (what is colostrum?) which was there ready for her to be fed. This Woman will forever hold a special place in my heart. It was Christmas Eve and she sat with me for hours helping me express and explaining what the Caesar would involved come the morning. People like that are worth their weight in gold.
My Daughter was only managing 1ml initially through a nasogastric tube. I came through the Cesar well, and was able with the help of Midwives to keep collecting (harvesting-what a word!) colostrum with little syringes. I was amazed to learn that the composition of breast milk alters when you have a Premature baby to provide them with all the additional things they need. bit by bit she was able to tolerate more milk.
Because my daughter was attached to all sorts of tubes and wires, I had to exclusively express. This meant using a hospital grade bump, for 20 minutes-half an hour, every three hours. The three hours started from when the last one started (not from when i finished), and I did this religiously twenty for hours a day. I wasn’t able to start trying to breastfeed her until she was over a month old, and we used expressed milk bottle top ups after each feed until she was around ten weeks old.
She was still less than five pounds when we eventually came home, she required very frequent feeding, small but often. It was exhausting, but did get better once we stopped the additional bottle top ups (feeding for up to an hour, then expressing, then trying to sleep for half an hour before it started again was not optimal for Maternal mental health). She did remain a frequent feeder throughout our breastfeeding journey.
Breastfeeding is something I view as one of my toughest challenges, but also greatest achievements. It never felt easy for me, it was often uncomfortable, exhausting, and relentless. But my daughter is now so strong, fit and healthy. She never had a cold in her whilst we were feeding. We managed over a year feeding together, for which I am so thankful and proud.
my husband carrying the Motherload
If you find yourself with a baby in NICU, or need to exclusively pump for any reason, here are a few things I personally found helpful:
- Harvesting colostrum before the baby is born is a great idea, get advice from a professional how to do this (feels truly bizarre at first).
- If you’re going to be doing a lot of expressing, hire a hospital grade pump from Medela, it is so much more efficient than the hand pumps or small electric ones. I believe you can even do it in this country via Amazon. In rural Australia it wasn’t quite so easy, so once we left hospital I used a double Medela Swing.
- Pump both sides at the same time-it’s more efficient and saves time.
- Be strict with the timings, I know it’s human nature to slip with time, but pumps are not as efficient as babies, so you ned to try and be disciplined initially if you really want to get as much milk as possible. Stretching it to five hours in between here and there is likely to end up with less milk ultimately.
- Purchase breastfeeding bags to freeze the milk-you can use it for months after its been produced, and if you don’t use it for feeding, it can be added to baby food down the track.
- Keep well hydrated and fed, at one point I was expressing over a litre a day, akin to around 500 calories. When you start feeding, it is not the time to start thinking about weight loss. Plus breastfeeding as a sneaky secret weapon in this (similar calorie burn to a daily 10km run).
- Try to remind yourself you’re doing something amazing, be kind to yourself!
- Keep the equipment sterile and clean.
- If being physically close by your baby or even having skin to skin is possible I found it really helped boost my supply. When I wasn’t able to be physically with her I looked at a photo whilst I pumped and thought about her. Its quite incredible how thinking about your baby can affect pumping.
- If possible, a supportive Partner, friend or family member can be a huge help. Someone to wash up the ump, or bring you whatever it is you can’t reach, or hold your baby. Educating them as to why it matters to you so much can be helpful too.
- You’re doing something selfless, and wonderful. The incredible benefits of Breast milk never cases to amaze me. Did you read that it’s been seen to kill Ecoli and MRSA?
- You boobs are unlikely to produce equal amounts and produce different amount throughout the day. It’s really normal. My right produced half that of my left!
- Those night expresses really matter. They SUCK, your baby isn’t with you, but you’re getting up to an alarm and attaching yourself to a groping piece of plastic. But thats when you’re really going to get the milk in. And it won’t be forever (it just feels that way).
- Try not to beat yourself up if things aren’t going to plan. Motherhood is a sharp leaning curve in compromise. You are pumping, you are trying, number one above all is the wellbeing of you and your child, don’t forget that.
- There is medication available to boost milk supply, chat to your lactation consultant.
- Seek help, we live in a bizarre isolated culture, we should be used to seeing feeding throughout our lives. There is help out there (list below).
- Don’t judge others. no two experiences are the same. I worked hard to pump yes, but my milk also came in quickly, I had no health complication and a strong supply. I also had a very supportive partner.
- Screen who you listen to. Everyone seems to have an opinion on what you do when it comes to babies. Lots of people have outdated or inaccurate ideas about breast milk. Check your sources, and trust your gut. You know why you started. Seek information from expert sources such as: LLL, ABM and the Breastfeeding Network
- It’s actually very rare for lactating to be completely impossible for a Woman, if you want to do it enough, you’re healthy and you keep pushing for support. Believe in yourself. Don’t mistake this with you must do it. You are a lot more to your child than a pair of boobs, and if you are finding trying to feed them is detrimentally impacting your mental health, seek help and weigh up your options.
- How you feed your baby does not dictate if you are a good or bad mother, nor how much you love them. End of.
I hope this is helpful, all Mamas are amazing in my eyes, boob, pump, bottle xx