Lets talk about breastfeeding shall we?
I want to start by saying that I truly don't care or pass judgement about what other parents feed their their babies. Whether it's formula or breast milk or a little of both, its fine by me as long as its done with love.
Early in pregnancy I learned what Kyle's preferences were... Our conversation went something like this:
Me: "What are your thoughts about feeding the baby?" (Way too vague. I know I know.)
Kyle: "Don't we have to feed her? What do you mean?"
Me: "Really? We feed the dogs don't we? Breastfeed or formula feed?"
Kyle: " I don't know. What do you think?" (Standard Kyle answer which is code for either "I don't give a sh**" or "I'm clueless".)
Me: "American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding for at least 6 months. There are lots of health benefits for me and M plus its really nice bonding."
Kyle: "Yeah. Plus, isn't formula really expensive?"
So we decided to breastfeed...or give a whirl anyway. Over the course of my pregnancy breastfeeding became something I was pretty passionate about. I did a lot of reading and we even met with a lactation consultant before Mallory was born to ask questions and learn a much as possible beforehand.
Then Mallory was born premature. This is frequently a game changer for breastfeeding since the "suck, swallow, breathe" reflex can be fairly uncoordinated and getting early nutrition is extra important for premature babies.
As soon as she was born she was very interested in feeding. We did immediate skin to skin and she played around at the breast. All very promising.
|[My first choice skin to skin photos are not internet appropriate lol.]|
When we got up to the Mother Baby floor Mallory still had not latched so we asked for a breast pump for me to get the colostrum going. We ended up having the give her colostrum using a tiny syringe. All this time I was putting her to the breast as often as I could. She was trying so hard but could not figure out how to latch.
Guys. It is heart wrenching to watch your new born child scream out of both hunger and frustration. Throw in killer hormones, nasty blood pressure medicine and a nurse who was pushing formula...miserable. I had already made my wishes to breastfeed very clear to the staff so I was not pleased that less than 12 hours after my daughter was born they were suggesting I give her formula.
Thank goodness I knew that it typically takes 2-4 days for milk to come in and that colostrum is plenty nutritious to sustain the baby. I figured as long as I had a pump, was producing colostrum and Mallory was taking it from the syringe we could stick it out. But let me say this was not easy! Had Kyle not been so helpful with cleaning the pump and searching for every last teeny tiny drop; I don't know that I could have handled it.
My milk came in after we got home on the 4th day. We were still feeding her expressed breast milk with little syringes, our finger and tubing all while still offering her the breast as much as possible. Such. A. Production. The nurses in Mother Baby told us to continue this technique at home since it most closely mimicked actually feeding at the breast.
We learned at her 5 day follow up with her pediatrician that this was actually bad advice for a premature baby. We should have been giving her the expressed milk the easiest way for Mallory to drink it (aka. bottle). She needed to gain weight since she was right at that magic 10% loss mark.
[Note: I worked with lactation consultants while we were in the hospital and through her pediatricians office. They provided reassurance that we were doing the right thing to achieve our breast feeding goal and were confident that Mallory would "get it"; she just needed time.]
So, for the next two ish weeks we fed Mallory expressed breast milk from a bottle (we like these) around the clock. Again, I was offering her the breast each time she fed. After her pediatrician confirmed that her weight was where it needed to be we began introducing the nipple shield.
|Rolls on rolls! So rewarding to see her gain weight.|
She did well with the shield pretty quickly, so it became a split system for several weeks. We were feeding her during the day from the breast using a shield and at night using the bottle. I HATED the nipple shield. It was so awkward and frustrating for me to use! I couldn't really nurse in public because I essentially had to take my shirt off to use it. I felt like I needed 7 hands. The nipple shield was the source of many tears for me.
We started slowly taking the bottle out of the equation as she got better with the nipple shield and eventually we were feeding exclusively from the breast using the shield. [We wanted to keep the bottle in play to some extent because ideally Kyle would be able to feed her at night when he got home from work so we would give it to her every now and then just as a reminder.]
After another appointment with a lactation consultant where we learned again how to teach her to latch at the breast without the shield, we began weening the shield. Sometimes I'd start the feeding with the shield, then remove it once the milk let down. Other times I would have her try and latch on her own (based on her mood). We again, fed with the shield at night and tried as best as we could to do without it during the day.
Now, at 11 weeks old, Mallory feeds at the breast without the nipple shield! She will have the occasional spell where she just loses her mind and I have to use the shield to get her started, but that has only happened once in the past ten days. I try and give her a bottle of expressed milk once a day so I still pump quite a bit.
PHEW! Lots of work and learning for both myself and Mallory but it was definitely worth it for us. I love nursing her :)
- Do your research! For being so natural, breastfeeding isn't always easy.
- Make your wishes clear to your family/support system. They will be the key to you being successful in reaching your breast feeding goal. [Shout out to my mom, mother in law and Kyle for helping me through this mess;) ]
- Be your own advocate. This goes hand in hand with doing your research.
- Invest in a good pump. I have the Ameda Purely Yours pump because it is what my insurance company provided to me at no cost. Had I known I was going to end up pumping so much I would have purchased something higher quality.
- Stay hydrated. This is so important when it comes to keeping up your supply. Things can get crazy. This is a good way for your spouse to help you. They can ensure you have a full water bottle wherever you are feeding the baby.
- RELAX! I truly believe your baby senses when you're stressed/upset and it's contagious. Take a second and enjoy the process of feeding your baby, however that may look.
Did you struggle to breastfeed? OH, do you give your child a vitamin D supplement?