The day after I gave birth to our 29-weeker, my milk was overflowing. I will never forget the embarrassment I felt as visitors came in to find my pajamas soaked and me totally unaware. We immediately called the lactation nurse, and I had my first experience pumping breast milk for my preemie. The round of nurses who stopped by to congratulate me on the two nearly full bottles of breast milk I achieved during that first pump had me a little embarrassed.
The following day was the first day I was allowed to leave the hospital to visit my preemie who was in another hospital across town. When I was able to hand over the breast milk I had been pumping religiously to Roxy’s NICU nurse, I was so proud of myself. Pumping breast milk for my preemie at that time felt like the only thing I was able to do for my daughter. I was unable to change her diaper, feed her, or hold her; only just barely touching her was allowed. But supplying her food? That I could do. I loved being able to do that for my preemie.
As Roxy got bigger and began bottle feeding, I assumed that the next step would be attempting to breastfeed. I was looking forward to – and hoping for – that connection with my baby. I was wrong. It wasn’t until a week before talk of Roxy coming home began that I was allowed to try. I failed miserably. We listened to nurses, got advice from friends, and tried and tried again. By the time Roxy did come home, it was clear that she was not going to latch and breastfeeding was not an option. We were bottle feeders!
Even though I was disappointed that I was not going to be able to breastfeed my preemie, I had tried my best and I was still able to produce milk for her. My love/hate relationship with the breast pump kept us with a freezer stocked with breast milk until Roxy was six months old. At that point, our pediatrician had no problems with her beginning a complete formula diet.
My only regret is that I didn’t ask to breastfeed earlier, or question why I wasn’t told to at least try. Would Roxy have latched if we had tried earlier? I will never know because I didn’t question it. I learned that you can’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and your preemie. I failed to advocate for me or Roxy by not asking to attempt breastfeeding and not questioning the lack of encouragement from nurses.
Did you battle to breastfeed your preemie? Any tips or tricks for new preemie parents?