Saturday, November 5, 2011

Every day we practiced but he never took more than 10 mls at a time.

I didn’t have a birth plan, but I had a breastfeeding plan. That was the only thing I knew for sure. I had researched it and was going to write “do not give my baby formula” on his crib like the books said to do. I don’t have a problem with formula – I’m not a militant LLL EBF RAH RAH sort. It was something I wanted to share with my baby.

Well, I hadn’t figured a preemie into the equation. Even when the nurse told me that they could wait for my milk to come in I didn’t know what I was getting into. She warned me that breastfeeding might not be an option. She wasn’t talking about us!

Except she was, and if you have the same dream with your baby in NICU try to prepare yourself. Never think for a second that you can’t do it. If it’s something you want (and you’re really going to have to want it!) you’ll need to start being patient right now and never stop.

In the beginning you can’t breastfeed. You pump. And pump, and pump, and pump. I pumped eight times per day from 20-90 minutes per session. Nobody told me about the power pump method but I had created my own.

When we came home from NICU, though, I wanted to make the switch from bottles to breast. For two months I’d heard, “He’ll get it! He just needs to get stronger/bigger!” It wasn’t adding up anymore. Mathematically he could do it, I thought. Something wasn’t right.

It turned out that my son had nipple confusion. I didn’t even know that was a real thing! My dream had been to feed him for the first time within an hour of his birth, but instead it took 3 months, 3 weeks, and 1 day for him to have his first bottle-free day.

Breastfeeding wasn’t anything like I thought it would be. It was frustrating, upsetting, alienating and often ended with both of us crying. I was so tired of hearing comments from full term mothers when they heard I was having trouble, “Well, you must be doing something wrong. Do you know how to latch? You must not. Go see a LC.” We were in NICU for 58 days! I had been swimming in LC's, but it wasn’t until I saw a specialist that we realized the problem wasn’t me.

Now I’ll share how we made it work for us in hopes that if you find yourself in a similar situation you will find it helpful. You will need a lot of time and patience. My specialist told me that by choosing to EBF I might not be able to go back to bottles – that it was likely we couldn’t have it both ways. She was right and now some people make comments about how I’ve limited myself – I’m tied down to my son’s feeding schedule. That’s also right, but I’m overjoyed! Double features and long shopping trips can wait – I have a son to feed!

Let’s get started!

Slouch down on the couch or a cozy chair with your shirt & bra off. Let your naked baby wiggle around and try to get to a nipple on their own. Encourage this, do it as much as you can. Do it all day & all night if you can. I started watching entire series on Netflix from start to finish to distract myself. It was stressful and tedious.

With nipple confusion often they can latch, but don't know how to suck. They can hang out & look just like they should, nursing away, but not taking in enough milk. It takes time, and a crazy amount of patience. I noticed that if I lay on my side he felt cozier and my arms didn't get tired. I'd let him comfort suck, try, whatever, just hang out. FINALLY (!!!) he started to suck successfully and we'd skip bottles. Then we'd go overnight with him just nursing slowly, getting through the whole night. Then, when we got to a whole day with no bottles, I panicked and gave him one thinking I'd just fill his belly...then I read that that was a mistake (So That's What They're There For – best book!). The next day I bit the bullet and didn't cave...............and we did it! We finally did it!

It was scary when we finally put the bottle down. It was tempting to give him one just to make sure he wasn’t hungry. On one of the days that week he lost suction for a feed – he cried, I cried, but we held onto each other and got back on track for the next feed. If their diapers are wet and pooping like usual you are good - and your pediatrician will let you come in and weigh LO whenever you want to be sure they are gaining. They are there to help and support you!

It’s been over three months since his last bottle. He started sipping from cups this week.

YOU CAN DO THIS! You can, it's just a matter of time and re-training.

Read more by Stephanie Heather at Urban Flowerpot

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Precious and priceless so lovable too, the world’s sweetest littlest miracle is, a baby like you.

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