My first born was 5 weeks early. Talk about being anxious, scared and overwhelmed and then add breastfeeding to the mix. Agh! It was all a bit much but I was determined to breastfeed.
Breastfeeding was not easy at first since neither Bub nor I knew what we were doing. Bub was not latching properly causing damage to my nipples; I wasn’t holding her in the right position to feed and she kept falling asleep within the first few minutes of nursing…the list goes on. I was starting to feel slightly discouraged. As a new mom I thought I needed to be Super Mom, and I felt like I was falling short.
Since Bub was born prematurely, her sucking reflux had not fully developed, which made breastfeeding even more challenging. It also meant that she needed to spend the first few weeks of her life in Special Care Nursery, where she could receive the attention she needed. For me, that meant that every day for 2 weeks I drove to the hospital and tried to get Bub to breastfeed. But every time I tried it never seemed to take, and she always had to be topped off with formula via a feeding tube or a bottle. I would then go home to pump every night and throughout the day to keep my supply at a level where it might be possible to feed Bub exclusively breastmilk when she came home.
When the time came for Bub to come home, I had to face the reality of having a premmie newborn who wasn’t sleeping or eating very well. After a few days of attempted nursing, epic burping, double pumping, topping off with a bottle, cleaning and sterilizing all of the bottles and equipment and having SORE nipples, I was mentally and physically exhausted. My extended family all lived overseas, and even though my mother and mother-in-law had arranged to come visit me, Bub’s early arrival meant no one was around to help me for several weeks.
After just a few days I was thoroughly sleep deprived and I was at my breaking point. My husband was helping to the best to his ability but there was only so much he could do. Seeing his child hungry, naturally, he just wanted to feed Bub a bottle of formula and be done with it. This was not conducive to my breastfeeding efforts! My mother-in-law arrived from the U.S. just in time. She was the encouragement and confidence builder I needed to persevere. Within a few weeks of her arrival, Bub was exclusively breastfed.
It wasn’t an easy start, and I also battled a few bouts of mastitis along the way, but in the end Bub was exclusively breastfed for 18 months. I’m grateful that I was given the right person at the right time to help encourage me through the toughest part of my journey.
My breastfeeding experience with my second child was completely different. Bub #2 immediately latched without a problem and ate and slept like your average newborn. She has never taken to a bottle—just her mama! Looking back I was much more relaxed. My 2-year-old was keeping me too distracted and busy to think of much else! The second time around I still had the painfully sore nipples and swollen breasts, but overall I had a more positive, calm experience. We are still going strong today with breastfeeding at 15 months.
I am extremely grateful my kids were able to be breastfed. I’m an advocate for it. I think it’s a great experience that has helped both my premature children develop healthily, and has also helped us bond emotionally. It’s not for everyone, but if you persevere you will be rewarded. Try not to let the whole experience overwhelm you which could potentially ruin your precious, intimate time with your bundle of joy. That first year or two is over before you know it!