Today I am participating in Sarcastic Mom’s Breastfeeding Carnival. It’s an awesome idea. If you feel bad that you missed it you have an opportunity to make up for it on March 24 during the Birth Story Carnival, in which I will also be participating.
First off, I have two children but my Breastfeeding story today is going to be about Kayla, my first daughter. Why? Because if I wrote about my breastfeeding my second daughter (Avalynn) it would go something like this;
Baby popped out. Baby was hungry. Baby latched on. Baby eats all the time.
See, wouldn’t that be boring? There is a lot more to tell about Kayla. She was no where near an easy baby to breastfeed.
The first time I was able to breastfeed Kayla was when she was eight weeks old. The day she was born she was having trouble latching on, or even rooting for that matter. The nurses told me sometimes it takes a day or two for babies to decide to eat. By the time she was about 24 hours old, they decided to send in a lactation consultant. When she arrived she tried with all her might to get Kayla to latch on but she wouldn’t even close her mouth around my nipple. (Yeah, that’s right I just said NIPPLE! Did I get your attention yet?) During the time the lactation consultant was there, my daughter had a seizure. After a few hours of testing in the NICU, they decided to transfer her to the Children’s Hospital NICU, there they had discovered that she suffered massive bilateral cortical strokes during her delivery. (Click here to read more about that story, but for this one I am going to focus on breastfeeding.) After she was transferred, I had to wait for an OB to discharge me. While I was waiting the lactation consultant came back to visit me and go over how to use the Medela Lactina Select Breast pump we decided to rent.
That pump is like a little mechanical angel. If it was 552 million billion gwazillion dollars, I would own six.
Thus began my pumping story. I cried when I found out I couldn’t breastfeed for a while, but I was determined to get as close to the real thing for both of us as possible until then.
The day she arrived at Children’s she was placed on an NG tube. She received formula through it until my milk came in. Once my milk came in I asked that she only received my breast milk through it.
While Kayla was in the NICU, I pumped and pumped and pumped. I used a picture of my little angel that I set on top of the breast pump to help with let down. That helped a lot. It reminded me that I was doing this for a purpose, for her.
I kept a little beanie baby I had bought for her tucked in my nightgown at night. I brought it to her every morning and switched it out with a different one that a nurse had brought in for her. They told me it would be comforting to her to smell me and help with bonding after she was released. It always seemed to calm her down. I remember moving it closer to her when I had to leave at night to sleep.
Once she was allowed to come off the NG tube and receive oral feedings, I still wasn’t allowed to breastfeed. They wanted to monitor her intake and they couldn’t do that if I was breastfeeding so I could only pump and bottle feed her my milk. I came every three hours to feed her. Every day. I wanted to feel as close to her as I could, and if she were home with me I know I would be getting up to nurse her every three hours regardless. It was just a little different to make the trip to see her every three hours when we weren’t in the same building.
Close to when she was going to be released they decided I could finally breastfeed her, but despite all my efforts, I just couldn’t get her to latch on. We tried everyday, we worked with another lactation consultant, we even tried nipple shields. She had gotten way to used to bottle nipples and due to her disability the doctors told us that we were lucky she was even drinking from the bottle and to come to terms with the fact that she may never breastfeed.
After she was released I continued to try. Weeks went by and we still weren’t making any progress. I continued to pump and try everyday until one day we went out as a family to the mall. As we were leaving the food court, I saw a mother breastfeeding her child at a table.
I broke down into tears right there in the mall. I was so frustrated and so determined to share this bond with my child, but I felt as though I had failed her since we still couldn’t get it down.
That night I decided I was going to give it one final shot before I gave up and just pumped for her bottles. We spent all night trying and trying until one moment somewhere around 5:30am she latched on and began to nurse. I almost jumped up and down with joy but I didn’t want to interrupt her for fear that it would never happen again.
From that day forward she nursed without a problem. I returned to the breast pump to the hospital. We were one happy mama and baby. She never had another bottle and nursed effortlessly until she was 18 months old.
I am so glad to have never given up. I enjoyed the time I did get with Kayla nursing and I will cherish it always. I am now currently still nursing my six month old who just happens to be the easiest baby ever to nurse. I plan to nurse her until she is 18 months old as well.
I thought I would include some tips for pumping/breastfeeding while your child is in the NICU. I believe you should do what is best for both you and you baby whether it’s formula feeding, breastfeeding or pumping. If you do plan to breastfeed, though, and your child has to stay in the NICU for whatever reason, here are some tips:
(A lot of you that have had babies in the NICU already know these!)
Pump, pump, pump! Rent a hospital grade pump and pump every three hours for at least 15 minutes on each side. Yes, that means waking up in the middle of the night as well.
To help with the letdown process take a picture of your baby and set in on your breast pump while you pump, or pump while you are sitting next to your baby in the NICU.
Tuck a stuffed animal or folded blanket in your shirt or nightgown every night and sleep with it there. When you see your baby next sit it next to him/her and switch them out every night. (This is how the baby will get used to your smell)
Ask that your baby receives breast milk through their NG tube instead of formula.
Once your baby is switched from an NG tube to oral feedings ask if you can breastfeed. If that’s not an option, ask that no one feeds your baby but you and show up every three hours to bottle feed your baby. (If that is an option for you.)
Never give up!