(Note: Now that my youngest son, a former 27-weeker, is two and thriving, I’m publishing several posts today for World Prematurity Day. This one is about Nursing a NICU Baby.)
One of the things I’m proudest of in my life is that my 2 year old is still breastfeeding. It was a difficult journey, to say the least. He was the first baby I had who had to receive formula to gain weight properly, and as a former breastfeeding counselor, this was something particularly gut-wrenching for me. Breastfeeding was a huge part of who I was as a mother.
Formula was something lactivists like me used to refer to as “crap in a can”. But for many, formula is life-saving.
Do I think women don’t get enough good information about breastfeeding from their health care providers? Yes.
Do I think free formula samples are generally a bad idea? Probably.
Am I thankful formula was available to me? Absolutely.
There are about a dozen reasons why premature babies have difficulties gaining weight on breastmilk alone. Everything from the stress and trauma of a (short) difficult pregnancy, to NICU separation, to hormonal issues, to mom’s inability to respond well to a pump, to the sheer immaturity of baby (weak suck, easily fatigued, low muscle tone, etc).
But I’m one stubborn lady. Here are the posts I wrote about it.
Nursing a NICU Baby:
Part One: Breastfeeding A Preemie
Part Two: Pumping For Your NICU Preemie – why it’s so hard, and helpful tips
Teaching a preemie how to breastfeed in the NICU
He licks me. He sticks out his tongue, spitting the nipple I just spent several minutes getting into his mouth, right back out.
He frowns, concentrating hard. He knows there’s something he’s supposed to be doing here, but he’s just not sure what. He sucks twice, half-heartedly, then falls asleep, exhausted from the effort.
Nursing a NICU Baby isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes a stubborn determination and a willingness to leave behind previous ideas and experiences for a new normal.
Teaching my preemie how to nurse was totally unlike helping my other six children.
I had to make peace with him getting a tiny bit of formula. I grieved, cried and got angry.
Then I focused my energy on what I could do – pump like a mother – every three hours, night and day, and stopped punishing myself.