Breastfeeding: A Preemie Mum’s Determination

Today’s guest story comes from Danielle, who had her son early at 34 weeks. He weighed just 3lbs 4oz. Because of the various demands of having a child prematurely, only 5% of babies leave the hospital being breastfed. What Danielle has achieved is certainly no mean feat!

Joseph is 5 weeks old and I have been establishing breast feeding with him from day 1. This worked slightly differently for us, as Joseph was born 6 weeks early so spent the first 2 weeks in an incubator. He was fed through a nasal gastric tube. However, from day 1 I began expressing which at first was only very tiny amounts in a syringe. It meant that Joseph could have tastes of my milk in his mouth and on his lips.

Once my milk had come through I practised Joseph on the breast for the first time at 6 days old. Joseph was showing all the right signs and even tried a small suckle. This was huge steps for a prem baby. By this point my milk was coming in fast and I was fortunate to be able to use the breast pump at the hospital on special care baby unit (scbu) I stored my breast milk in the freezer there. It was then that all of Joseph’s feeds given through his tube were my expressed milk.

The biggest hurdle for me has been establishing breast feeding with him. It was difficult to be with Joseph all the time when his feeds were due as I was hospitalised myself for some of the time and then relying on lifts from family to get to the hospital. I would have loved to have been there trying to breast feed him all the time if I could. The staff knew how I felt and had a family room available for me to stay in over night so I could have a really good go at establishing his feeding. This was very up and down as Joseph was struggling to latch on. I preserved as much as I could but didn’t want him going hungry. I was then advised to try a bottle with him to see how he would take to the teats again with my milk. Over the 2 nights I stayed to establish feeding I received a number of mixed messages and options from the nurses and doctors which left me very confused as what feeding method I should go ahead with my baby – the main concern being nipple confusion. However the answer to all my problems came about when I was shown a nipple sheild, Joseph latched on and took to this straight away.

After the huge relief of being able to establish breast feeding I felt a huge sense of relief and am really proud of what we have both achieved. I enjoy the close bond me and Joseph have whilst he’s feeding and I tell him how I proud I am of the little fighter he is. Joseph is weighed once a week now and knowing that he is putting on weight well is reassuring. He managed to come home at 20 days old when originally we got told it would be 6-7 weeks before he would leave hospital. I believe this is partly down to all the goodness breast milk offers that has made him so strong.

Before Joseph was born I never really thought much about breast feeding. When friends and family asked me how I was going to feed him I would say that I was going to try at the breast but if it didn’t work it’s not meant to be. I used to be quite reserved about my body and thought I would be nervous about breast feeding him in front of others. However I soon overcame that once having him and believe it is just a natural thing. When you are in labour, your dignity goes out the window, so breastfeeding is nothing compared to this.

My top tip for new mums would be to do what is best for you and your baby. There are so many professionals out there, who all have conflicting opinions. At the end of the day any breast milk your baby is getting is better than none.

Thank you, Danielle and Joseph, for sharing your breastfeeding story with us. How incredibly rewarding it has been for you to fight on and achieve what you have!

Clearly, encouragement from professionals who want to support you is important when you are trying to establish feeding. If you need to speak to someone, ask your midwife or health visitor about getting a breastfeeding support worker to come to you, or see if you can attend a support group local to you.

Association of Breastfeeding Mothers: https://abm.me.uk/find-a-local-breastfeeding-support-group/