Trigger: NICU, Pumping, Breastfeeding
I’m jealous of the moms who get the “Golden Hour” and have unlimited skin to skin time with their newborns. I’m jealous of the moms who have zero issues latching their babies onto their breast so they can feed. I’m jealous of the moms who don’t have to pump.
I always thought breastfeeding came naturally, and that there was nothing to it. Baby would find nipple and begin to feed. Baby would continue to find nipple any time they were hungry, and mom would watch as she effortlessly nourished her child. This was not the case for me, nor is it the case for many women.
My baby decided to come four weeks early, so he was considered “late premature”. His breathing was affected and because of this he was immediately taken to the NICU after birth. No Golden Hour, no skin to skin, no initial latch after we spent all that time and effort working to meet each other. Of course, breastfeeding was the last thing on my mind at this point; I was more concerned about my baby being able to breathe well enough to sustain life.
When the nurse came in to show me how to pump, I was a little confused. She told me I might only get a couple of drops at first, but that that was okay, and to keep trying to pump. She recommended a pumping schedule to me, and told me I had to be very diligent about pumping on time in order for my milk to come in. So, I did as she said and I pumped every 2 hours, on the dot. I didn’t know how to use the different settings on the hospital-grade pump. I was in pain, mentally and physically. I was also determined to be the main source of nutrition for my baby, so I kept on.
Our first latch was four days after my son was born. We couldn’t try any sooner because of the mask he had to wear to help him breathe, and the tube in his mouth that was feeding his belly. He latched successfully for a minute or two, then kept popping off. I later realized that because of the amount I was pumping, I had an oversupply. Because of this, my let down was so fast and overwhelming, so he couldn’t stay on my breast for long without feeling like he was drowning.
We struggled for days, weeks, and months with latching. I kept pumping, not knowing at the time that I was sabotaging our breastfeeding journey. I was so concerned about having enough milk to feed him that I over pumped. I had plenty to feed him every day, and was storing anywhere between 10-20 additional ounces in the freezer. This left me with a hefty freezer stash, but still the inability to breastfeed directly.
For the first couple of months of my son’s life, he struggled with excessive gas, runny stool, and obvious discomfort. At one point, his stool had blood in it and naturally, I freaked out. The pediatrician recommended I cut dairy out of my diet immediately to see if he had a “dairy intolerance”. Come to find out, he had an allergy to dairy, soy, wheat, egg, and oat. The pediatrician did not help me discover this; rather, an Instagram account and business run by a molecular biologist who specializes in infant food allergies helped me navigate our way through my son’s allergies while continuing to breastfeed.
It took us six long and painful months before I was able to successfully breastfeed my baby. I drastically decreased the amount I was pumping, tried more often than not to latch him, and practiced incredible patience. I was determined to detach from the pump full time and continue to provide breastmilk to my baby. I am proud to say that we are over a year into our breastfeeding journey and we aren’t anywhere close to the end. I’ve reached one goal and I’m setting more based on my child’s wants and needs. Breastfeeding provides him with not only the nutrients he needs, but the comfort and closeness he desires. I would not have gotten this far without the help and support from my wife, who has continued to encourage me throughout this entire endeavor; through the tears, the laughter, the pain- she’s been there. In addition, the wonderful free resources I’ve found on social media are unmatched. I’ve made connections with IBCLCs, doctors, and nurses who are passionate about their work in providing education and support to mothers around the world, as well as assisting families through their breastfeeding journeys.
The theme for World Breastfeeding Week 2022 is educate and support. I would not be where I am today without the education and support provided by the following Instagram pages:
I’d like to add that pumping IS breastfeeding. Whether your journey lasted one day, one month, one year; whether you primarily pumped, primarily latched, supplemented, etc.- you breastfed. I’d also like to add that if you did NOT breastfeed your baby, whether that was a choice you had to or chose to make- you fed your baby, and that is what matters.