When you think of birth and babies, breastfeeding seems like it comes naturally, but it is not always as easy as you would think. My two pregnancies were as different as can be, like ice and fire. The first was a vaginal delivery after almost 60 hours of labor at 40 weeks and one day with a 10lb 14oz girl. The second was an emergency c-section at 25 weeks and one day where we lost one daughter (1lb 15oz) and our second daughter (1lb 8oz) was headed for a long stay in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit).
I have degrees in science, but for some reason it never occurred to me that the milk doesn't necessarily just flow. The medical staff was nervous that my first might be losing weight and had an infection from an extended labor, so she was whisked away to the NICU and I was left with a pump to try and get the milk flowing. I felt very lucky that while I "primed the pumps," my daughter was able to consume donated milk, and it was a good thing! That big baby was gulping down four ounces at a feeding! She was born on a Saturday and it took me pumping eight times a day for fifteen minutes at a time, four days (which felt like a lifetime) before I finally produced my first drops of milk. After that, we still had a few days before she would latch. Finally, after her round of antibiotics, she was released to go home and though the week had seemed like a struggle, I felt confident that I would be able to breastfeed her successfully.
I fed her eight times a day til she started skipping one night feeding and would pump a couple times a day so that I would have a supply for a few times that I knew I would have to be away and for when I went back to work. I pumped enough to use breast milk in her baby cereal for beyond the first year and she finally had her last latch (a bittersweet moment) at just over two years and three months.
After struggles the first time, I had done research about how to best accomplish breastfeeding with twins. Unfortunately, the struggle here was going to be much more emotionally, physically, and mentally intense than I could have anticipated.
Due to medical complications, it was two month before I could even try nonnutritive breastfeeding. This means you pump all the milk out of your breasts and just attempt to get the baby to latch for practice. On this date, Baby B was 2lbs 8oz. Can you imagine the difference in this minute miracle and her sizable sister?
Then, we worked our way to actually attempting breastfeeding. It's natural. It should come easy. Right? Not so much. It takes a lot of energy and coordination to breastfeed, which our preemie just didn't have. When the baby is breastfeeding, it also means that the milk can't be fortified with extra calories, vitamins, and supplements.
Today, we are at just over six months of chronological age, Baby B is 8lbs 2oz, and she successfully latches and transfers(actually gets milk to flow and consumes it) every morning. Until we get on the growth curve, it is unwise to breastfeed more than once or twice a day. Baby just needs all those extras that she can get from adding to the breast milk and we save her a few calories by letting her bottle-feed. I am still hopeful that we will reach a point where we can spend more mealtimes bonding, but for now it's the pump for me.
Rayna Moore -
© 2021 by Rayna Moore