When I told people I was pregnant I started being asked; are you going to breast-feed?
I hadn’t thought about how I would feed my baby when it arrived, as long as it got fed!
I felt the same way about how my baby would be delivered; as long as it arrived in to the world safely did it really matter?
Both of these were taken out of my control.
Rocco was delivered 4 weeks early by C-Section and weighed in at just over 4lb and with low blood sugar levels. Suddenly him gaining weight was a key to getting him out of NICU. The way my baby was fed was now THE most important thing.
Decisions to be made
My husband was with our son in NICU directly after the birth and was asked ‘which milk do you want us to use to feed your son’?’. Mr. S had no idea, as we hadn’t discussed it and Mr. S. had been all for me breast-feeding.
He chose one of the brands that were reasonably familiar to him. Bless! It did make me feel very detached from them both. It was a decision we should have made together, if at all.
I needed to recover quickly and get back on my feet so I could visit Rocco, even if only for a short time. I needed to hold him close and feed him.
Now I knew I wanted to feed my son myself but due to all his tubes I couldn’t do it the conventional way. I had no idea how we would do it.
Expressing by hand
As Rocco and I couldn’t have much one to one contact, my milk didn’t flood in, so the NICU team taught me and Mr. S. how to express my milk by hand, into a syringe.
We had to massage my boobs to get the milk flowing to feed my little baby. I was useless.
The nurse suggested Mr. S. had a go. He got the milk visible within minutes, he had the technique – how we laughed.
Then came the hilarious skill of catching that milk in to a tiny syringe, I can still hear Mr. S. saying “keep still, don’t lose a drop!”
The elation of getting 2ml of milk and walking it in to NICU to watch it being put into my sons feeding tube was amazing. I felt like a mum.
Moving on to the pump
I’m not sure when I sent Mr. S. out to buy me a pump so I could express at home, one day rolled into another.
It was emotional expressing night and day to feed a baby that wasn’t under the same roof as his mummy and daddy.
I enjoyed sitting in the NICU Mummies room expressing alongside other mums going through the same thing. It all became very normal.
We celebrated when we hit milestones like moving from filling syringes to filling a bottle; the fridge was full of ‘Gold Top’. We started calling me Daisy!
The day the nurse said I could try to breast-feed Rocco was a huge step. To hold him that close was magical.
But it came with hurdles, we struggled keeping him awake and had no idea how much he was getting. So we topped up with expressed milk and formula. Luckily he loved it all.
After a turbulent 2 weeks we got the little man home, I continued breast-feeding but I became paranoid about him not getting enough food.
I wish my boobs had a gage on to see how much he’d drunk. So I expressed and topped him up from a bottle as well.
Soon I was expressing into a bottle more and breast-feeding less. It did seem a never-ending process but I felt better and Rocco was happy. It meant hubby could be part of the feeding process too.
After 11 weeks I made the decision to stop expressing/feeding, he was less from me and was happy with a bottle. So we moved onto formula only (the one Mr. S had chosen in NICU!)
There really is no right or wrong. We still look at the tiny syringe and realize how far we’ve come. Boobs, Bottle, Syringes Rock!
Guest blog by Tamara, Rocco’s mum | Posted as part of our feeding a premature baby awareness week (12th – 18th January 2015) 🍼
If you have a NICU story to share please do get in touch; just email Catriona at firstname.lastname@example.org