For this post I am linking up with @zenas_suitcase for her Breastfeeding Diaries linky. As it is National Breastfeeding Week you may have seen the hash tag #KBBF2014 (Keep Britain Breastfeeding 2014) in use. There are some amazing stories out there and this campaign is doing some fantastic work to help women achieve successful breast-feeding.
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Kerri-Ann or KA as my friends call me. We gave birth to our gorgeous boy in June 2011 (2 days from now). He was premature. Born at 33 weeks. It was the most terrifying, worrying and frightening time for Mr H and I, and of course our families too. We went through a rollercoaster of emotions, felt like one long ride at Alton Towers, with a lot of unexpected twists and turns along the way.
Back to the point. The reason why I am joining in with this linky is because, unlike most who breastfeed traditionally on the boob, I wasn’t able to. With Lil G being born premature he was tube fed for the first 3 weeks which ultimately meant that I had to express if I wanted to ensure he got my milk.
For those of you who have breastfed naturally you will probably recall the professional telling you that you will be unable to express straight away, or that it wasn’t advised, that you shouldn’t pump initially and wait patiently until your milk comes in. Rubbish. I had no choice but to express. I pumped without problem. Within an hour of our boy being born I was expressing milk into a tube to be taken to our baby.
For the 3 weeks or so we spent in hospital it was incredibly tough, the daily routine, the expressing, the mastitis (wow was that painful), the thrush (double ouch). I was told by the Neonatal Drs that breast milk was a form of medicine to a premature baby, I made sure I did everything I could to ensure he received my milk, albeit through a tube. I had always planned to breastfeed George, I just hadn’t expected it to be in the way it was.
We attended NCT parenting classes and visited a breastfeeding specialist. Sadly all of this went to waste as we just didn’t have that option.
I was determined to breastfeed Lil G. Initially he was fed my milk via a tube, however prior to leaving the hospital I managed to transfer him to a nipple shield, getting that one step closer to the boob. Sadly due to being born premature and having a tongue tie he never developed the sucking reflex which meant he struggled with the nipple shield and started to lose weight. Which isn’t a great combination with a premature baby. So after several consultations with the bliss breastfeeding ladies and our local support group, I chose to continue expressing, feeding Lil G via a bottle but still with my milk.
I was still classed as 100% breastfeeding, as it was my milk after all albeit in a bottle rather than via the boob.
I won’t lie to you it was tough, expressing for 20 minutes at minimum, then feeding Lil G, back to expressing in order to keep a store, soon filled my days. I struggled. although the one saving grace with Lil G being fed via a bottle was that I was able to share the feeding with Mr H and get some well deserved sleep. Hats off to all the breastfeeding mummy’s out there, you really do most of the work, with little help as sadly it’s your boob!
I also didn’t experience some of the horrible situations my friends did. The ignorance, the rudeness, the lack of understanding. Sadly we are in a world where Breastfeeding still isn’t accepted. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t agree with the BF selfies, or the women who literally just have their boobs hanging out for all to see. Yes, lets feed our babies in public, however lets do this discreetly. I don’t mean covering your baby with a scarf. You don’t eat your food with a blanket over your head so why should your baby.
I lasted 3 months expressing before turning to formula. If things had been different, and Lil G hadn’t been born premature I truly believe I would have breastfed for as long as I was on maternity leave (9 months). Sadly this was not the case. The paediatricians assured me that the efforts I had gone to would have provided our baby boy with a really good start to his already difficult beginning in life and not to beat myself up about switching to formula.
I am so pleased I expressed, so pleased that I allowed the Bliss breastfeeding ladies to support me. They really were special ladies, staying very close during our time in the NICU department of our local hospital. They even made me a breastfeeding bra. Imagine Madonna in her pointy bra, you remember the one, that was me but with milk bottles hanging from the pointy bits! Nice.
What was so fantastic about this contraption was that it allowed me to express on both at the one time, and the best thing was that I was able to hold Lil G whilst doing it, which to you might sound really strange but actually it really helped me to stay positive. Although, I often felt like I was being milked like a cow! I also looked rather funny.
Breastfeeding can be really tough to start, like a duck to water for some, natural and simple straight from the outset. Many of my friends have breastfed, some for days, weeks, months, with the longest being 16-months. Most have had very positive experiences, going on to feed a 2nd and 3rd child.
I wrote this post, to offer you an alternative to breastfeeding if it doesn’t work for you. Expressing and feeding via a bottle still means that you have breastfed your baby, just not in the same way most do. Expressing is definitely the alternative I would choose before considering formula. I would however recommend an electric pump over a hand pump and a Madonna bra!
If after reading this post you would like to read about our Premature Birth story then please do pop over to the post.