Express Yourself

From a few weeks ago, but the expression on Max’s face is great!

So the time has come to talk about feeding! We all know the great breastfeeding/formula feeding is one of the big debates designed to make moms feel judged whatever side of the fence they fall on! You may also know if you’ve read previous posts of mine that I breastfed my daughter for just under a week before switching to formula, partly because she just wasn’t getting the hang of it and there was a worry she’d become jaundiced again and wasn’t putting enough weight on, and partly because I was very poorly.

This time round I’d decided I wanted to try and feed my son if I could. Then within hours of his birth he’d been transferred to NICU and was being attached to various wires and tubes so I was advised to start hand expressing and then on day 2 to start using the electric pump to build up my supply.

As it was, Max was partly tube fed for the first two weeks of his life while being nil by mouth on the other days. When it came to establishing feeding on day 15, I was told to essentially pop him on the boob and ‘see what happens’ although I was warned he was small so may not take to it. I tried on that day a few times but felt massively unsupported. I was sat in a room with a curtain around our section of it, trying to get this tiny poorly baby to attach himself to me. He was so tired he kept nodding off with the effort of it.

And I cried. I cried at every feed because it was bringing back all of the memories of trying unsuccessfully to feed Alexandra. I cried because I knew the only way we would get out of the hospital is if Max started gaining weight and he had to be having a substantial amount of milk to do so. I cried because I really didn’t know what I was doing – and neither did he bless him.

So when they gave me the option of feeding him from a bottle (still
my expressed milk), I took it. And he drank the entire thing straight away despite them saying he may struggle to do so because of his size. And from then on, I carried on expressing and giving him the milk from a bottle. I didn’t even try putting him on the boob.

When we were discharged a few days later, I knew his fast progress was because he’d taken to bottles so quickly and I wondered how much longer it would have taken for us to establish breastfeeding. Occasionally I thought I should have stuck at it longer but I figured he was still getting exactly the same milk, just from a different receptacle!

When we got home they said I could try breastfeeding there if I wanted to. Perhaps I would have done if he was my first but I couldn’t see a way to sit all day trying to establish breastfeeding when there was also a toddler to look after and SO many hospital appointments to attend. Probably once feeding was established, it would take less time than expressing but I couldn’t see a way we could get to that point?

Max is now on a mixture of my milk and a special Neocate formula since he was diagnosed with dairy allergy FPIES. I’ve donated the four litres of milk I’d got frozen from before I went dairy free. Max has 120ml every three hours which is a lot more than most babies his size, but he’s trying to catch up because he’s still the size of a newborn not a two month baby! So if I was able to express eight times a day I would probably be able to build my supply a little and solely give him EBM but it’s normally more like six times a day that I express and sometimes it has to be a quick five minutes rather than a full go, so that’s why we’re topping up with formula.

I don’t know how long I’ll carry on expressing. I felt like it was important for him to have my breast milk, more so because of him being prem and poorly. It would be SO much easier to transfer to just formula (have you ever tried looking after a baby and toddler on your own while expressing?!) but I don’t want to do that just yet.

I’ve only had one bit of outright negativity (I may talk about that separately) and the advantage is that other people are able to feed. So for example sometimes Dylan will be feeding Max overnight and I can go off and express – or even try and get some sleep.

Downsides are I do feel incredibly like a cow ‘milking’ myself all day and night!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

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