Those of you who have given birth, felt your child on your chest, and gotten a successful latch within hours of their first breath are damned lucky.
After my c-section, when my kids were whisked off to the NICU to be given assistance with breathing, I was wheeled to my recovery room, where a lactation consultant came to me a few hours later. Her name was Gayle and she came armed with a hospital grade pump, a bag of attachments and an assortment of milk containers. She asked if I was planning on feeding my children my milk and I said wholeheartedly, yes.
Gayle showed me how to use the pump and left the room for a few minutes to let me get to know my new machinery in private. I began pumping and, what do you know, I produced colostrum! I filled a few syringes with the precious stuff, not wasting a single drop (except the stuff that leaked all over me when I pumped the first time – that was thoroughly heartbreaking). Gayle assured me that I had produced quite a bit and gave me instructions to pump around the clock, every three hours. There was a mini fridge in the NICU with my milk in it. It was wonderful to be able to fill it – first with a few syringes, then with ounces at a time.
About two weeks into our stay in the NICU, I requested to be able to breastfeed Clara for one of her scheduled feedings. It went well, with the help of a lactation consultant and a nipple shield. Soon I was breastfeeding daily, and then twice daily for both babies. They were still gaining weight and I felt like the breastfeeding was going quite well. The lactation staff was absolutely amazing at the hospital and the NICU even had a pumping room filled with hospital grade pumps and snacks. Bring your own attachments.
We were discharged with instructions to gradually increase the times per day that I breastfed the twins until we were exclusively breastfeeding. And we almost got there. As we increased the breastfeeding sessions, the twins became increasingly hungrier. I was trying to avoid my pumping (I had a rare problem in the NICU – oversupply), but that had drastic results.
Soon my babies were demanding to be fed hourly. Clara would get extremely frustrated and flail her arms while nursing, pull her face back, and scream. I tried both with and without the nipple shield. We still had wet diapers, so I chalked it up to a growth spurt. Except that when we gave them a bottle they’d drink 2-3 ounces and then sleep for a few hours instead of demanding to be fed. This went on for days. And then a week. And then I faced it.
You may have heard of nipple confusion. Let me clarify. It’s more like nipple preference. My babies are lazy eaters. And why wouldn’t they be? They’ve had bottles poked into their barely open mouths since the first week of their lives. They’ve never had to work for it.
So here is where we are now. I breastfeed each baby once or twice daily. I look at it as a comfort measure rather than as a way we have to eat. I’m less frustrated and so are they. I still pump, although it’s considerably less often than it was in the hospital. I have supplemented with a bag of frozen milk, but never with formula. I know I may have to supplement with formula at some point, but I’m hopeful that we can make it a few more months before we go there.
It’s not what I hoped for, but I am thrilled to be able to feed them breastmilk, however they get it. And who knows- maybe further down the road we can still move toward exclusive breastfeeding, but for right now I’m satisfied with exclusive breastmilk.