Pumping for your Preemie: Inside and Outside of the NICU

Breastfeeding for your little one can look a lot different if you have a Preemie or NICU baby, for a number of reasons. Although we may have intentions of putting our little one on the boob for nutrition and precious bonding, that may not exactly be possible.

You're little one could be on breathing support like a ventilator that prevents them from being able to breastfeed, they could have trouble coordinating their suck and swallow reflexes, or they could be too tiny and need a feeding tube to help them eat at the time. The list goes on and on! So then, what is a lactating Mama to do in the meantime? We PUMP! (if we are able)

(Finding Nemo Dory pumping meme. Source:quickmeme.com)

 

Pumping is no easy feat by any means and to be honest, it can be quite intimidating when you first lay your eyes on the machine and all of it's parts. Pair this with having a little one in the NICU and pumping can be a stressful and anxiety ridden experience. Now this won't be every Preemie/NICU Mama's experience, but it certainly was for me.

When I had my 24 weeker, I was a nervous wreck. This was my first baby and I had a lot of breastmilk, with no baby to hold. Thankfully, my nurses were so kind and showed me how to work the pump, as I was producing milk pretty quickly after giving birth, even though it was early. It was like my body knew my Preemie needed these nutrients and went into overdrive to provide some for him. Did I enjoy pumping? Honestly, not really. It felt strange and unnatural at first, kind of like I was a robot, instead of a human mom, but I soon got the hang of it, got on a schedule, and was able to provide a steady supply for my NICU warrior. 

NICU mom status: 1. Need to pump 2. Pumping 3. Finished pumping 4.  Calculating how much Kcare is left before it's time to pump again. | Mom  Ecard

(NICU Mom pumping meme. Source (someecards.com)

And it went great! Until it didn't... 

After having my son, my pre-eclampsia/ blood pressure issues didn't go away, in fact, it got a lot worse. My blood pressure soared so high that I continued magnesium drips after delivery and it was so bad, that I wasn't aloud to be discharged until a week and a half later. I was put on blood pressure medication immediately, which helped me go home and helped get my blood pressure somewhat under control, but the stress of the NICU and day to day life after this traumatic experience really began to take a toll on me and I found that no matter what I did to try to increase my supply, that (and my health, mentally and physically) were dwindling slowly. And it made me feel like one of the worst mothers in the world.

I was able to exclusively pump for my son for about 3 months, but then we had to rely on donor milk and specialized formula, because my supply was now gone. I felt so defeated then, but looking back now, I realize I did a pretty good job considering the circumstances we were in. I wish I would have given myself a bit more grace, but when you're in the NICU trenches, nothing really makes sense and it's so easy for despair to engulf you. 

When I had my second Preemie, I thought things would be different this time in a good way! And they were (kinda). I was partially able to breastfeed with my son, but with his tongue tie and what I would later find out was him aspirating from Laryngomalacia, I was experiencing breastfeeding difficulties yet again, but at least this time we weren't in the NICU. I pulled out ol' reliable (my breast pump) and got to work. I was able to pump exclusively for 6 months this time and I felt really proud of myself despite the confusing circumstances. I realized that things may not always go how I expect. This is motherhood after all. But that's okay. You must give yourself grace and time to figure things out for you and your little one(s). You are not a bad mom because your body didn't do the thing it was "supposed" to or because your is having difficulties with something. Sometimes we are dealt a wild card that we aren't prepared for. It's NEVER your fault! You are doing your best. 

dory meme  - just keep doing your best Just keep doing your best. Just keep doing your best.

(Dory meme. Source memegenerator.net)

I wanted to write this post for National Breastfeeding Week for any Mama currently in the NICU pumping with their Preemie or for any Mama reflecting on their Preemie/NICU breastfeeding journey with their little one who is older now. No matter what you are feeling about your experience, I want you to know and understand that you are amazing! Your body did not fail you just because things did not go as planned. The fact that you are able to get up each day and care for your baby in your own way makes you a warrior. You should be so proud of yourself! And if no one has told you today, I'm proud of you and you are an amazing Mom.

Give yourself grace and treat yourself with kindness, because your baby can't do this thing called life without you! 

Take Care Friends,

Nico Shanel 💜


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