Unfortunately pregnancy wasn’t easy, there were many complications, which resulted in my baby boy being born prematurely at 27 weeks. He was a tiny 3lb which quickly dropped to 2 1/2lb. I was very unwell, having a caesarean under general anaesthesia, I couldn’t meet my son for 14 hours and when I did all I could do was place my hands on his tiny head and feet through the incubator.
The doctors asked me to start expressing and explained that babies born this early can only tolerate breast milk. It is so important as premature babies miss a lot of the antibodies which pass through from the placenta in the last month of pregnancy. They explained if I wasn’t able to express my milk then they would use donor milk. I started expressing straight away and the volume quickly increased using the hospital pump every two to four hours. This really kept me going, It really made me feel like I was doing something to help him. The nurses tube fed my boy expressed milk in tiny quantities starting at just 2ml.
It was over a week before I could hold my boy and have skin to skin. Despite being covered in tubes and wires and alarms going off, all finally felt calm. I was allowed to hold him once a day, if he was stable. Despite being exhausted and still in a lot of pain from my caesarean I made sure to keep expressing once I was discharged home, it wasn’t always easy with an energetic two year old.
When my boy was at 31 weeks gestation I noticed he looked like he was rooting whilst having skin to skin. A few days later I mentioned it to the nurse and she said I could let him go to the breast, but usually babies don’t develop a suck swallow reflex until at least 34 weeks. To the nurses amazement, about three of them gathered around us at this point, my boy knew exactly what to do. Despite some saying it was too early I trusted my instincts and my desire to nurse my boy and tried him at the breast every day.
Some days would he would only suck for a couple of seconds but I was still determined that it would click. Gradually he started to feed from me more and he needed less and less tube feeds. A few nurses asked if we could try bottle feeding whilst I was away from him but I knew the importance of perfecting breastfeeding before bottle feeding. I found it slightly unfair that I was told if I bottle fed him I could get him home quicker, when I knew that it was best for him to breastfeed and after all the hard work expressing I was glad to stop and just feed him myself.
I was invited to stay in the NICU with my son to get him feeding through the night, he took to every feed and he was allowed to stay with me in the NICU flats, it was heaven. I finally had my boy to myself. Finally after 69 days in NICU my boy was finally home exclusively breastfed at 7lb he was gaining weight beautifully and I couldn’t be prouder of him.