In my 36 weeks pregnant post, I talked a lot about my hopes and fears about breastfeeding. From the beginning of my pregnancy, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I had read numerous studies about the benefits of breast milk for babies and I wanted to provide Harper with my milk, if I could.
My breastfeeding journey began with a breast pump at the hospital. You’ll recall from my birth story that Harper was whisked away to the NICU about an hour or so after her birth. Because I wasn’t able to be with her, the moment I got to our new room on the mother/baby unit where we would spend the rest of our hospital stay, I asked my nurse for a pump so I could try to extract some colostrum to feed her.
I was able to pump a small syringe the night she was born and I brought it to her in the NICU that night. The next morning, I pumped another syringe and fed it to her. I also worked with a lactation consultant everyday I was in the hospital to try to get Harper to feed at the breast. She was unable to get a good latch and would de-latch and scream the entire time—or, she would fall asleep. Needless to say it was a rough start for us.
The day after we brought her home, we visited the pediatrician to have her billiruben levels re-checked and they also weighed her. The hospital had sent us home with some formula because she was getting pasteurized donor breast milk in the NICU and was used to getting full feeds—and I didn’t feel I was producing enough colostrum to satisfy her. So, I was pumping and also supplementing.
At her one week pediatrician appointment, our doctor was concerned that she had lost a little too much weight and asked me how breastfeeding was going. I felt so defeated. She wasn’t gaining back weight quickly enough and so I was instructed to bring her to the breast as much as possible as well as to continue pumping and supplementing with formula as needed.
So I continued to pump and my milk finally came in about 5 days after giving birth. Once my milk came in I felt more confident brining her to the breast, but she still had latching issues and would scream every time I tried to feed her. I started to feed her mostly expressed breast milk and a feeding or two of formula per day.
I knew I had to do something because I really wanted breastfeeding to work out. I finally ordered a Medela nipple shield from Amazon.com and anxiously waited for it to arrive. By this point, every time Harper latched on I would feel a searing pain and my nipples were getting destroyed due to her poor latch. I was literally praying that the nipple shield would be our saving grace.
And it was. Once I started using the nipple shield, everything changed. Harper could latch on and STAY latched on. She wasn’t screaming anymore. I could hear her swallowing when I would breastfeed her. I finally felt like I was providing her with what she needed.
By her two week appointment she had re-gained her birth weight (was slightly above it) so our pediatrician was happy about that and encouraged me to wean from using the shield, and to breastfeed her as much as possible to build my supply.
I consulted a lactation expert who happens to conduct all kinds of studies on breast milk and breastfeeding and she told me it was okay to continue using the nipple shield if Harper was able to breastfeed with it and told me that a study on nipple shields saying they affect supply was very outdated and also was conducted using a nipple shield and a breast pump and not a baby feeding at the breast with a shield, so the results were inaccurate.
For now, I’m continuing to use the shield. Harper is having the recommended amount of wet and dirty diapers per day which makes me more confident that she is getting what she needs. I also took her in for a weighted feeding, so I knew how much she was transferring in an average nursing session. Now, I mostly breastfeed her and I still try to pump once or twice a day. Though most of her feedings are at the breast, she typically gets one formula feeding per day, which is 2 ounces. The most formula she ever gets is 4 ounces per day, but usually it’s just 2.
I feed her on demand right now—there are days where she cluster-feeds and wants to eat every hour to hour and a half and there are days where she sleeps a ton and I have to wake her every 3 hours to feed. At night, she can go 4-5 hours without waking and I let her sleep at night and only feed her when she wakes, which is what was recommended to me.
My goal is to continue to breastfeed her and pump for her when I return to work. By the way, I am using Medela’s Pump in Style Advanced and LOVE it! I don’t mind supplementing with formula—whatever will make her happy and healthy is all I care about. I hope I can accomplish this goal, but I’m going to try not too get down on myself if it doesn’t work out either.
Overall, I’m thrilled I can breastfeed at all. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I would be able to produce milk because of my breast augmentation surgery and my lack of natural breast tissue prior to my surgery. It’s really reassuring to know that my body is able to provide Harper with the nutrients she needs and I feel very blessed. I had a lot of women with implants reach out to me when I first discussed my fears about possibly not being able to breastfeed and I’m so glad to have had their support and reassurance. I’m grateful to have such amazing readers who are willing to share their personal experiences with me. I think it’s a beautiful thing when women can support and help each other in such a special way.
I’ve also been fortunate to have a husband who really supports me when it comes to breastfeeding. Kevin has been so encouraging about nursing, especially when I was down on myself and worried that it wasn’t going to work out. Having a supportive partner makes all the difference. I also love that he can feed her too with expressed milk or formula. It’s nice that he can have that bonding time with her. We are also fortunate that she takes bottles— I know some breastfed babies won’t take them at all. She doesn’t have a preference—we use Avent, Medela and tommee tippee bottles, so that makes things easier.
I will continue to post updates about breastfeeding as we continue our journey. Thanks for reading and feel free to share with me your breastfeeding journey in the comments below! And remember—whether you choose to breastfeed, pump or formula feed your baby—all that matters is that you are feeding your baby and giving her or him what they need. How a mother feeds her baby isn’t a place for judgment—every mother needs to do what is best for her baby and her family.