I want to head this post up by saying I’m not pro breast and I’m not pro bottle – I’m pro feeding. As long as your child is happy and healthy and getting fed it doesn’t matter how the milk gets into them. That said – I really wanted to breast feed. I know it isn’t easy but from a cost perspective it made sense to me to give it a good go, plus the ease of having a feed with me wherever I go! I made that decision really early on in my pregnancy, but it didn’t go exactly to plan.
Piglet was born at 36 weeks, so he was almost a month premature. There were some complications with his delivery and he was taken immediately to see the pediatrician. That visit was short and I got him back with me fairly quickly for skin to skin so we tried breastfeeding right away. He wouldn’t latch, which apparently is quite common after the shock and effort of delivery, so I hand expressed for him.
Unfortunately my Piglets condition deteriorated and he had to be taken to the neonatal unit. There he needed additional oxygen and that stopped all breastfeeding immediately, his feeds were through a nasal gastric tube. I continued to express, but without the skin to skin contact I struggled to keep up with his needs and formula was introduced after 24 hours. It was 2 days before I could hold him again but it was just a short cuddle. He had his first bottle for a small portion of his feed at this point too but it was done by a neo natal nurse as it had to be done within his incubator. I was still staying in the hospital and using their Medela double breast pump and starting to get ok volumes, but formula was still required to top up one or two of the feeds per day.
On day 3 I was discharged. I borrowed my sisters Tommee Tippee Manual Breast Pump and immediately didn’t like it. I found it clunky and struggled to express any milk with it. It was not the right fit for me – however my sister had been using it with no issues not that long ago. At this point I was still under the assumption that Piglet would breast feed soon and so I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a breast pump. I bought the Philips Avent Natural Comfort Breast Pump – chosen specifically because it was on sale. I found it made a better seal on me and was able to continue to express at home.
At 5 days old I was able to start trying a breastfeed with Piglet. By this point he was getting ready to have his NG tube removed as he was feeding well and his oxygen was turned off. He refused to latch and generally worked himself into a frenzy until he was fed from his bottle. This went on for 3 or 4 feeds, at which point the nurses recommended introducing a nipple shield. At the time I thought this was working, but in hindsight he still wasn’t feeding properly. As I wasn’t admitted to the hospital anymore I couldn’t be there for all of his feeds, so overnight he was taking a bottle quite happily.
On day 8 Piglet was demand feeding and, to some degree, breastfed. He had had started to gain a little of the weight he had lost and was discharged. At home I continued to breast feed with the use of the nipple shield. I opted for the Medela Nipple Shields and found them really easy to use – added bonus is the case is really handy for popping a spare dummy in once you’ve finished with the shields! I think he took to the shields as they are shaped similarly to a bottle teat and so it was a familiar object in his mouth.
We met the health visitor a few days after we were discharged and I expressed a concern that the Piglet was jaundice. He was weighed and his weight had dropped since being discharged from the hospital and so bottle top ups after his breast feeds were recommended in order to help him gain weight. I wasn’t able to express enough to give exclusively expressed milk top ups so we were giving him Aptamil formula also. We used the Avent Natural bottles as they were the ones that came with the breast pump. Piglet took to them really easily and would guzzle down a feed from them. I like the shape of the bottle and found them really easy to wash.
Similarly, I got the Philips Avent 3-In-1 Steriliser. It is perfect for us as the smallest size is all you need if you’re just doing dummies/soothers or bottle teats, the bigger section for bottles and breast pump accessories, or put both parts together when you need to sterilise everything all at once!
I found the breast feed, bottle feed, express, sleep and repeat routine exhausting. We had another stint in the hospital, this time the children’s hospital so I could stay with Alexander overnight and continue to feed him. He was being weighed daily and although gaining, it was slow. Around this point (2-3 weeks old) I decided enough was enough. Formula wasn’t something we had budgeted for and I knew I wanted to continue giving Alexander breast milk, but the breast feeding wasn’t working and so I opted to try and just express for him.
I splashed out on the Philips Avent Comfort Single Electric Breast Pump and, although it worked, it wasn’t a patch on Medela pumps in the hospital. Continuing to struggle to express enough milk to meet Piglets demands, the amount of formula he got was increasing daily.
I had all but given up on breast feeding, but I’m not a quitter. Everyone was telling me to give it up but I wasn’t ready to cave just yet. Once a day I’d pick a quiet time to try alexander on the breast before his bottle feed. I dispensed with the nipple shields as he wasn’t really feeding anyway and just let him prat around in that general area. I figured that if nothing else it would maybe help with my milk production and it gives him a little comfort.
Suddenly, at 8 weeks old, it all clicked. He latched on one day and hasn’t looked back since. The following day I decided to ditch the bottle and just see what happened if I let him feed exclusively from me and he had no issues. My life instantly became a lot less hectic and so much easier. Gone were the hours of pumping per day, my bottle washing and sterilising has dropped dramatically to the point where I no longer need the large steriliser and use a Tommee Tippee Single Bottle Steriliser as it doesn’t require counter space and can be used for his dummy and the odd bottle when needed.
So now, at 19 weeks, Alexander is breast fed 99% of the time. He has the occasional bit of formula when he’s at my parents for a few hours, and we are having our first night without him this month so he’ll have a combination of formula and expressed milk in that time with my parents.
I’m so glad I preserved, but at the time it was such hard work that I’m not surprised many people give in. I’m stubborn, I knew what I wanted for us and it was so worth it to keep going.
I love hearing other peoples feeding stories so please share it below or add a link to your post about it!
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