breast feeding

My baby girl, Emma, was born at 34 weeks, 4 pounds 3 ounces. I was very unprepared for the NICU, and always felt like an outsider. I had told everyone about my intention to breastfeed my baby, but the nurses had their schedules and it did not include me (even though I could be there in 5 mins). They even changed her scheduled feedings without letting me know, so that when I showed up to nurse she had already been fed. We were blessed that she gained strength and the ability to breathe unassissted in a short period of time and we were allowed to take her home at 4lbs 6 ozs. I began breastfeeding exclusively. She was fussy, fought and was just lazy about eating (she would let the milk drip into her mouth then swallow). She was begining to get the idea and was latching on much better but by then she had lost 3 ounces and the doctors are insisting I give her formula in a bottle. Every time I do she eats till she spits up and I am right back at the beginning point in breastfeeding. I feel so frustrated. Will I ever be able to breast feed my preemie in a normal, natural way? The doctor said "in this case it just may not work" and that all the problems he sees is not with his 19 & 20 yr old patients, but with....well I'm 42....he made me feel it was all my fault. My son was born at 37 wks, when I was 27, and I breastfed him exclusively for the first 4months, then continued on til he was a year old. I realize a preemie presents a different problem, but should it be this difficult?

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I am so sorry that the NICU was not supportive to you. It is hard enough to have a preemie, but to then be made to feel bad by the NICU staff is even worse. The first thing that you need to know, is that it is not your fault.

Unfortunately, a lot of preemies don't ever take to bf'ing , because they spend so much time being bottle fed. Have you tried pumping, and giving that to your little one, instead of formula? My 24 weeker, Zackary, was never able to bf, but I pumped exclusively for the first 6 months. I couldn't keep it up anymore though, and then switched to formula.

Good luck.


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Hello! Congratulations on your little girl. And way to go on the breastfeeding. I am sorry to hear that your NICU was not supportive of your decision on how to feed your child - it is quite sad that some people still don't see the benefits of breastmilk. I was fortunate enough to be in an NICU that was pro-breastfeeding.

My little guy was born at 31 weeks, weighing 3 lbs 15 oz. He was 2 1/2 weeks old when he was strong enough to give breastfeeding a go (up until that point he had pumped breastmilk via a feeding tube). It took us a good month to get the hang of it (the whole suck/breath/swallow plus getting him to eat enough before getting tired). I had to supplement each feed with pumped milk for a while, then eventually weened the bottled breastmilk out, and we strictly breastfed. It was a lot of work, but so worth it. I can tell that you are ready to perservere and stick with it. It most definitely is possible, it just may take some time for your little Emma to be strong enough to strictly breastfeed. If you have to bottle feed at all, I personally would stick with pumped breastmilk in the bottle. There are so many more benefits - and it is full of everything she needs to grow - including fat!!! So many doctors think formula is the solution and that breastfeeding should be given up the second there is a problem. I know that there are many many cases where formula is the only solution, but I think doctors/peds should put more of an emphasis on breastmilk and not make people like you feel bad if there are some bumps in the road!

I exclusively breastfed my son for the first 7 months, and am still breastfeeding in addition to his solids (he is 8 1/2 months old and he actually still b'feeds 8 times a day! we both love it).

Good luck and I really hope that Emma gets the hang of things and starts to thrive off of YOU!

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Most doctors have little understanding of the whole process of breastfeeding. They are great at what they know, but breastfeeding is a mystery to them. Don't believe him that "in this case it just may not work". It sounds like both you and your daughter know what you are doing, but you need to be patient with her and perhaps change your process a bit and also seek counsel from a certified lactation consultant--if possible, one who has some experience with preemies. Try contacting the La Leche League for someone in your area or someone you can at least communicate with via email.

I have a little girl born at 27 weeks (now 4.5 mos old--1.5 mos corrected) and she is now exclusively breastfed. It was HARD work, but with much perseverance as well as LOTS of great advice and encouragement both from friends who have "been there, done that" and a certified lactation consultant we succeeded.

When my daughter came home from the hospital 2 wks before her due date, she was 4.5 pounds and was still getting NOTHING from me when she nursed. She had good latch and technique but just wasn't strong enough to get any milk. So I continued to pump milk and give her bottles of expressed milk. Finally, about a month ago, right about the time she reached 6 pounds, she suddenly began to get milk and within a few days went from getting nothing to exclusive breastfeeding. I was actually surprised at how quickly it happened.

One of the things I had to do with my daughter until she got strong enough was to limit the amount of time at the breast. When she was in the NICU and when she first got home, this was for only 10-15 minutes...then a bottle of expressed milk. If I let her nurse longer, she'd tire herself out too much and be unable to feed long enough off a bottle to get what she needed. Then there would be the risk of weight loss, as you've experienced. I wonder if this is what has happened in your case. Do you have a hospital grade pump? If not, can you get one? Try limiting her time at the breast for now...then give her a bottle...and then pump. Yes, it's exhausting...but it's only for a season.

Another thing my lactation consultant friend suggested was to let my daughter nurse a LOT and freuqently. If your daughter does seem to be getting milk fine now, this may be the trick for you. But not being an expert myself, just a mom having recently gone through this (and we are of similar age--I'm 41), I would still encourage you to speak with someone who can guide you personally.

Since you've successfully breastfed another child, this is a big plus for you! I have 3 older children who were also breastfed and that certainly made me more confident that I could succeed (though I admit that with the preemie experience this time, I did wonder!). Don't give up. Yes, it's a concern when our babies are so tiny if they lose weight...thus why you may need to reconsider HOW you are nursing...whether that be by more frequent nursings, supplementing with expressed milk or even formula if you cannot get a pump. Don't worry about nipple confusion at this stage. It really wasn't an issue with my daughter. And even if it had been, that is not an insurmountable mountain. I was loaned a hospital grade pump by a friend who pumped in order to establish milk for a baby she adopted. The baby was several months old when she got her (and thus obviously bottle-fed) and she was able to switch her over to breastfeeding. I kept telling myself that if she could do that, then my baby could make the switch too.

If you really want to do this, YOU CAN! You are already doing an awesome job, so keep up the good work!

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I forgot to my NICU they didn't want my daughter's feedings to go any longer than 45 minutes. If your baby is taking longer than this, then definitely limit the time at the breast for now. When my daughter was discharged, it took her a half hour to finish a 2oz bottle. Just before switching to breastfeeding, she was able to down one in 5-10 minutes. That's when I knew I could safely allow her to spend more time at the breast.

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My son was born in January at 35 weeks. It was a big surprise because my pregnancy was normal. Thank God he barely made it from going to NICU and went to the Well Baby Nursury with me. If he went to NICU, I know I would be feeling the same things as you are because I also am intimidated by hjospitals, etc. We went home together in two days, but I allowed him to be supplemented with formula from the start because he was so small at 4lbs. 7ounces. My pediatrician advised me to supplement in the beginning because he too had problems latching on and because he was a preemie he would fall asleep in the middle of feedings because he would get sooo tired. Nonetheless, don't give up your efforts. When I realized that the supplementing was actually plateauing my breatmilk supply, as soon as he got the stamina to breastfeed for a full feeding, I stopped. I went to exclusive breastfeeding and my supply has built up to his increased demands. Don't give up. I also found that breastfeeding mothers of full-term babies go through the same exhaustive efforts to breastfeed so I didn't feel like such a failure. Their babies had a hard time too and would get tired, and some I met also supplemented. Breastfeeding will be a learning process for both of you. I wish you the best.

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I am sorry that you did not get the support you needed at your NICU. I had great nurses and a lactation consultant that I worked very closely with. They all supported my desire to breastfeed my 28 weeker. My daughter is now 9 months, 6 and a half corrected, and we are exclusively breastfeeding. It was not easy getting to this point but worth it. Before she left the hospital we started using a nipple shield and this was a huge help. Being a preemie she did not have the strength to keep pulling on my nipple to get a good feeding and she would get so frustrated, me too! With the nipple shield she was able to get a good feed because the nipple was right there and she could also build up her strength. After about a month we just started to ween her off of it by taking it off half way through a feeding or starting without until she got tired. I think that took about two weeks or so and now she could suck for days! Good luck and don't lose hope.

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I cannot express how wonderful it felt to hear each of you tell me it will be okay. Thank you for sharing your stories and helping me feel normal. I do have a hospital grade pump and my supply is plenty. I am just having a difficult time deciding if it is better or worse to use a bottle or syringe, or even a pacifier. I have read soo many conflicting stories. But I do know that she does not seem to want to nurse for the next day or two after she has had a chance to suck down a bottle. I guess I just need to follow my own intuition.
Thank you all again for sharing and helping.

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I guess I just need to follow my own intuition.

I think that was one of the hardest things for me this time...regaining my trust in my own intuition. One would think that this wouldn't be a problem with my 4th child, but the whole preemie experience threw me for a loop! So yes, learn again to trust your instincts.

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I am so sorry that they are making you feel like an outsider to the care of your own child. I had a 33 week baby boy and I had every breastfeeding problem in the book!! I think it finally took until he was 3 months old for both of us to learn how to successfull breastfeed. I made so many trips to the lactation consultant to make it work. All I can say is just keep at it. The more practice the better!! You will always get someone who will say "But if breastfeeding does not work use formula." you just have to be strong and determined! My son was sent home at 5 pounds and had some trouble gaining weight in the beginning but now he is 6 months old and 20pounds!! Good luck!


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I'm so sorry you weren't supported in the NICU in your commitment to breastfeed. I know I had a bit of a reputation for being an obnoxious mom, but I was determined, and it was really hard. After we got home, though it took some time, we have had great success with breastfeeding. My daughter Rainy was tiny and tired a lot, so the key was just more time at the breast, some suckling, some resting and bonding. After we got home from the NICU my supply dropped, so the time with her at the breast also helped increase my supply. It was so frustrating, but after several weeks we both got better at it. In the days of high frustration I told her that we were going to do this and I would describe how nice it would be. It helped me stay focused on what I wanted for both of us. I also trust she heard it and was assured I'd be patient while she gained strength. Yes, it's different with preemies. It can take a while. I learned quickly with the birth of my daughter to just say "Hey, I'm 40 and I waited a long time for this. Help me do this". Also, any doctor or whoever tells me something can't be done when I know others who've done it (and I'm sure we've all run into a few in preemie land) I just stop listening to them on that topic. You've been on the planet 42 years? That's some good living time........I'm sure you've learned to listen to yourself before. Just remember that you can do it now too, and clearly you're smart enough to get reality checks if you think you need them. Hang in there!

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I agree. It is possible.
My son was bottlefed for 3 months in the NICU. I thought he'd never get the idea. But he figured it out real fast surprisingly.
I was told to give formula as well. I never did. Didn't even want to begin on that until I absolutely had to. I understand giving your baby formula until she gains the weight, but the main decision is up to you. Either try exclusive, minus one or two feedings per day with the bottle of breastmilk or just pump.
Either way she's getting exactly what she needs. I was just stubborn about it. One thing my MIL told me, that sticks with me to this day: God did not create man to want to die, even at birth. Thus the proof of preemies (they are known worldwide to be fighters.) A hungry baby will eat. Just keep after your daughter with the breastfeeding. If she's not into wait until next time, she'll eat. Maybe she's just not interested in it yet.
And try not to feel discouraged or give up. You've got experience on your daughter and while your doctor may have a degree he does not live with you and your daughter. You know her better than he does. If you think it can be done, it can be done. Just be patient... preemies are known to have trouble with breastfeeding. But it is possible. Even if it's just breastmilk in a bottle.
My son is 14 months old and still breastfeeding, though not exclusive anymore as he has discovered solid food. He breastfeeds about 3+ times a day. Mostly early morning and late evening and whenever he needs comfort from mommy.
He also very greatly dislikes cow's milk. So we don't give it to him. He eats yogurt and cheese but he loves vegetables and fruit. So I just thank God every day that I don't have to beg him to eat those. LOL

Persevere. Things will work out. Pray and have faith in your daughter as well, to tell you what she needs and how she needs it. She may just like how easy the bottle is. Doctors talk about nipple confusion, but it's not confusion. Babies know what is easier. Thankfully, my son didn't really take to the bottles I bought from the store. LOL

Anyway, feel free to get encouragement from other preemie mommies. We've been there or are currently there or know what you're feeling.

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im sorry that breastfeeding has not been going well for you and that the nicu wasn't sensitive to you. when my daughter was in the nicu i pumped and breastfed when i was at the hopsital and my daughter tried her hardest to take in as much breastmilk as she could- but they since i couldn't be there 24/7 thye supplemented her with bottle feedings and told me not to worry about nipple confusion. when she was released the nurses and dr. recommended that i supplement her with 2-3 bottle feedings in addition to breastfeeding. i did the bottle feeeding at night so that i knew she was getting something substantial and i would n't worry . because as preemie moms we always worry when they lose weight or not get enough to eat. She also had trouble with spitting up which we found out she had a bit of acid reflux and began to take zantac which helped. You may want to check with your ped. about that. Also i found when i deicided that i could n't solely breastfeed because she wasn't taking in enough breast milk to keep her satisfied i began to mix her formula (powered base) with her breast milk-first i would do 2ounces of breast milk and 1 ounce formula, after a few weeks of that then 2ounces bm and 2 ounces formula and so on. She is now up to 1ounce bm and 3 ounces formula. This is until i completely convert her to formula, since i decided that nursing 24/7 wasn't working for me and at first i felt guilty not being able to nurse her inthe way that i wanted but i realized that the most important thing is that my baby girl gets the nourishment she needs and continues to grow regardless of whether it was from my breast or a bottle. don't be so hard on yourself -nurse her when you can and supplement her when its needed with a bottle. I am also on the older side of being a mom-38 yrs old and had to figure out that sometimes i couldn't do it all and find other alternatives. i wish you well and you sound like an awesome mom!!! don't listen to that dr. he was insensitive. one more tidbit i used a nipple shield , the lactaion consultant recommended for preemies and it helped alot.
good luck!!!!!

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