There are so many things I would have done if I had not had a preemie. I would have taken a picture of my belly before giving birth. I would have packed a hospital bag. I would have saved cord blood. I would have requested to hold Dylan immediately after he was born. And I would have breast fed (ideally).
My pre-baby thoughts on breastfeeding were that I really wanted to do it for about 6 months. At that point I had no idea when babies started solids, etc. As soon as I had Dylan and heard more about it, I decided that I wanted to give Dylan breast milk for at least a year, maybe even longer since I feel like maybe I could protect him from getting sick since he is so vulnerable.
My hospital is extremely pro-breastfeeding. There are signs everywhere. At 32 weeks gestational age, I put Dylan to my "dry" breast after pumping. He did great! Then at 34 weeks, we started regular breast feeding. I can't remember the specifics, but I'm pretty sure we mixed bottle and breast right from the start.
Things got frustrating after this point.
1) The nurses would ask me how much I thought he took. I could never answer the question. For all I know it could have been suckling only. I did ask a few times about weighing him before and after, but I never got a good response. I have no idea why and I did not take it up with the charge nurse. This is the one thing I probably would have done differently.
2) At some point reflux became an issue. Dylan was fighting the breast and the bottle. We were also nearing 40 weeks GA and I really wanted to get him home and taking full feeds was the only way to do it. Eventually I quit putting him to breast because it usually consisted of 10 or more minutes of fighting and crying, then I had to give him a bottle, then pump. It was extremely frustrating. I knew that he wasn't going to take a good volume from the bottle if he was already tired from fighting the breast and I was getting emotionally drained from having our time spent in such a negative way, so I quit trying to breastfeed...always planning to go back when he got feeding down.
I wish that the nurses had given me a little bit more direction here, but everything is a judgment call and they did the best they could.
Then we switched to formula as a last ditch effort to get him to eat before getting the g-tube. And it worked.
After much speculation and observation, I think it's the thickness that is really the issue. We did try adding rice cereal to breast milk a couple of months ago, but his volume went down quite a bit. Adding rice cereal is also tricky because breast milk breaks down the rice, so you have to mix it within 5 minutes of eating. The Enfamil AR is already thickened. We could absolutely go back to thickened breast milk which I think I will ask about this week, but that will only solve half of my problems.
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But I really want to breastfeed. I have a new thing to be jealous about others moms for. I know my "circle" for this issue is quite large - meaning I'm not nearly the only person in this boat, but still.
This is really tough on me! I agree that "breast is best." But sometimes I actually feel like I'm being selfish trying to force it on Dylan. Maybe it's not best for him.
Then I see posts online about defending breastfeeding. I personally never thought it was under attack...it's really common in my area and my mom breastfed me for a year. But the posts irk me. They often say that the only reason someone doesn't breastfeed is because she didn't receive enough support in the hospital. I don't want to feel like a mistake. And I really don't think any were made.
I received lactation services the day of birth, had a pump in my post-partum room when I arrived that had a special "preemie" setting. There was a pumping room before we switched to the new NICU. I was able to get a great supply...something many preemie moms don't have.
I could have fought to EBF in the hospital, but what would that have looked like? I wasn't going to live in that room for the 3 months he was old enough to BF. So then I BF while I'm there, up to half of his feeds in a day. We could have just gavaged all of the rest of his feedings.
It could have worked.
But it could have taken a lot longer. And because of the reflux, we probably would have had to introduce bottles anyway and it might have been much harder later in the game. (He also needs to take his meds every day by bottle, so he would have always had to have at least one.)
I know this is rambly...I'm thinking through my thoughts as I go.
But the bottom line is that I feel like I have to defend not breastfeeding (or giving exclusive breast milk), even though I would prefer to be doing just those things. And I feel like the people that do definitely feel like they are better than everyone else. They do. Even the nice ones. And I probably would have felt the same way if I was them.
Don't you think I know how much easier it would be to just pull out my boob when Dylan was hungry? Especially in the middle of the night.
The bottom line is that I want what is best for Dylan. And what is best for him, big picture, is calories. I could probably teach him to breastfeed now. But should I? Struggle = calories spent. (He's currently at 9lbs, 3oz which is about the 9th percentile. Not bad, but he's gaining slowly and we don't have a ton of room left on the growth chart.
At the moment I'm adding 1/4 breastmilk to every bottle. So out of the 26 or so ounces I'm producing at 3 pumps a day, he's eating about 6. I can keep this up. Even when I go back to work in May. But it's very frustrating. Especially because my husband doesn't get it.
So that's the story. I hope it made a little sense while writing, because I don't have the energy to go back and revise!