As I sit here, typing with one hand, one leg crossed under me, the other (after 15 mins of veeeery careful manoeuvring) out in front, feeding pillow wrapped round me and a baby enjoying the longest feed known to man, I have a chance to reflect on how different the story was only 2 days ago.
Samuel was not a natural at breastfeeding. The first night in hospital, we succeeded only with the help of a midwife. He struggled throughout the next day, only managing to latch for a full feed once (with plenty of midwife help again). Over the 4 days in hospital, he showed us that he was more than capable, but just seemed a bit lazy. He would latch, suck once or twice and then get so over excited or worked up that he would bob around too much to sustain the contact and before long it was as if the world had ended.
By Monday, the midwives were concerned at the amount of food he was taking in, even though I was by now hand expressing and feeding him from a syringe. Fortunately, I was able to start properly expressing early which meant that I could feed him breastmilk even when he wouldn’t take the breast. It was disheartening having to reach for the electric pump every 3 hours when he was clearly able to feed for himself, but we told ourselves that he would get there in his own time. We would always put him to the breast first but move on before he started getting stressed.
After a day of trying to feed him – fairly unsuccessfully – from a cup, we switched to a bottle and suddenly he was gulping down as much milk and formula as we could offer him.
Fast forward to Thursday. After a day at home, I was considerably more relaxed about everything and still offering him the breast every time. On Thursday morning, while I changed his nappy, Carl popped his finger in Samuel’s mouth for him to suck. After, I offered again….and he immediately latched for a few mouthfuls. Feeling positive, we fed him the expressed milk as usual and hoped that we were moving forward. At the next feed, Carl gave him his finger again and, this time when offered, he latched on for a 20 minute feed! He had no interest in the left breast, accepting only the right as a feeding station, but breastfed for the next 4 feeds (always sucking a finger first) – with us topping up with formula since I don’t have enough milk yet to satisfy his growing appetite.
This morning…he took the left. Not for long, but I was so encouraged before popping him back on the right. It seems he enjoys cluster feeding in the morning so only an hour later he was asking for more. Unsure of how much I had left due to the earlier feeds and then expressing after, I nonetheless offered him the right…where he proceeded to feed for over an hour…and then spent about 40 minutes on the left! Finally.
He proceeded to knock back over 100ml of formula after this, so I can conclude he wasn’t getting much milk from me, but at least he is getting there.
Here we sit as he slowly feeds away, presumably beginning his evening cluster feeds with me feeling so happy in the knowledge that Carl and I, as a team, are working it out and succeeding. The next step will be getting him to feed through nursing clothes so I don’t have to strip down every time – not very sociable!
To those who are struggling, my only advice is take the pressure off and don’t get stressed. We know we have express milk and formula for the times he doesn’t latch or isn’t getting enough from me (hopefully my supply will pick up soon), so we aren’t worried. He put on 260g between Weds and Fri, so we know he’s getting enough food! Another 130g by Mon and he’s back to birth weight. His jaundice is lifting (more on that another time) and he’s happily feeding away, what more could I ask for.