It’s hard to believe I exclusively pumped for the three months my daughter was in NICU. I had more days where I was discouraged vs encouraged, but the round-the-clock pumping paid off once I was able to breast feed my baby. Alayna’s been home for three weeks, and is an amazing breast feeder.
Being a NICU parent is not for the faint of heart, as there are a lot of stresses that come with this journey. And constantly pumping with all that’s going on during this time can be a challenge, but for the NICU Moms who plan to breastfeed, hang in there! I want to share how I stayed dedicated and motivated to pump during this trying time.
Focus on life after NICU
I breastfed my oldest daughter until she was seven months (my supply dried up), and I wanted to have the same experience with this baby. Thinking about her comfy, cuddled up, and milk drunk kept me motivated. I didn’t really see much of an increase in my supply over the three months, but I had to remind myself that once Alayna starts breastfeeding and keeps growing, my supply will increase. Focusing on my breastfeeding plan helped me get through some of those difficult days.
Work with a Lactation Consultant
Take advantage of the Lactation resources at the hospital. The Lactation consultants showed me different ways to hold her and they are immediate resources to any questions or concerns you have. If your baby is in NICU for just a few days, it still helps to talk with a Lactation Consultant. I also attended the “Breastfeeding for NICU Moms” group that started during Alayna’s stay. If your hospital offers a similar breastfeeding support group, definitely try to attend those meetings. And once you and your baby are home, local “Mommy and Me” support groups that focuses on breastfeeding will be a good support system as well.
Don’t Give Up
I was going to the hospital everyday, taking care of my oldest daughter when I got home, and I went back to work after my six week post-partum appointment so that I could save my maternity leave. That was a lot, and sometimes I wanted to sleep instead of pump. What helped me get through some challenging moments was remembering the first point…focusing on my goal to breastfeed when she was discharged.
And I’m glad I didn’t give up. Once Alayna was strong enough to eat, I breastfed her whenever I was at the hospital, and towards the end, this is what helped her come home sooner. She wasn’t always finishing her bottles, but she would always breastfeed for at least 15 minutes which the doctors count as a full feeding.
I hope that this post encourages NICU Mom’s going through a similar experience. If something happens and you aren’t able to breastfeed, that’s okay. You’re still doing all you can to love and take care of your child. Here’s to a strong, happy baby!