I've been thinking a bit lately about breastfeeding. I have posted on this before but it was a while ago now, and I feel I want to revisit it again.
When I was pregnant, I assumed I would breastfeed. Giving formula never entered my head. Breast milk is free, its personalised to the baby's needs, and I never really thought much else of it. My sister had successfully breast fed 2 children (and is now feeding number 3) most of my close mummy friends had breastfed, and I was always a bit sad that I hadn't been.
When I was told Joseph would have to be delivered, I knew I would be expected to express, no one discussed it with me, but I knew that breast milk was best for very early babies. At that time I thought it was a given, I would express until he was ready to breast feed.
As time went on, it was pretty clear, that in some ways, most staff on the unit only gave lip service to breastfeeding. They all encouraged me in expressing, but when it was time to move on to something other than tube feeding, the support went away. When Joseph was 32 weeks I was "asked" if I'd allow them to introduce bottles. Now the "ask" is in inverted commas because, once I had said "no" it was pretty clear that I wasn't being "asked" it was expected.
I felt very uncomfortable and discussed it with Joseph' consultant, who said "all the other babies here are mix fed and it isn't a problem for them, why is Joseph any different". With everything that I had been through I had lost the power of argument. I wanted to scream, and wish I had, "every other baby in here is +30 weeks gestation at birth and not IUGR that's how Joseph is different". But I didn't. I gave in.
I think allowing those first bottles was the beginning of the end. My supply dwindled. Then I was "asked" to allow fortifier in my milk. That was another nail into the coffin. When I watched them put that powder in, I felt so useless and pathetic. I couldn't even provide milk for my baby without help.
I'm not sure whether I could have made breastfeeding work. It was a difficult time. I read an article today about how you should express 8-10 times a day for at least 10-15 minutes when you have a premature baby. That level of frequency just wasn't possible for me! Not with hospital visiting and my own health to consider as well.
But I do know mums who have made it work with their premature babies. If I'd had support of other mums and a more supportive set of nurses in hospital who had had experience with tiny IUGR babies of Joseph's gestation, perhaps it could have made a difference.
But now, I am content, that I did my best at the time, with what I knew then. And nothing can take away from the fact that I expressed for 10 long weeks in difficult circumstances, which is a huge achievement in itself.