When you are pregnant and when you are a brand new parent, you hear all sorts of breastfeeding myths and stories. I have heard everything from ‘people with small boobs can’t breastfeed’ (I can assure you that is NOT true) to ‘formula fed babies sleep better’ – again, rubbish. Babies sleep when they are tired and eat when they need to.
It’s easy for me to say, but please try not to listen to these *ahem* helpful tips. If you have a pair of boobs and a baby, you are all set to breastfeed. When my boys were born prematurely, a lot of people assumed I would not breastfeed, even though that had been my plan all along. They assumed that because they were small and weak and unable to suck, breastfeeding would go out the window. I still to this day do not understand the logic behind that. Yes they couldn’t suck – on a breast or a bottle teat. So to get their milk they would need to be tube fed. For me, the natural answer to this was to express (by hand in the first, colostrum filled day and later by pump), syringe this precious liquid down their tubes and into their tiny tummies and wait for them to grow. I was offered formula ‘top ups’ if I felt the expressing was too much or if I wanted a rest (what’s that about? – mums of full term babies don’t get offered a rest if they don’t ‘feel like’ feeding their babies?!) but for me it wasn’t an option – the boys had expressed breast milk via tubes, then via cups and finally direct from the boob.
Because I had expressed from the very start, every time they were due a feed, my supply grew in line with their needs. At every tube feed, I put them to the breast and they were provided with a dummy to suck – teaching them the relation between boobs, sucking and an empty tummy while strengthening that suck reflex. Within days, they latched and breastfeeding was never an issue.
You can feed a premature, weak or poorly baby. Babies are designed to breastfeed, and boobs are designed to provide milk. There is nothing more natural, and special care units are fantastic at supporting this with kangaroo care, tube feeds on the boob, and even teaching you to hand express those precious first drops of colostrum. Don’t give up. Your early baby needs your life giving milk – you can do it!