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Breastfeeding Success With NICU Babies
Clare's Story

As a new mum, learning to breastfeed with a sick baby is extremely hard. I was very upset at having a child in NICU, and I think the stress alone was a huge obstacle to overcome. My baby Riley, was born at 38 weeks with a blood platelet problem and then jaundice as well. He was in an incubator to keep him warm and had numerous cords and tubes attached to him. Machines would start beeping without warning; every time my heart would jump thinking something was wrong.

It is difficult to learn the basic cares in the confines of an incubator, just trying to change nappies is a big deal, let alone getting him out of the incubator and breastfeeding. However I was told from the outset that it would be best for my baby if he could be breastfed.

So I struggled to the NICU unit as often as I could day and night to try and breastfeed. (I had a caesarean so it was not easy). My baby would be lifted out of the incubator, cords and tubes all still attached, and I'd sit with him lying on a pillow on my lap. These moments were true pleasure for me, just being able to hold my son was fantastic. The NICU nurses are well trained to help you achieve your goals of breastfeeding; they were right by my side when trying to latch him on. Most of the time he was too tired to breastfeed, unwell little babies just don't have the strength to suck, so I was expressing as well. The nurses would tube feed him through his nose or at times cup feed him.

I was getting quite despondent because I felt that he was never hungry enough to want to breast feed, as he was being tube fed, which doesn't take any effort on their behalf. But soon realized that it was far more important for him to be getting the milk so that he would get better and stronger.

The nurses continued to give me support and encouraged me to have a go at breastfeeding, and sure enough he got better and was shifted out of the incubator. From there we went from strength to strength, things were easier without the tubes and cords, and we were shifted to a nursery which was quieter and a less distressing environment.

I think I was lucky in some ways to have all that expert help on hand for so long, instead of being sent home straight away without much support. So by the time we got home we were both very comfortable with breastfeeding. Now he is nearly five months old and we are thinking of starting solids!

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