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Breastfeeding Success With NICU Babies
My first baby, Emily, was born at 38 weeks with a compressed cord, so she was whisked off to the NICU after I'd only had about a minute to hold her. I sent my husband along with her and he told the NICU staff that I wanted to breastfeed.
The first time I went to visit her in the NICU, she was covered in cords and wires, and getting all of her nutrition from an IV in her hand. It was frustrating because I wasnted to hold her and feed her, and I wasn't allowed to try to nurse her until she was two days old. I got lucky--she latched on right away and even though she didn't eat a lot, it was obvious that she knew that THIS was what she wanted.
I was discharged after two days, but Emily had to stay in the NICU. (I think I cried off and on most of the day I was discharged.) The hospital got me a pump and asked me to pump as much as I could so that when I wasn't there to nurse, my milk would be waiting for her in the fridge. They used bottles with slow-flow nipples so that she wouldn't suffer from nipple confusion, and she never has. I went in to the hospital every day and nursed her whenever she wanted as long as I was there. Once she came home after another six days, my husband and I found the unexpected benefit of her NICU stay--she still takes a bottle or a breast with equal happiness, so Dad can feed her my pumped milk, which he really likes.
The only problem I had was that when Emily was in the hospital, I was pumping as much as I could. Then when she came home, she wasn't eating as much as I had, and I got EXTREMELY engorged. I didn't want to pump too much because I knew that would only make it worse, so I tried to limit myself to pumping once a day after she'd fed, just to take the pressure off. Fortunately, our bodies got into each other's rhythms after two days and my breasts went down to a more normal state!
I'm glad we stuck with the decision to breastfeed. Emily gained eight ounces in the week after she came home from the hospital, so we must be doing something right!