Day Twenty-Four | Delany's Journey | A Blissful Update Story
So much has changed since we left the NICU! My son is almost 19 months old now and is a walking, talking, very smart little boy!
I still have a lot of emotions from the NICU, as does my husband. Becoming new parents and having a sick, premature baby who needs to be rushed away from you is incredibly difficult, stressful and terrifying. Then to see your brand new baby hooked up to all sorts of machines and being pricked multiple times is further terrifying. I have been triggered here just in the last few months at the hospital where I delivered. The smell of soap in one of the doctors’ offices was the same soap used in the NICU and I had somewhat of a panic attack from it.
But now, we have had many successes! We overcame a heck of a time to exclusively feed from the breast. He is still going strong and I couldn't be more proud of that! He has also met all of his milestones and exceeded some early. He is incredibly kind and gentle and that is a huge success to me.
It was pretty hard for people to understand where my emotions were coming from in the beginning. I felt like very few understood and could help in anyway. I turned to a mom friend I had on Facebook (I knew her when I lived in Iowa) who had, had 2 preemie babies – she understood and was a great source for support. I also found NICU groups on Facebook to help calm myself.
Recently, I have started going to post-partum therapy to help with some anxiety from what happened. My husband has been my biggest support by far though. He went through it all with us and has been incredible! We lean on each other a lot with our experiences from the NICU.
So pumping, what a journey! I started pumping while in the NICU so we could bottle feed and feed with the NG tube. He nursed as well also. My milk didn't fully come in till day 7 (technically day 8). I was on the other hand pumping between 2.5 and 5 oz of colostrum every 3 hours around the clock, far more then my son could take. When my milk finally came in, at full force I must say, I would pump roughly 9 to 15 oz every 3 hours. It was INTENSE.
I got mastitis the day before coming home, so day 14. Then got it again the next week. Then AGAIN when he was 9 weeks old. After this my lactation consultant and I worked hard to get my supply down. It just wasn't healthy for me to have that much milk and be so sick so often from clogs and mastitis. We worked together until between 4 and 5 months to get it down and regulated to where I didn't need to pump. I donated that milk to 5 different moms and babies around the state! At just before 18 months post-partum I started pumping again for my friends’ newborn. I donate around 100 oz every 8 days to them. I currently pump 5 times a day on top of nursing my toddler and get between 10 and 13 oz a day which is much more manageable.
I worked incredibly close with a Lactation Consultant from Boulder Community Hospital to help lower my oversupply and it took about 4 to 6 weeks. I used peppermint tea to help lessen my milk slowly to be able to start block feeding/pumping. Then I started pumping a few less minutes until I could drop a session. I would drop 1 session about every 5 days until I didn't need to pump other than when I wanted to or felt a clog.
My advice for other mama's with babies in the NICU is remember most of them are not even supposed to be here yet. This is a quote from one of my nurses that really helped me when my son would take a few steps back. He was still supposed to be inside me growing and needed a little extra time to catch up since he decided he couldn't wait to see the world.
Patience is key with nursing a preemie also. It can take time to get it down and finding an IBCLC (Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant) or a very good lactation consultant is incredibly important! You can do this and it will be okay! We all stand together with our little warriors!
We haven't had many problems after the first few months. We got off the nipple shield at 6 weeks old, and took dairy of my diet at 8 weeks and that really changed our lives for the better. We are still dairy free at 19 months! At 16 weeks we had his posterior tongue tie lasered and after that it has been pretty smooth sailing, which I am very thankful for!
To be honest I thought removing dairy would be much harder than it has been. Knowing that it would help Roman made it worth it to me. It also helps that my husband is allergic to casein and is cattle dairy free. I know that for many they think that it will be too hard and too much but if you look at labels and reach out for help (there are a ton of support groups for dairy free lifestyles and breastfeeding) it can be quite easy. Roman changed pretty quickly after I stopped consuming dairy and from that moment on I knew I could stick with it to help him feel better.
My current goal is to hopefully let himself wean! At the very least I want to make it till he is 2 years old but am very hopeful to make it to whenever he wants to wean himself.
My advice for other pumping moms is to keep at it if it is something you are wanting. It can be difficult and it can be annoying but in the end it is very worth it! Also, make sure to reach out for help if you need it or are questioning anything. There are many things to try if pumping is troublesome for moms. It is completely normal to not pump much either because our bodies don't always respond to pumps as they do to a baby nursing so do not be discouraged!
Nursing a toddler is a journey all in itself! I have to admit I am so grateful I am still able to nurse him after our hardships in the beginning. It is nice now that he can sign milk and can communicate with me when he wants to nurse. Also, it is very helpful when he gets hurt or is having a meltdown to be able to comfort him by breastfeeding. He can be a little pistol sometimes but other times he can be so gentle and sweet while nursing. I must say I am also very lucky that he has never bit me since getting teeth either. My favorite times are when we are lying in bed and he will gently rub my face and arms while he nurses to sleep.
I love the experiences we have had through this journey so far. I was incredibly scared we wouldn't be able to nurse with him being premature, having to use a shield, using a bottle, a SNS and feeding tube, having to wait 7 days for my mature milk to come in, oversupply, tongue ties, dairy allergy/intolerance, it just seemed like we would never get out of the woods. But, I knew I wanted to keep going and that it would all be worth it in the end and it has been incredibly worth it!
What struggles have you made it through to continue on your breastfeeding journey? If you'd like to share your story contact me and we can start to plan the perfect session for your family.