Most women, who have a healthy, term birth start breastfeeding straight away if that is their preference. But what happens if you’re one of the 1 in 10 who end up expressing for your premature baby? You’re unable to hold them, let alone breastfeed them!

You have to express soullessly and exclusively using a breast pump, that’s what happens.

Expressing For Your Premature Baby

It’s safe to say that expressing using a pump doesn’t even touch on the feeling you get when you’re breastfeeding your baby. Coupled with the fact that you aren’t even near your baby, and can’t hold or embrace them or look at them and smell them whilst your expressing because they’re locked away safely in the NICU, producing milk can become extremely difficult and tiresome at times.

Many a moment I found myself feeling bereft, as if I didn’t have a child. I felt stressed with the nurses constatly hounding me for my milk. I was waking up for night feeds, and then feeding a machine with no baby in sight.

I was upset, worn out and slowly losing sight of the importance of expressing for my premature baby’s immunity. It sounds selfish, but it’s incredibly difficult to maintain with everything else you are going through.

I had to find ways to feel connected to my baby, even though, due to Covid-19 restrictions, I was only allowed to visit him for an hour or so a day, if that, for the majority of his time in NICU.

The things I found that helped me were sights and smells. Everyday I made sure I took a video and several photographs of him. Just looking at him whilst expressing and hearing his tiny voice gave me hope and a reason to carry on.

Secondly, I asked the nurses for his blankets. I took home his hats, his muslins – basically anything I could get my hands on that carried his smell. He was far too small for clothes, even tiny baby clothes, for a long time. So I took whatever I could that even had the tiniest bit of his scent on it and held it close whilst expressing.

Thirdly, I tried to ensure I was relaxed whilst expressing. I used lots of cushions to prop me up, listened to some music or watched something easy on the television, and tried not to focus on my supply.

Finally, I used a hospital grade double-pump in order to make pumping as easy and stress-free as possible. I made sure I expressed every 3 hours, including during the night, to get the best possible supply for him.

Whilst I had a few dips in production, even going down to minimal amounts due to the stress I was enduring and the length of my baby’s stay in the unit and several complications, speaking to the Lactation Nurse and my baby’s consultant helped.

They managed to organise me a night’s stay in the Unit (which is normally reserved for mothers rooming in, ready to take their babies home) in order to try and increase my supply, as I would be in the next room from Arthur. So do seek help if things get bad – it can really affect your mentality if you let it get on top of you.

Oh, and the Nurses will get on to you and you need to let them know if they make you feel uncomfortable.

One of the biggest things that affected my supply was being harrassed about my levels everytime I went to visit (which was every day, for 69 days). They did this in front of other mums and the more they commented, the more my supply went down because I was focused on them, rather than doing my best for my baby.

Breastmilk is so important for immunity, especially in premature babies, but all you can do is your best.

They’re just a few tips that I found useful when expressing during this troublesome time, and I hope they can help you when expressing for your premature baby, too.

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