|By: Mary Honma|
|Can I breastfeed my baby? Many expectant
mothers envision a lovely first nursing at the breast in the delivery room. But when your
baby arrives prematurely, suddenly you are thrust into a critical life and death situation
-- your baby will be rushed off to intensive care to be hooked up to breathing tubes, IVs
and monitors. So now you may ask, with some hesitation "Can I still breastfeed my
This column will focus on pumping. In the future we will cover increasing milk supply, transition to nursing at the breast, breastfeeding at home, and giving it up.
Breastmilk itself provides many nutrients and protective proteins (antibodies and lipase) lacking in commercial formulas. After the birth, your breasts begin producing colostrum, a "pre-milk" that is loaded with antibodies, before producing breastmilk. The mother of a premature baby produces milk that is different from that of a full-term's mother -- this "preemie" milk is uniquely suited for a prematurely-born baby.
Some mothers who had already planned on breastfeeding found that their feelings intensified once their child arrived early, and in such a fragile state.
"I still wanted to breastfeed. Maybe even more than before. In some ways I have held onto breastfeeding because it is the only thing left that can be at all like I thought it would be." (Rachel, mother of 24 weekers)
"I felt that because I could not carry to term that I had to do all that I could to help him and that pumping breastmilk was all I could do for him at that point" (Tina, mother of 26 weeker)
"I really decided that it would be great for Dylan and it was something I felt I could do for him and no one else could." (Jenny, mother of 27 weeker)
However, depending on how critically ill your child is, you may have mixed feelings initially about breastfeeding:
"'I realized I was afraid to start breastfeeding because Robin might not survive and I did not want to get attached to him" (Anne-Mieke, mother of 26 weeker)
"To tell you the truth, breastfeeding and other details of childbirth were the least of my concerns. Wondering whether my son would live or die was primary and everything else just fell by the wayside." (Natalie, mother of 25 weeker)
|Feeling about pumping.
Most mothers had mixed feelings about pumping, but in general felt good about their
"I felt ambivalent (about pumping). I'm glad I did it but nursing (my full-term) was much easier. It was very strange for me those nights before my twins came home and I was up at three in the morning pumping all by myself. I felt sorry for myself sometimes, but it was the only thing they needed from me. " (Alicia, mother of preemie twins)
"This was the big payoff. My son was getting my milk!!! If there was any reward to the whole situation, that was it. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I would gladly encourage any mom in the same situation." (Natalie, mother of 25 weeker)
"I know he has gotten all those extra antibodies from me through the breastmilk so I am pretty darned proud of myself I kept on pumping for as long as I did!!!" (Anne-Mieke, mother of 26 weeker)
"I felt very good about it but sometimes wish I could've pumped a little longer (I pumped for a year)." (Connie, mother of 24 weekers)
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