In the days after T’s birth it felt like my life revolved entirely around my breast pump. Time was divided into how long it had been since my last pump and how long until the next pump. My mom and I even got into a fight one day because she said she simply couldn’t understand why I was so obsessed with pumping when it was more important for me to go see T in the NICU.
I didn’t realize it until I yelled the words out through my tears that it was the only thing I felt I could do for him. It was the only thing that made me really feel like his mother.
When your baby is in the NICU, it’s hard to know what exactly it means to be his mother. You hold him for maybe a few hours a day, feed him two, maybe three times, change a couple diapers. But you never really feel like you are a vital part of his survival, and now that I’m home I can state the obvious with absolute confidence, it’s nothing like being a mom with a baby at home.
For me, pumping was the one single thing that made me feel like I was his mother. Even during the weeks when he couldn’t drink my breastmilk, pumping was my reminder that I had a baby, that I really was a mother.
I never really talked specifically about this with the other NICU moms I met but based on the amount of traffic in the NICU lactation room, I feel like it’s safe to say I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. It probably wasn’t a conscious thing, it certainly wasn’t for me, but it’s there and it permeates the NICU. I met so many moms in there who dutifully pumped every three to four hours, including moms who were barely squeezing out a half ounce of milk per pump but continued on faithfully anyway. All of us moms wanting so desperately to feel like we were providing something for our babies that no one else could give them.
And so we trudged into that lactation room time after time, plugged ourselves into an uncomfortable machine that did not even remotely resemble the dreams we had while we were pregnant of what it would be like to nurse our babies, and we did what moms do – sacrificed time, energy and our own comfort for the sake of our babies.
T has been home for almost a week now and he’s kinda sort of starting to get this whole breastfeeding thing. Just today he managed to take two whole feeds in a row from the breast without supplementing with a bottle (of expressed milk that’s been fortified with a bit of formula). For the most part he doesn’t have issues with latching, just a major problem with not passing out like a drunken sailor at the end of Fleet Week, every single time I put him to the bo.ob. Paul and I joke about how he fakes being asleep to get out of breastfeeding but sometimes it doesn’t feel like a joke! Sometimes he will nurse for a few sucks, and then go limp like he’s in the deepest sleep ever, and once I give up trying to wake him (palm rubbing, running my fingers up and down his spine, tickling his cheek, etc.) I put him down and his eyes snap open and he’s screaming bloody murder like, “Where’s my food woman?!”
But like I said he did manage to nurse for two full feeds today so maybe we’re headed in the right direction. I’m cautiously optimistic.
Volume wise, he’s been drinking between 75-100ml per feed now, which seems like a lot for such a little guy, especially since he’s still eating about every 3-3.5hrs. I’m starting to worry that my supply isn’t going to keep up with him which is another reason I’m trying to nurse him as much as possible during the day along with pumping. Before he came home and I was pretty much exclusively pumping I produced about 21oz per day. Now that I’m nursing him too I have no idea how much I’m producing beyond what I’m pumping (which is only like 15-17oz now), I’m just hoping its more and not less, but it feels like a stretch that he could be getting 6oz from the bre.ast…