Kelly’s NICU Journey Breastfeeding
Hey everyone! Welcome back to The Bloob! Meet…
KELLY DOAN & baby Ellis
Below is a beautiful post written by my even more beautiful friend, Kelly. Kelly and I worked together on a pediatric hematology/oncology floor as RNs early in our careers. Kelly brings a special presence wherever she goes. She is one of the most sincere and compassionate people you could ever meet. I remember Kelly would share with me how excited she was to become a mom and start a family when the time came (I was pregnant with my first-prompting those talks!). Fast forward years later, we both were pregnant at the same time with due dates 2 days apart! When I found out her son was born premature at 33 weeks, my heart broke for her. This post highlights her success and perseverance with breastfeeding Ellis, despite the many challenges! I asked her to share it in hopes of inspiring other moms in similar situations. Yours might not mirror this exactly, but I hope it brings you positivity and insight.
Hey mamas! My name is Kelly and I’m so excited to share my story with you all. I am a stay-at-home mom trying to figure out this whole motherhood thing just like you. I hope you have heard this today but if not, here you go: you are doing an amazing job and God created YOU to be the mama for your baby. Let that sink in. Mama, you’ve got this!
I definitely romanticized breastfeeding. I have always wanted to breastfeed and when I finally became pregnant I just couldn’t believe that I would finally be able to breastfeed my baby (who obviously would be born knowing how to latch perfectly, haha!) and share that special and sacred, nutrient-packed bond! Oh geesh was I naïve! My breastfeeding journey has been remarkable and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but it hasn’t been easy.
My son, Ellis, was born at 33 weeks and spent 26 days in the NICU. My dream moment of snuggling my baby right after he was born and breastfeeding didn’t happen. Instead I got to snuggle a breast pump after getting stitched up while my husband was visiting our new squish in the NICU. God gave me extra peace and grace that day to really experience and love our season even though it wasn’t what we had imagined AT ALL. I was so elated and in love with Ellis that honestly I didn’t evaluate how these unexpected parts of my story affected me until months after we brought Ellis home.
The next day my milk came in with fury and I didn’t know how to get it out! The lactation consultant at the hospital helped me, but when we went home I couldn’t pump or express milk out all night for some reason and my breasts became so huge, hard, and tender that I was crying. I had the lactation consultant come to our NICU room the next morning and she took amazing care of me. She gently massaged my breasts and helped me express and pump milk while tears streamed down my cheeks. I pumped 12 ounces! Holy moly! Fun fact – the same lactation consultant saw us right before we took Ellis home and she reminded me of that crazy painful day and commented on how far I had come. Honestly, breastfeeding a preemie would not have been successful without the amazing team of lactation consultants!
After several days of tube feedings, a steady relationship with my breast pump, and constant skin-to-skin with Ellis, he pivoted down to my breast and tried to latch! A week later he was nursing for a couple minutes, and 3 weeks later he was nursing full feeds! Through this process I learned that all babies develop at their own pace. Ellis was nursing mediocre for most of his stay until one day he started nursing full feeds. So rest assured, your baby will develop when they are ready and it’s okay if they need a little extra help. A big contributor was all the skin-to-skin time I spent with Ellis. I would snuggle him skin-to-skin, try to nurse him, tube feed him, then pump every three hours. Then I would go home and pump all night (or not… I was so exhausted!) and go back to the hospital to snuggle my boy. I am so thankful I had the support of the lactation consultants in the first couple weeks because my preemie baby went home exclusively breastfeeding and I had laid the foundation through diligent pumping with their help!
Breastfeeding a preemie is no small task and Ellis nursed every 1-2 hours for months. He had a lot of catching up to do! I had several clogged ducts and a clog in my nipple in the first couple months. My nursing pillow was EVERYTHING. I dreaded nursing outside of my home purely because I was addicted to using my pillow, but even that got easier with time.
If I could encourage you in one way it would be this: it’s okay to ask for help. It’s totally okay! Motherhood is incredible and wonderful and so many things, but it is not easy. Don’t be afraid to accept your friend’s offer to come do your dishes or watch your baby so you can take a shower (or better yet, take a nap!). It’s okay if you are wearing yesterday’s pants. Can’t remember the last time you didn’t smell like spit-up? Me neither! It’s okay! You aren’t a bad mom if you have a bad day; it means you’re human. And you can do this!