A year ago yesterday we brought our little boy home from hospital. Born a little too early at 30 weeks, we spent 83 days in NICU with him and, like most mummas, have had a rollercoaster of a feeding journey. Every day we struggle with feeding, whether it’s a breastfeed, a bottle, a sippy cup or solid foods… but looking back over the year, I’m so proud of what he’s achieved!

Little boy started life being fed a nutrient packed concoction through an IV drip into his belly button. This IV tube moved to his hand once he was more stable, allowing him to curl up on his side (a little more comfy than being flat on his back!). After a few days, he was fashioning a second tube, this going in through his mouth, allowing him his first samples of breastmilk. Breastmilk that I had (and would) set my alarm to unfailingly pump every 3 hours… around the clock. It was tiring, it was far too mechanical and unnatural, but it was the least I could do. Little boy had calories added to my milk to increase his rate of growth (born at 1.6kg this was key to getting him home, that, and breathing on his own!). He was fed breastmilk 2ml at a time, this increased over a few days until he was having 20ml in his tiny little belly. A whole 20ml every 2 hours. Seems so insignificant now but at the time… What a champ! He would have the milk suctioned back out of his stomach just before the next feed to check he was digesting it properly, only to then have it injected back in. Poor little boy! Over the weeks, the volume of milk he took increased, and IV fluids decreased, to the point that the IV tube was taken out. What a day! He was now being fuelled solely on mumma’s milk :)

Once he reached 34 weeks, we tried our first breastfeed. Although not successful, his natural instinct was simply breathtaking, even after weeks of being confined to a sterile incubator, and still weeks before he should even be in the real world. He knew what he needed to do. He knew where to go. His intuition told him right. For a few days he snuffled around, his little nose pointing in the right direction and his tiny mouth opening, he was determined (which now makes him a stubborn toddler!) but unable to muster the strength. Again, the nurses would pull up the contents of his stomach to see how much he’d taken, lucky to find even a few mls. So we’d have a little snuggle and then he’d be back in his incubator, and he would be fed my expressed milk through the tube. We’d try every other day at first, to keep going but also to preserve his energy…

Over the weeks, we increased our attempts to once a day, and then every other feed, and eventually every feed time was an attempt. This was a long process, it consumed all our time (and energy, for both of us!). He’d breastfeed, well, attempt to… and very slowly. Without much success, he’d then be given his much wanted feed through his tube. The tube had now moved to his nose to help with his latch when feeding. I’d then express milk in readiness for his next feeds. Then it would be time to go again! Attempted breastfeed, tube feed, express. We got that routine down pat. Overnight, he would be fed a bottle of expressed milk. As he grew bigger and stronger, these bottles replaced the tube feeds until he was able to suck all his feeds. A huge milestone for being homeward bound!

When it came to breastfeeds, he was still so frustrated. Then afterwards, still so unsettled. We resorted to test weighs… before a feed, and then straight after with each gram gained being equivalent to every ml he’d managed to drink. But he was only gaining about 20g! We tried all ways to help him transfer milk, his latch was good, he sounded good, we tried nipple shields, various positions, support pillows, you name it. Then one morning, while he was crying in hunger, frustration, and probably sheer desperation, the lactation consultant tried to console him and mid scream, noticed a tongue tie! It was a mixture of exasperation and relief… how had this not been picked up before?! Yet so good to have some kind of explanation!

Still being in hospital on breathing support, he wasn’t able to have his tongue tie snipped. This finally happened for him at 42 weeks… oxygen free, which meant it was also home time! All those 83 days later. Once he was home we had the same routine. Feed, bottle top up, pump… feed, top up, pump. It was a two (or three!) man job. Hubby was up for the feed, while I was up for the pump. Over time we stopped using nipple shields. We stopped topping up each feed with a bottle afterwards. I stopped pumping. Over time we learnt to just simply feed. It wasn’t a quick learn. And it was never a quick feed. A year on and we still have our feeds. Only twice a day now but we still do (plus, we have the joy of solids to add to the mix!). Take a look back at something from your year with a little one. Maybe your feeding journey.

At the time, the journey is often a difficult one. These bubbas are trying. They test your patience. But when you take the time to reflect, they achieve so much. Whatever your journey, an early bub, a late bub, breastfeeding or otherwise, staying at home, working full time, a fussy eater, a food lover… it’s quite amazing! Being responsible for these little ones is no easy task, but we’re all learning together, and helping each other grow into the world. May this next year be as enlightening and nourishing for all you wonderful mammas.


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