Today is the beginning of National Breastfeeding Celebration Week.
Way back around Christmas time when everyone started making these breastfeeding tree of life pictures I remember being so sad that I couldn’t join in. I actually sat and cried in the car park at Bentley Bridge Retail Park. We can blame that one on hormones, I hope… Arlo was teeny teeny tiny still and I knew it’d be months before we might, if we were lucky, get the chance to try feeding (Little did I know it’d be 100 days before that finally happened!). I was bloody determined that I’d do absolutely everything I possibly could to get us there though.
So when he got NEC and spent an entire month nil by mouth I carried on expressing. When he restarted feeds and it became apparent that because of his stoma he couldn’t absorb the fats in breastmilk and would need Pepti Jr for all but one feed a day I carried on expressing. When long term pumping damaged my skin and caused 4 painful infections in quick successions I grit my teeth and carried on expressing. When his Dietician and Doctor told me as kindly as they could that his samples still showed malabsorption and we needed to stop giving him breastmilk altogether until his stoma output was under control I carried on expressing (and we got that single feed a day back almost a month later). And here we are at 28 weeks old, still expressing, and I finally have that tree of life picture now. He’s nil by mouth again, and when he does finally restart feeds it’ll be via his ng tube at first but I’m hopeful we’re closer than ever to getting there (wherever that is) now.
Maybe it’s partly guilt. I failed to keep him safe until term after all. Or maybe it’s just sheer bloodymindedness and the fact that when I really believe in something I’m a right stubborn mare, but either way I’m pretty proud of making it to 6 months. Exclusively breastfeeding is hard, I’ve done it twice. Exclusively pumping is brutal.
So here’s to all the breastfeeding mamas. Whether you’re able to breastfeed directly, you’re expressing every 3 hours to provide milk to be tube or bottle fed, or even if you spent time trying… this week is to celebrate you.
Also have to acknowledge the brilliant women who donate milk to help the tiniest premature babies who need human milk to grow and thrive in the NICU. You’re doing something truly amazing 💛