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Amy’s NICU Breastfeeding Journey

For this year’s world breastfeeding week I am delighted to share Amy & Fergus’ incredible NICU breastfeeding journey. Amy had booked onto my October 2022 Hypnobirthing course but gorgeous baby Fergus decided he was ready to come earthside early, so Amy sadly missed out on the full course, but has been an amazing member of our birth base gang regardless! Amy tells us of her INCREDIBLE and INSPIRING breastfeeding journey, here is her very special story…

Amy syringe feeding baby Fergus

‘When our little boy Fergus arrived 11 weeks and 3 days earlier than planned it was a major shock to say the least. So many thoughts went through my head, and will I be able breastfeed was one of the biggest!?

The first few days after he arrived became a bit of a blur, we were thrown in at the deep end of neonatal care, the nurses and staff were (are) incredible, real life superheroes! Each one discussing with me and encouraging me to attempt to express milk so that I could feed Fergus. I kept thinking, he’s so early, how can my body possibly have any milk ready for him now, so soon!

I didn’t have a pump, I didn’t even have a hospital bag packed to be honest 🫠 but being in the neonatal unit meant I had 24/7 access to my own pump, and my baby boy.

We started initially with the tiny colostrum harvesting syringes, and looking back on it now… how hilarious. My husband and I sat there trying to get what felt like the tiniest droplet out, but that was just the start.

I was amazed, and collected what I could into these tiny syringes, each time giving them to the nurses and they would be so lovely, and congratulate me each time I handed them some milk!

We started using the electric (what felt like industrial) hospital pump and we also quickly ordered a hand pump too. My milk started coming in - faster than I thought it could. I would sit in our little room on the neonatal ward, Fergus in his incubator expressing, filling up the tiny Sterifeed bottles, labelling each one up.

They felt so precious, like actual liquid gold.

expressed breastmilk

Fergus was tube fed for his first 5 weeks or so. My milk was stored in the milk kitchen (yep that’s a thing 😊) sorted into the exact feed amounts he needed for his 2 hourly feeds, and we would feed him.

We quickly got into the swing of things, I was expressing every 2/3 hours, by this point I had the hospital pump, my hand expressing pump and my Elvie. Wherever I went, between the hospital and home I had a pump with me, milk storage bags and labels and my cool bag.

As Fergus got older, and stronger we were able to introduce a bottle and boob. I didn’t know this before but babies don’t get their ‘sucking reflex’ until around 32 weeks in pregnancy and it doesn’t usually fully develop until around 36 weeks.

We began to introduce a bottle of expressed breast milk at feed times and when possible we would try him feeding on the boob too.

This was the hardest part for me, with him being in neonatal care for 8 weeks, we had times apart. Where he relied on nurses feeding him, so he would feed from the bottle/tube. Which was such a huge achievement, and so incredible but still deep down there were parts of my that felt so gutted that we weren’t getting the breastfeeding journey I’d hoped for. BUT I kept reminding myself, we’re still having an amazing journey, we’re still feeding and smashing it.

The times we were apart (mainly just overnight) I would still express, every 2/3 hours as I did all day. I had my stash of snacks in my bedside drawer and huge bottle of water by the bed to get me through. Expressing, and creeping downstairs to bottle and label up and pop the milk in the fridge each time. In the morning, I’d get up, shower and express again over a slice of toast and then pack up my bag for the day, and cool bag filled with pouches of milk ready to take into the hospital for my precious boy.

Amy with her cool bag of expressed breastmilk on the way to hospital

During the days at the hospital, spent cuddling, we’d try feeding in every way possible, not always from the boob which was tough for me but I felt such a sense of pride knowing my baby was still getting my milk and was thriving from it too! He just got stronger and stronger each day.

Amy breastfeeding baby Fergus in NICU

Eventually, 7 weeks and 6 days after he was born and 3 different hospitals, Fergus was discharged, and we finally got to make the journey home as a family of 3 for the first time (along with litres and litres of my fresh and frozen breast milk!)

By this point Fergus was really happy taking milk from the bottle but not so good at taking it from the boob.

Fergus very quickly settled at home, and his feeds were increasing, we started to use the supply of milk in the freezer to keep up with the feeds he was wanting/needing and eventually, a few months later we made the decision to wean my expressing down.

Initially I felt really sad about our feeding journey coming to an end sooner than we’d hoped but reminded myself of the incredible journey we’d had. I couldn’t be prouder of what we achieved together, those memories that I will cherish forever.

Ladies our bodies are incredible and we should be applauding ourselves no matter how we feed our babies💙''

baby Fergus

A huge thank you to Amy for sharing her incredible story!

Want to read my Breastfeeding story? Click here to see how I faired after a midwife told me I'd never breastfeed...

Want to know what breast pump to buy? Read this during pregnancy!

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