Breastfeeding a late preemie

There are many ways to breastfeed. So I found out when my first baby came 5 weeks early. I was perhaps pathologically determined to breastfeed her, but she had a poor suck and struggled to gain weight. It was a vicious circle of her being hungry, not getting enough of the good stuff, and then becoming tired and jaundiced.

A breast pump loan from Tiny Life (the charity for newborns) saved us. But it was incredibly hard work - setting an alarm to feed every 2 to 3 hours, waking her, trying to feed, then pumping, topping up, and sterilising all the equipment to start again, sometime only a few minutes later. My throbbing nipples, the toe curling pain when she latched on, and the inevitable mastitis that ensued was not the experience I signed up for! The phrase ‘Breast is best’ was at times an encouragement, but at other times a stick I used to beat myself with to keep going. We made it though!

When baby number 2 came along 4 weeks early, I knew in my bones I couldn’t manage the same super-human feat again…but I still wanted to give him the best start I could.

My two babies were both born on the same day of the month, in the same hour, and in the same room in the Ulster hospital. Unfortunately, our first few steps towards breastfeeding felt dishearteningly familiar….he struggled to latch on, became sleepy and jaundiced. I was dreading the weigh ins.

Newborn Ulster Hospital: Belfast Birth Photographer

Syringe and cup top-ups

Except this time COVID-19 meant things were different in that I had to do it without the support of my family and partner. Step in some amazing midwives - one taught me to hand express so I could give him those all important golden drops of colostrum with a tiny syringe. Tricia, the breastfeeding coordinator, was a complete gem and had the knack of pure empathy with a wicked sense of humour, and could make even a despondent mum laugh. She taught me all over again how to get him to latch on, and different holds to try. Then in came my milk, and another lovely midwife taught me how to feed him from a little cup, lapping like a kitten. This gave me some new tricks to survive the first few weeks of a sleepy jaundiced baby, as I could ensure he was getting enough sustenance.

Breastfeeding giving expressed milk by cup to preemie

The Hakka pump

My community midwife Andrea was an angel, and introduced me to the miracle of the Hakka pump. This is a very simple silicone pump which works by suction whilst the baby is feeding from the opposite side- basically give it squeeze and pop it on. It is totally silent and easy to forget about whilst you are using it. I get between 10 and 40ml each time. Initially my little one needed all of this as an immediate top up post feed, but now he is feeding better on his own I am using it to build up a freezer stash. After each feed I give it a wash out with some Fairy liquid, and boil it up for 3 minutes so it is ready to go again.

Hakka suction cup for breastfeeding catching the let down feeding preemie

Breastfeeding glow for Mum and baby

So, breastfeeding wasn’t as effortless as I had imagined. No alfresco photos of breastfeeding in fields of sunflowers for me. But I have learned that there is more than one way to breastfeed, and with a lot of support and a little bit of knowledge I have been able to do what I wanted to do for my babies. 

And there are moments when I am so glad. When I see those little eyes looking up at me as we are snuggled in under the covers having a feed on a cold autumnal night. Or when he is sate and comes off the breast and onto my chest for a snuggle, his little plump cheek which had just been buried into my breast is flushed, and his face glows like the cat who has got the cream. And I glow too.

Lifestyle breastfeeding portrait at home Belfast, Northern Ireland
Breastfeeding Portrait session at Home Northern Ireland

Breastfeeding portraits capture these precious moments

I am delighted Helen was able to capture all of these moments for me. She made me feel so at ease. We are thrilled with the photos, documenting such a special time.

Book your Breastfeeding Portrait Session at Home

Celebrate your breastfeeding journey with a Motherhood Session in the comfort of your own home. The session is less than a hour, while the focus is on you and baby, I always make sure there's time for photos with your partner, siblings or four-legged family members you want to include. Email or use my contact form to book your session.