I had every intention of breastfeeding, but like everything else that goes along with mommyhood, it didn’t go as planned. My daughter was in the NICU for the first 3 weeks of her life. It was agonizing for my husband and I. I’ll never forget when I had to leave the hospital without her, looking back to see her empty car seat. Longing to have her home with me.
She had low blood sugar and I was constantly asked if I had a glucose test by doctors every day, sometimes several times a day, for 21 days. When I was pregnant I took the 1 hour glucose test and it came back “slightly elevated”. Then I took a 3 hour glucose test and the doctor called and said everything was fine.
Having my daughter in the NICU for low blood sugar had me wracked with so much guilt since I blamed myself. We were told that she would only be in for a few days. A week later she was supposed to come home on a Saturday. We called the NICU before we went to bed and they said she was doing fine.
I was too excited to sleep. I was up half the night getting her things ready and packing her bag since we were going to stay overnight at the hospital with her. That’s what they encourage when your child has been in the NICU. She had to have her blood sugar checked every 4 hours and was on medication so they wanted to be sure we were able to handle these things.
We got a call Saturday morning saying that her blood sugar dropped late Friday night and she wouldn’t be able to come home. I was beyond devastated. We went through this cycle every two or three days for 3 weeks. The only way I can describe this roller coaster ride was that it was an absolute mindfuck. Add to that my postpartum hormones and I was a crying mess the whole time.
I tried to breastfeed her while she was in the NICU, but even with a lactation consultant and the nurses there to help, she never latched on. I was pumping and would bring my milk to the NICU every day when we went to see her. She was given formula occasionally, but when I was home, I pumped as much as I could.
One of the problems I found was that although I could pump in the NICU, there was no drinking allowed so I couldn’t drink any water during all the hours we spent there. When I did try to pump there, I felt so dehydrated and that would make me feel sick. That’s why I could only pump at home.
Finally, after 3 long weeks, we were able to bring her home. I kept trying to breastfeed, but it just didn’t work out like I was hoping. On top of that, both my husband and I were terrified that her blood sugar would drop. We still had to supplement with formula since I didn’t always have enough breast milk coming in.
My daughter was on medication until she was six weeks old. Her blood sugar stabilized, but the worry was always there. In fact it still is, even though she’s fine now. I feel like the stress of everything caused my milk supply to go down.
My supply kept on dropping and I was taking all kinds of supplements to help it go back up. I also started doing marathon pumping sessions when my husband was home from work, hoping that would bring in more milk. I was pumping for nearly 4 months and then I got sick, along with a horrible cough, and was put on codeine for several weeks.
We really didn’t have any other option but to formula feed. During that time I pumped and dumped because I was still hoping to give my little girl breast milk after I stopped taking codeine. When I got off of the medication, I still attempted to pump but didn’t get much milk. I felt defeated and had wanted so desperately to breastfeed my child. Looking back, I wish I was easier on myself. Having to formula feed is not the end of the world.
All that matters now is that I have a healthy, beautiful, thriving, extremely active 3 year-old daughter who I love more than anything in this world.
Did you have a child in the NICU? Were you able to breastfeed?