Lack of Breastmilk Sent My Newborn to the NICU
When I gave birth to my first son, like many new moms, I was very excited to begin the bonding process while breastfeeding him. So not long after delivery, I had him latch on to my breast to nurse, believing that I was doing the best thing for my baby. But since I was a new mom, I wasn't very familiar with what it would actually feel like to breastfeed. I had no idea of the sensation that you would have when your milk was being “let down.” I didn't yet know those joyful slurping noises a baby makes while he's feeding, and I fully believed everything I had read, and I been told … that my baby would get all that he needed from my breastmilk right away — first colostrum, but then on to the good stuff!
Throughout my time in the hospital, I regularly allowed my son to latch onto each breast and drink until it seemed he had his fill. Was he fussy at all? Sure, at times. But overall, he seemed content, and I wasn't at all nervous when he cried or fussed. I even remember the lactation consultant making a regular stop by my room at one point, and she watched me nurse and gave me the thumbs up that I was doing everything right.
Since I had delivered my son by cesarean section, I had a slightly prolonged hospital stay, and on day three, when I woke up, I could tell that something didn't seem right with my little baby. He was agitated, and when I tried to feed him, he would latch on, suck, cry, and then give up in frustration. The nurse stopped by to check on me, and she noticed right away that something was wrong. And swoosh, in a moment, my little baby was whisked away from me and rushed down to the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). Because, at this point, he had gotten a fever!
Our initial fears were that perhaps Kyle (my baby) had picked up some sort of bacterial infection either during delivery or in the hospital. But what the doctors and nurses quickly realized once he was given a bottle of formula was that this little guy was dehydrated! My milk had not come in yet, even on day three, and he was not getting what he needed to thrive.
Now, when your baby is whisked away to the NICU with a fever, he is checked in there for four days (hospital policy), as they continue to poke and prod and run all kinds of tests just to make sure that there's nothing else going on. Fortunately for us, dehydration was all that it was, and once he was given that first bottle, he never again ran a fever as a newborn. But those four days of spending the night with him in the NICU were incredibly emotional for a new mom with raging hormones!
During our time in the NICU, my son greedily consumed his bottles of formula every few hours, after first trying to nurse at my breast. And it wasn't until day seven that I really realized what it felt like to have your milk come in. (Um … ow!) Once I was producing breastmilk, we switched exclusively over to breastfeeding. (And, no, there were no issues of “nipple confusion,” which I had feared!)
So, 16 months later, when I gave birth to my second son, Spencer, I immediately put my son to my breast and had him latch on to nurse, but I chased each breastfeeding session with a bottle of formula to make sure he was getting everything he needed. I continued to do this for the first seven days or until I knew for sure that my body was producing breastmilk again. (And, yes, I had to advocate for my decision with the maternity nurses, who insisted that I didn't need to offer a bottle if I was breastfeeding. But I stuck to my guns!) I had the opportunity to do it again 16 months later when my third son, Jack, was born.
So what I want you to know is this: Not every mom is the same, and not everyone's milk comes in immediately. If you feel that the right decision for you is to supplement formula along with your breastmilk until you feel comfortable and know for sure that your body is producing what your baby needs, I say go for it!
Did you have breastfeeding challenges?