Thursday, February 14, 2013

Expressing, the pro's and con's - My take.

Check out these babies....

Lactation Cookies to boost Milk supply.

Mmmm. Scrummy. I made them on behalf of our local support group, for Mum's on the Neonatal Unit.

It doesn't feel like that long a go that it was me sat in front of the old milking machine, desperate to squeeze a few more drops and as advanced as the modern devices are, coming up with the goods can be a painful struggle at times.

When I first found out that my body was capable of producing milk for my 25 week gestation baby, I was genuinely amazed! I have to say though, my excitement soon dwindled when I found out precisely how this was going to happen!

Warning! This beast bites back!

Maintaining a milk supply with a baby in NICU is extremely hard work and there are number of factors that seem to make it even more of a mare. Based on my  four month experience expressing, I bring you  my take on what makes it even more hideous.

Quite obviously stress is  is a major yet inevitable factor that influences milk supply, not just the emotional side of things but the physical  too.
Personally, I will never forget the night I first met the great green mean machine. It was wheeled in to my room in the dark of night,I  was still trying to shake off a general aesthetic at the time, not to mention a truck load of drugs and the effects from major surgery.Needless to say, messing about with plastic fixtures at that hour of the day left me none too impressed.

The actual practicalities of regular expressing leave a lot to be desired. Sustaining adequate milk supply involves living your life  as though you have a newborn baby in tow, (ideally expressing every two to three hours.) Well that would be fine if you were a standard post natal  Mum but for Neonatal Mum's it's a very different story, as they are existing in two different environments, at home and at the hospital.
It's not unusual for hospitals to be over an hours drive from home and to top it all, if you've had a c-section then you can't drive for six weeks. Brilliant.

Then there's the eating thing, to be able to make milk you have to eat...heaps. 
No calories in, no calories out, that's the way it works, so you really have to look after yourself when expressing but the reality is, with all the travelling, stress and exhaustion, the very last thing most Mum's want to to do at the end of a long day is cook themselves a wholesome meal.
What is in fact more common, is Mum's not eating properly because they are racing to the unit each day to catch the morning ward round or not wanting to leave the unit to get lunch because their baby is  unstable. 

Hospitals are dry environments and yet some how when you are in them, you feel as though you acclimatise.
Ideally Mum's would drink water before they even felt thirsty but in reality time just passes you by on the Neonatal unit and you realise you haven't drank nearly as much water as you should have to produce good milk.

Equipment availability.
It's not always possible for hospitals to lend out expressing machines and sterilising equipment to take home (although most will have some available) Where this is not available it's another thing to pay for, that is on top of your hospital cafe meal costs and hospital travel fee's. I know it's amazing we get so much on the NHS in this country but none the less, the expenses to a family after a child has been born prematurely do add up.
Another difficulty  is getting hold of expressing equipment when there are hospital transfers. We had five transfers between hospitals when I was expressing and believe me, you have to be extremely motivated to be hunting down one of those machines!

Other Children
Many Mum's obviously have other siblings to look after too and between hospital visits and spending time with them,Is there time for expressing too? The average Mum will spend between 4 and 6 hours a day expressing, that's practically a whole third of your awake time.
The one time my eldest child made a fuss through out the whole NICU experience was the day I promised him some quality time. The plan was to go to the cinema and pick up a KFC on the way back, the KFC part never happened because I needed to get back to pump! There was a major melt down in multi-storey car park. :(

It's really quite annoying when people think that NICU Mum's get a good night sleep because their babies are being looked after by someone else! When you express, you are an utter slave to the machine and even if you don't express, I doubt many Mum's get a good nights sleep anyway!.Sleep deprivation leaves all new mothers tired but with added stress of a baby in NICU and all of the above to organise, tiredness is the last thing you need.

So with all this to contend with, it's not hard to see why  so many Mum's supply's dwindle and they end up ultimately turning to formula  and quite honestly, I cant say I blame them.

However, If, like me you manage to walk out of those NICU doors with a fully breast feeding baby, it really is the best feeling in the world. Here are some of the reasons why it is so cool.

It's true, you can eat more cake when you're breast feeding. Yes really, there's no rush to loose the pregnancy pounds with a hungry baby to feed. Which means cafe surfing and cake eating is in...
and that's every new Mother's right,isn't it?

Amaze your friends
If you've been a slave to machine for months like I was, make no secret of it. If an every day Mum is proud of herself for breast feeding, be a thousand times more proud! we fully earned our right to gloat.

After having Smidge be dependant on the doctors and nurses for so long, I needed her to be dependant on me, I wanted to claim my baby back!
My little Smidge,she was born to me, grew in my womb. To have her suckling at my breast was like having her come home. The most beautiful feeling in the world.

I predominantly breast fed Mister G, who was born at term, How people can say formula feeding is more convenient is beyond me. I had a small taster of what it must be like when I was having to sterilise and store all that expressing equipment. With breast feeding a all I'd have to do is find a quiet corner, no preparation needed. 

It's free. need I say any more?

I nearly forgot to add this in but obviously it's a major benefit. I felt more confident taking Smidge out in public and to baby groups etc, knowing she had the increased protection of the antibodies from my breast milk. 

and finally...

That's right, with a dependant baby in the house and a four month NICU stay to come to terms with, lets just say breast feeding helped promote an altogether more savoury life style!

If you would like to make some lactation cookies for a Breast feeding or expressing Mother then check out this awesome recipe!

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