I had a c-section with our first child due to placenta previa and he was rushed straight to neonatal which made for a tough start on the feeding front. Pregnancy number 2 (twins!) and I was determined to make the caesarean a more positive experience. We did lots of preparation beforehand, both mentally and practically. Lots of yoga, breathing techniques and discussions re. music, lavender, and even an eyemask (helping me to rest while we were waiting to go into theatre) so that I was able to feel very calm, and in charge. But what also helped was putting some planning into the feeding this time round. l expressed colostrum in advance and that really saved the day for us.
I knew my twin girls were going to be arriving very early and my biggest fear was that I would not have enough milk for them when they arrived - especially as premature babies can have more trouble with blood sugar levels at birth. It felt so important to me to have breastmilk ready for them, because I knew it would give them that extra boost, to help them with development.
So a few weeks before their arrival I expressed colostrum into 1ml syringes 3 times a day whilst watching tv or listening to a podcast. One drop at a time! At first not much came out but it built up and I soon had a large freezer bag of colostrum syringes. I felt like a bit of a crazy lady at the time but it really did pay off.
Out came Alice and Poppy at 34.5 weeks. Miraculously I had them in my arms within seconds and they were on the boob within the hour. But after various heel prick tests the dreaded ‘blood sugar is too low’ doctor chat happened. ‘We are going to have to give them a little bit of formula this evening if things haven’t improved’. (Well that is one way to instantly panic a mummy and stop her milk flowing!!). They also said they may need to go to neonatal if the repeat glucose test result wasn’t higher.
My husband explained we had arrived with lots of colostrum and went off to fetch it from the fridge in the ward. The doctors and midwives couldn’t believe it. I can still picture their faces when they saw how much there was. We syringed straight into their tiny little mouths and sure enough the next glucose result was not only better but in perfect range. One midwife said she had never seen such a drastic increase in glucose levels in such a short space of time.
The remaining syringes served as handy little top ups over the next few days until my full milk came in, especially as the girls were very sleepy due to low birth weights and not so alert, nor wanting to constantly suckle. Breastfeeding got off to an incredible start as a result and I felt so utterly blessed. The story was quick to go around the ward too which I was glad about. It would be wonderful if more mothers knew what was possible.
Premature expressing was so helpful for the twins, but it's useful for mothers who go full term too of course. Feeding could just work from the off, but it can be hard too, so it can be really useful to have worked out how to express beforehand.
It means milk is there if and when you need it and then women can take their time with getting their baby on the breast and latching correctly. I hear so many stories where mothers aren't given enough support or there's a sense of pressure coming from staff, and that can lead to mothers getting babies on any old how and in due course, nipple damage. It doesn't have to be like that.