Monday, 6 March 2017

Our Breastfeeding/ Protein Allergy Journey

During my pregnancy I was continually back and fourth about whether or not I wanted to breastfeed. Selfishly I was thinking that I wanted to share the responsibility with my husband, but at the same time you are continually inundated with "breast is best".  

After my c-section the boys were swiftly whipped off to intensive care, and I hadn't even seen them.I sent my husband to be with the boys.  Whilst still on the operating table, being stitched up a midwife asked me what I wanted to do feeding wise. I felt completely thrown by all the emotions we'd just gone through in a matter of hours. I knew that I wasn't yet in a fit state to get them to latch on, and just wanted the best for them so answered, "whatever, formulas fine!"  I look back now and can see that the boys needed to be taken care of, but I do wonder whether it could have waited half hour. 

There wasn't any space on the recovery ward, so I was sent back to the delivery suite that I had been screaming in just the hour before! The midwives had just switched over shifts, so I was handed over to such a sweet girl. I was really lucky to have been fortunate enough to have my own room for those initial couple of hours. I had some toast, and after a while they plonked me into a wheelchair (physically! I couldn't feel a thing) to take me down to Neonatal to finally meet my boys. The midwives were quick to say, "why don't you give breastfeeding a go",  "it's best for your babies." It seemed that each new one that walked into the room repeated this. I was confused, how could I try and feed these tiny babies attached to monitors and machines? It was eventually explained that I would have to express, and they would feed to the babies via a tube through their nose. They truly pulled on the heart strings, and I fell hook line and sinker!

I returned to the delivery suite, where the lovely midwife helped me hand express­čś│. It was possibly the strangest moment of my life! Baring in mind I clearly had lost all dignity down below from the second I'd walked in the door, but I felt embarrassed. I was being shown how to massage my breast, whilst she was sucking up drop by drop into a syringe! She was really supportive though, and majorly encouraging.

Later on that evening special care repeated their request for hand expressed milk. By now I had a room on the post-natal ward. If someone would of said that my husband and I would spend every 4 hours of our first night in hospital sucking up milk into a syringe I would have said that you were mad! He was truly my rock that first night. I could have easily said, "I'm tired. I give up!" But he was so encouraging. He would then have to carry those syringes with literally 3-8mls of milk from one end of the hospital to the other. Obviously that wasn't enough to sustain them, so they were also put on 'Aptamil Profutura'.

During the second day, the hospital arranged for me to progress onto an expressing machine. The midwife walked into the room wheeling in the machine. She said, "you're about to become Daisy!" I laughed, and thought she meant Daisy Duke, but no, she meant Daisy THE COW! OH MY GOODNESS..! What a sensation! What a noise! 

Special care supply you with a diary to monitor your expressing times, amounts etc. They like to go through these with you when you aren't bringing enough in! "Yes, I slept 6 hours last night without expressing! Yes I'm a very NAUGHTY GIRL!" But it very quickly becomes habit, and my boobs would feel like bricks if I didn't express every 3-4 hours! 

Unfortunately I couldn't get the boys to latch on, and in special care the expressing was working so I agreed to them putting it into a bottle.  They couldn't suck, so the neonatal nurses would be there to persevere with them. When they couldn't get in down them, they would put it down their nasal tubes. I knew that I wouldn't have any idea how much they'd drunk if I pushed to breastfeed, and would  be panicking. Especially as in special care the amounts are literally pipetted out ml by ml to give a whole 36mls each feed!

The first two months of feeding was absolute hell. They would take 45 mins each to take 45mls (if they finished the bottle). Then 30 minutes to wind EACH. Then it would take me 15 minutes on the expressing machine, another 30 minutes setting it up and cleaning it afterwards. Sometimes I wouldn't make enough, so we would have to top up with the Aptamil. Then we would have to fit in sterilising the bottles and of course sleeping, eating, washing etc! 

They would scream all day and all night. They slept 4 hours in 24 (in 15 minute chunks). They would projectile vomit EVERYWHERE. They were clearly in extreme discomfort with wind. The averaged 6 outfits a day EACH, plus who knows how many muslins and bibs. They would go 7-10 days without pooing, and they would explode! We as first time parents thought this was part and parcel of newborns, especially preemies. One night my mum offered to give us a night off, and she and my sister would babysit for us overnight. She messaged me during night apologising for not completely understanding what we were going through. She and my in-laws proceeded to have the boys during the day and overnight just so we could survive!

After 8 weeks the boys weren't gaining the weight they should have, and after countless doctors appointments it was suggested that they might be lactose intolerant. They reccomended that I either gave up breastfeeding, or had a complete dairy free diet. I knew that I couldn't be the best mother to them continuing on like I was, so I gave it up. They initially tried us on a milk called 'Nutramigen' with a sachet of infant Gaviscon.  They maybe had a slight improvement to their symptoms, but not enough. We then tried an alternative lactose free milk by Aptamil, which seemed to do exactly the same. 

At 12 weeks old, and after a lot of nagging from us and our health visitor, we were finally referred to a paediatrician, who prescribed us with 'Neonate' for their allergies, and Carobel for reflux. From that day it was like having different kids. Day by day they slept a little more, they started to gain weight, and seemed happier in themselves. 

Of course life is set to try us, so we've had our bumps in the road. They would make a choking noise whilst they were sleeping at night, and we would have to pick them up to try and remove the mucus from their mouths. We were then put back on Gaviscon and that cleared up right away. Every time the milk amount increases, we have to do a bit of trial and error with the amount of Carobel to add to thicken. 

Next chapter...Weaning!