There were many moments during my pregnancy with Jessica that I hardly dared hope I’d get to hold her living breathing form in my arms, let alone have the chance to breastfeed her. Hearing her cry as she entered the world was one of the most overwhelmingly joyous moments of my whole life. A fleeting moment of her being laid on my chest and the briefest of cuddles before she was whisked off to the neonatal unit. It felt like a very long time before I was able to go and see her there. It was really only a couple of hours though.
Surrounded by the beeping of the machines, my hospital bed was squeezed into the intensive care unit. Finally I had the chance to hold my beautiful girl for more than a moment. She was already covered in tubes and wires but we were able to cuddle up skin to skin. As I gently guided her towards my breast, she nuzzled against it and suckled very briefly. In amongst it all, I tried to take in the surgeon explaining the surgery that Jessica was about to have. My husband signed the consent form and the team began the process of arranging for Jessica to be transferred to the paediatric intensive care unit in the neighbouring hospital. For the moment, we were together, snuggled up. No matter what the future held, I would always have the memory of at least one moment of feeding her.
We were blessed with many more moments though. Jessica got through her first heart surgery at eight hours old and another at a week old. It was a few days before we were able to hold her again. At ten days old, Jessica finally was able to breastfeed again. I had been expressing regularly in the meantime. Once Jessica had a taste of mummy milk directly from the breast though, there was no stopping her! We tried exclusive breast feeding for a few days. However, her heart condition meant that she tired quickly and needed extra calories. We ended up giving her top-ups of a special high-calorie formula milk but being able to partially breastfeed her was wonderful.
Fast-forward a couple of years to baby Sophie’s arrival into the world. What a different experience! Giving birth to her at home in a birthing pool and being able to snuggle up with her in my own bed afterwards was blissful. I was an experienced mum this time round. Because of this, I expected breastfeeding Sophie to be straightforward. It was a shock when I struggled with getting her to latch well and ended up with very sore and cracked nipples. Thankfully I had amazing support from two midwife friends. They took the time to help support me with feeding and ruled out any tongue-tie. A week later, Sophie was finally feeding well and comfortably. This time round, there were no medical problems affecting weight gain. Sophie thrived on just mummy milk until she was ready for her first taste of solids.