Hand to Hold's Official Blog: Written by Parents for Parents

Breastfeeding – the Ups and Downs

This post is a continuation of Breastfeeding:  The Prerequisites.

After your preemie baby has learned how to latch on and has begun receiving nourishment from you, you may begin a period of short nursing sessions, teaching your baby the suck-swallow-breathe routine, wacky pumping schedules, and waiting for your baby to grow bigger and stronger. This period of time will involve learning how to use the breastfeeding scale, trying to keep your baby awake during nursing sessions, and finally experiencing some precious bonding moments with your preemie that are long overdue.

As my baby got stronger she occasionally would have a very successful nursing session and receive most or all of her scheduled feeding amount. At first such a session exhausted her so much that she did not have the energy to breastfeed again for a day or two. Then, she might get 30-50 mL and would still have to be gavaged for half of her feeding, or else she would nurse very little and get her entire feeding from her g tube. The successes would get me so excited that I would come the next day with high expectations and then be disappointed for a couple of days. Her energy and ability to eat was very irregular and it was difficult for me to not see continual progress.

It wasn’t until my preemie was 37 weeks that she began to have regular success in obtaining her full feeding from breastfeeding. Isn’t that amazing? Almost to the day of being “full term”. Because my baby struggled with breathing and having enough energy to nurse, we had to start bottle feeding as well at 36 weeks.  It was easier for her, and when we went home almost a week after her due date I was nursing her half the time and fortifying breast milk in bottles half of the time. A month and a half later I was finally able to breastfeed only!! That was an exciting time.

So, just like most everything else in the NICU, there are likely going to be ups and downs in your baby’s breastfeeding success.  However, I’m sure that much of your baby’s success will depend on how premature she is and what other problems she’s struggling with.  Take heart!  Breastfeeding your preemie is wonderful and beautiful, not to mention a tender bonding experience.  The time and effort you put into teaching and encouraging your tiny baby will be worth every minute of sacrifice.  And, hopefully it will be an incredible beginning to the special bond that will last through the first year of your baby’s life at home, or longer.  Breastfeeding is well worth the time and energy, and I believe it can teach you the true beauty and spirit of motherhood.

Related Posts:  Q&A – When Can I Stop Pumping?

Afton Mower About Afton Mower

After Mower (UT) lost her firstborn son at 21 weeks.  Her daughter was born a year and a half later at 27 weeks.  The NICU was overwhelming and isolating and it was through those two experiences she was led to found this social hub for parents to find the support they needed. Afton also gave birth to another daughter, born two days overdue after four months of strict bedrest. She believes it is a tender experience to hold a special baby in your arms when his spirit returns to his heavenly home, a miracle to watch tiny babies survive the risks of prematurity and a blessing to hold a healthy full-term baby after months of difficulty and sacrifices.


  1. great topic and story! Its so important for moms in the NICU to know their options in regards to breastfeeding. It is a daunting process that I never even thought was going to be possible with my 650g 25 weeker. It turned out that breastfeeding was easier for her and helped her develop that suck.swallow.breathe sequence so that she eventually got better at bottle feeding too. She had many many feeding troubles but breastfeeding helped us both get through those hard times.


  1. […] Continue to Breastfeeding:  The Ups and Downs. […]

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