My son unexpectedly came into the world 4 weeks early. Being late preterm, he was very lazy, especially when it came to breastfeeding. No matter what time of day or how much stimulation we gave him, he just would not suck. After a few hours of trying to breastfeed, a lactation consultant visited my hospital room and suggested we do suck training with finger-feeding, something that I had never heard of.
When your baby doesn’t suck it can be easy to give up on breastfeeding, don’t!
Admittedly, I did not do much research into breastfeeding before he was born. I assumed that breastfeeding would be very natural and that I would put him to the breast, he would latch on, and that would be that. While breastfeeding is very natural for many women, that was not the case for us in the beginning.
So we began our journey by me hand expressing some colostrum and sucking it up into a syringe. The lactation consultant then instructed me to put my pinky finger in his mouth (with my fingernail to his tongue) and wait for him to suck. When I felt him begin to suck on my finger, I would use the syringe to squirt a little bit of colostrum into his mouth. The idea is that the baby will learn that by sucking he receives milk and eventually transfer from a finger to the breast. While I was glad to be able to provide my son with the best nutrition possible, using this process to feed him was exhausting! It was a constant cycle and every time he would stop eating to sleep, I would begin hand expressing for when he woke up.
After a few days of doing this, my milk came in and I began pumping rather than hand expressing, but we continued with the suck training and finger feeding.
In fact, this process lasted for the first month of my son’s life. Though he understood the concept after about a week, he was still unable to latch to my breast and we were instructed to avoid bottles until after he was able to successfully nurse. We eventually graduated to a nipple shield and then, several months later, nursing without one.
I have been able to breastfeed without additional equipment for a few months now, and am extremely grateful for syringes, nipple shields, and all other pieces of equipment that got our nursing relationship to where it is today. While breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally for everyone, modern science has come up with ways to help those of us who need additional assistance attain fulfilling breastfeeding relationships.
Have you ever had to use any additional equipment to help breastfeed?
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I'm currently a stay-at-home mom to my son who was born in January of 2015.I have my degree in Anthropology and spent the two years before my son was born teaching. After months of struggling with nursing, I was finally able to have the beautiful breastfeeding relationship I dreamed of.These struggles helped me find my passion for helping other mothers in their breastfeeding journeys and guided me to study to become a lactation counselor.