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If I had known what I know now.. NICU and Breastfeeding a Premie


Hey friend, 


I do not know if anyone has ever talked to be about the difference between breastfeeding a full-term baby and a preemie baby. My mom had 11 kids, and I know so many others who have had children, yet in this new season I was in, I felt alone and confused. 


My breastfeeding journey did not start like most women, or so I feel. 

Harper came at 5:55am on Thursday, September 29th, 2022. In the late afternoon, I was finally able to see her. It felt weird to see my baby sitting in an incubator, but she was so cute just laying there, asleep. 


One of the nurses asked me if I had started pumping and I told her no, I had not. I did not even have a machine to do that. She reminded me to ask my nurse when I got to the room, so I did. She also reminded me of the importance of the milk and that anything will help Harper thrive.


They brought a machine in and told me to put it on number 8 and pump every 3 hours. The first 3 to 4 pumps, nothing happened. I felt discouraged. My breasts hurt and I was confused on what to do. 


Three days had past, and I only got under a ML of milk. The NICU nurse told me that I may have been pumping wrong and I started crying because I felt like I was failing my daughter already. 


Suddenly on the third day, my breasts were rock hard, and I had bumps in my armpit. The first thought I had was: Well.... I must have a lump in my armpit so now I am going to be in the hospital even longer and it could be the stupid C word.... 


Turns out.... I had a BAD case of my breast being engorged. Long story short: I got some bad advice from the nurse and the lactation helped me figure out what to do. 

Within the 12 days we were going back and forth to the NICU, I was not producing a lot, but I was producing something. Me bringing milk in felt like little gifts to Harper.


And at 4 months, Harper would not breastfeed anymore. And I mean.... Screaming bloody murder, pushing away, turning bright red, and not wanting anything to do with my breast. She would instantly calm down once I put it away....


I felt defeated. I asked a few moms and they just said it takes time. Nursing hurt so bad but nobody could relate, they would just say, "it goes away."


And to make my hurt feelings even hurt-er (not a word, I know), I got a text about a birthday party that read, "Hey! We see you put down 3 for the party. We ask that only you come and babies who are breastfeeding are welcome but all other children should stay home..." 


And I wept my eyes out. Nothing rubs in failure like someone making a point to say I couldn't bring my 4-month-old with me because she was taking bottles. But here we were.... sobbing and feeling like nobody saw me in this moment.


So, I did what I thought was helpful... I reached out to a Facebook group full of moms and I kid you not... This is what happened... 


My post: "My 4-month-old is refusing to breastfeed. I have tried everything to increase my supply, but I am barely producing one oz after 30 minutes of pumping on both sides at this point. Is there a safe way to stop pumping or can I just stop?" 


The comments back were all about how I had a choice in the matter and that if I wanted to quit, I could or I could force my 4-month-old to take my breast. One friend even texted me that the reason I was struggling so much was because I jumped too quickly to pumping. I had to remind her that my daughter was in the NICU, and I did not have a choice. 


And again, I lost it. I left the support group and I felt ashamed. I put my phone on silent and just cried it all out. 


I tried all the things: Increasing my protein, lactation cookies, consultations, drinking more water, oatmeal cookies, pumping more.... but nothing worked. 

And in this moment, I realized: My once struggling to eat baby, was doing just fine with a bottle and mama needed to stop beating herself up. That grace in this moment was more important and my body had been through enough.  


Friend, 


I don't know your breastfeeding journey, but I do know you are doing EXACTLY what your kid needs and what you need. We will have different stories and I know that you are doing the best you can. 


What I wish I knew before my NICU journey is that some babies will struggle with latching because they are learning too. That fed really is best and there is no shame in doing what you need to do. That some babies will not be able to nurse, and some mamas milk will just never produce the way it should. And you are still worthy and good enough.


What I also wish I knew is that some support groups are better than others and the unfollow button is a BEAUTIFUL thing. AND bottle fed or breastfed, you are welcome at any party I will host. My hope is that as a mama, as a preemie mama, that you know you are loved, doing amazing things, and handling a whole world that most people cannot relate to. 


That you are doing all you can and that your baby will thrive as long as you are taking care of them. Do not add extra pressure. Your body has been through enough, friend.


Your Friend, 

Nisha 


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Here's a picture of Harper at 4 months old!


Mom and Child with big smiles

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