My Journey

From mind to paper and back again.

Breast is Best Even When Expressed.

on October 19, 2012

While I was pregnant with Oliver one of the recurrent topics of discussion was the best way to feed him.  Many people gave their opinions of breast over formula and vice versa and we knew that we wanted Oliver to take a bottle eventually so that Andrew could share in the feeds but I know that breast milk is supposed to be the best start a baby can have.  So, with that in mind we decided to go for breast and I got a manual pump so I could express one or two feeds a day when Oliver was established.  I never had any issues with how Oliver got my milk as long as he got it and it’s a good job really.

When Oliver was born he had a couple of resuscitation breaths and then was given straight to me for skin to skin contact while the doctor stitched me up.  There was a midwife in the delivery room who I asked a few times could she help me get him to the breast and every time her reply was ‘we can do that later.’  Well after those initial couple of hours Oliver was taken from me because he was grunting and whisked away to the Neonatal unit.  I never got to try ‘later’.

When I got to see him on the Neonatal unit he already had a tube in his nose to feed him the dextrose sugar water that they were giving him.  After that I was told to ask the midwife on my ward to show me how to express.  It was a daunting experience on the ward as there were no pumps available so in the middle of the night I was close to giving up and phoned Andrew in tears – I managed to hand express about 5 drops of milk in the space of an hour and was devastated.  I tried again a little later on in the night and got slightly more but not much.


When I moved up onto the Neonatal unit with Oliver the nurse looking after him got me a DVD to watch about expressing breast milk, set me up with the Medela hospital grade double pump and off I went.  I still didn’t manage all that much but by getting into a routine of expressing every three hours (even through the night) I was able to express enough for Oliver’s feeds and as the days went on enough to have a stock in the fridge.  It wasn’t until they decided that Oliver’s tummy could handle the full amount of milk they needed (10mls) that my anxiety started all over again.  Alison asked me if I would try putting him to the breast to latch on and no matter how I held him it was wrong and he just wasn’t able to get to the nipple properly.  In the end we had three attempts over three feeds and nothing worked.  We even tried a nipple shield but he still struggled.   By the time his ten pm feed arrived he had been moved off the High Dependency Unit and was in the nursery so a different nurse tried to help this time and although he managed to find the nipple he wasn’t able to do anything with it.   The nurse told me that because he hadn’t been put to the breast in the first couple of hours he didn’t have the suckling instinct and would have to learn the skill.  I agreed to let him have expressed milk from a bottle straight away and to keep trying.


So off I went back to the room and had another mini breakdown about whether it really was best.  Thus far, our attempts to breast feed had been laced with stress and anxiety from me and of course Oliver had picked up on that.  Andrew once again consoled me and assured me that if I wanted to switch to formula that was fine too.  I thought about it and decided that since I have managed to get in front I would carry on expressing and when we were able to I would get an electric breast pump for at home since the manual one would be tiring and time consuming.  So far the one I wanted hasn’t been in stock but I am managing to express three full bottles a feed now and Oliver only takes one so I am slowly getting back in front and stocking up in my fridge for him.  I plan to try him at the breast again over the next few feeds now he knows how to suck as one of the other mums told me her first little boy was three weeks old before he took the breast.  I’ll keep you updated on our journey but I realise there may come a point where he isn’t getting enough from me and needs formula too.



3 responses to “Breast is Best Even When Expressed.

  1. kirstyross85 says:

    I’ve just realised how that title can come across, I don’t disagree with formula as you will see from the actual post but believe for my son breast milk is the best option. Especially since he was slightly premature.

  2. claire93 says:

    Kirsty,my advice is keep expressing and feeding Oliver breast milk by bottle even if he doesn’t want to suckle directly from the breast for the first few weeks at least. Breast milk in the early weeks IS best because it contains lots of goodies to help his immune system for later life. However there is no point in expressing pints of milk because the more you express, the more you will produce and at this stage he probably only needs about 30 or 60mls a feed. So only express enough to have one or two feeds in reserve.

    It’s perfectly true also that a baby who is bottle fed finds it easier because the the milk flows out of that artificial teat with such little effort, whereas when they breast feed it requires a lot of effort. which is why is difficult to move a baby from bottle to breast. Even after only a few days on the bottle, they get lazy.

    The all important thing is that Oliver is eating well and it doesn’t matter whether milk is coming directly from the breast or from a bottle.
    Above all, if he doesn’t want to suckle from the breast, then don’t take it as a “defeat”. Just enjoy the body contact at feeding time, the pleasure of holding him close . . . whether you feed him 100% breast milk, a combination of formula & breast or whether you move completely to formula . . . feeding should be a stress-free, guilt-free moment you share.

    • kirstyross85 says:

      Thanks for your comment Claire, feeding time has become a lot less stressful since we started expressing and feeding from a bottle but we would still like to keep trying as the longer I could feed him breast milk the better.x

      I’m still expressing a bit more because I want to get a stock in the freezer as you can store it for up to 6 months that way x

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