So nobody tells you how hard it is to feed your baby, whether breastfeeding, expressing and bottle feeding or formula it’s all so hard initially! Everyone advises you on what they think I’d best, but no one way is easy!
My gorgeous boy Reuben was born in April 2020, we already knew there was a high chance of him having down syndrome, which was confirmed soon after birth. He was placed straight on my chest at birth, and they helped me to get him feeding. However he soon went a bit floppy and struggled to breathe so was taken upto neonatal.
There is a misconception sometimes that babies who have down syndrome cannot breastfeed, which is not true at all! They might take a bit longer to get there, but can (like with everything!) get there in the end.
We spent 3 weeks in neonatal, where Reuben was tube fed to start with, and we attempted breastfeeding whenever we could. He was 4 weeks early so tired easily, and had jaundice a few times which also made him sleepy. He gradually woke more and more, his tongue was checked to make sure it wasn’t tied, and we had a lactation specialist help us with latching/positioning. All the while I was expressing and tube feeding. It was difficult for him to latch with his NG tube and oxygen tubes all up his nose, and it got to the point where the only thing stopping us going home was his feeding. So we tried bottle feeding which he eventually took to and we were allowed home and see Daddy!
I continued to try breastfeeding at home for upto about 8 weeks, but it soon got exhausting. I was attempting to breastfeed for around 30 minutes, (both getting soaked in milk!) then expressing for 40 minutes plus, sorting/sterilising bottles, changing him them he was hungry again! We were attempting about once a day but that soon just turned into cuddles.
I was happy he was getting my breast milk and was growing, so we continued to express and bottle feed. Reuben has larynomalacia (floppy larynx) and started to cough and struggle with bottles so we were given a thickener to help him swallow better. This made feeding more of a hassle, having to mix up bottles, and he was now going longer between feeds so we couldn’t just take the milk out the fridge and leave it out for the next feed.
Just before he was 12 weeks old, he was hungry while I was expressing so I thought, may as well give it a go while they’re out! And he took to it like he’d been doing it since birth! Not long after taking to breastfeeding Reuben started to refuse bottles! But you can’t have everything! And it saves so much time on washing and sterilising.
We were lucky enough to have the support of a wonderful breastfeeding nurse who came to see us and make sure Reuben was latching well.
It was a long but rewarding journey, which we continued for 14 months and I couldn’t be more proud of us both!