Pumping for a Preemie: Regaining Control and Establishing a Connection

My first experience with breastfeeding and pumping wasn’t that great. After many long weeks of bed rest, I was overjoyed to deliver a healthy 6 pound baby boy. While I hadn’t decided if I was going to breastfeed or not, my biggest concern was a healthy baby and making sure my health was in check since I had him early due to preeclampsia.

Throwing in the towel

When the lactation nurses came in to help me latch just a few short hours after giving birth, it was a less than positive experience. I had high hopes of everything going smoothly and feeling this incredible bond between us. I was disappointed that it just wasn’t working for us, and I got very frustrated. Once the crowds of visitors calmed down and I wanted to try again, the lactation nurses were gone for the day. I tried multiple times that night by myself trying to get a latch and trying to pump, but it just wasn’t working. I felt like a failure, and I was quick to give up and give him a bottle due to the pure exhaustion of labor.

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I’m the first one to admit that I threw in the towel way too soon and I wish I would have tried more. However, once I made the decision that it wasn’t working out and decided take on formula and bottle feeding 100%, I felt so relieved. I was then able to focus on getting my blood pressure lowered and focus on my newborn son. A huge wave of relief came over me, and I never tried to latch or pump again.

Trying again

When I found I was expecting again, I didn’t think too much about breastfeeding. I figured I would do the same as before and just formula feed. Little did I know what the future held for me. After a high risk pregnancy, I delivered my son over 3 months early. Many things during his delivery were drastically different than his brother, but one thing remained the same – once I got to my postpartum room, that yellow Medela pump was waiting for me.


Moments later after being rolled into the room, a lactation nurse came in. Thankfully one of my sisters was in there with me because I was an emotional wreck. I hadn’t even seen my 15 oz micropreemie yet but was already being told how important it was to pump for him. I remember just going through the motions with the nurse and my sister like a robot, like I wasn’t even there. How can I be expected to pump breast milk when I haven’t even been given the chance to see my newborn son yet?

I can do this!

However, once I finished my first pumping session I felt something I didn’t think I would feel. I felt empowered and in control of something. I felt that after weeks of bedrest and high risk doctors appointment and the nagging feeling that my body failed my son by delivering so early that I was FINALLY doing something right. My body was actually doing what it was supposed to for once! Instead of feeling frustrated like I did with my first son, I knew I could do this.

Having a micropreemie in the NICU is very hard. Leaving the hospital with your child is a type of hurt I can’t even begin to describe. I left feeling empty and alone. I returned home to an empty nursery without a newborn. I wasn’t able to do all the normal things like even wash clothes for my baby; he couldn’t even wear clothes! BUT the one thing I could do for him, was pump. So pumping is what I did. At times, I barely produced an ounce, but I just kept on pumping.

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I didn’t need to know the statistics of how great breast milk is for babies, and specifically preemies, I knew it was best for my son and best for me. It was one thing I felt I was in control of while he was in the NICU. I wasn’t the one changing all of his diapers, giving him baths, and I couldn’t even hold him when I wanted to without being told by doctors and nurses. However, I felt in control with pumping. It was the one thing I could do for him. It made me feel a connection with him that at times I felt were lacking since I spent 101 nights away from him.

I never thought that I would have pumped with my preemie, especially since I didn’t with my first son. I’m so glad I did though. Now looking back, I wish I would have tried harder with my first son. Oh well, live and learn right? I know that if I’m lucky enough to have another child, I will try my hardest to breastfeed again no matter the circumstances.

Did you breastfeed a preemie? Did you breastfeed some of your children and not others?


Mary Olivio
Mary is a caffeine addicted boy mom to Noah, Liam and Luke. This “stay at home” mom can typically been found cruising in her minivan, jamming to Beyonce with a Starbucks in hand on her way to carpool or after school activities. Mary has been married to her high school sweetheart since 2007. She is a founder of Delivering Hope NOLA and the Vanessa Wolff Scholarship Fund at her Alma Mater. Mary is passionate in the local preemie community and has been heavily involved with the March of Dimes since her sons Liam and Luke were born premature.


  1. I breastfeed all 3; my first, a micro preemie due to pre eclampsia and HELLP syndrome,
    My second and third were late pre-term babies, but my third had a horrible tongue and lip tie. Failure to thrive at first, but since I knew a lot i was able to figure it out and have it lasered, then breastfeeding went better! Still nursing her today at 2.5 years ❤️


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