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Thread: How to help improve sucking stamina?

  1. #1

    Question How to help improve sucking stamina?

    How can I help my son to improve his sucking stamina?

    My son was born at 32wks and today is 11wks (3weeks corrected gestational age). He spent 4.5 wks in the NICU and went through the normal gavage tubes/bottle feedings of expressed breast milk, but I was able to breast feed a few times a day. Since he's been home we have actively been working at it, but supplementing with a bottle after weighing him.

    He's willing to latch on & suck. The issue is that after a short while he loses stamina and falls asleep. I can wake him up easily, but he just isn't able to maintain a steady/strong suck and therefore is getting very little milk directly from the breast.

    I'm maintaining my supply by pumping and have tried all of the standard remedies-- skin to skin, pumping first to encourage let down, seeing 3 certified lactation consultants, giving him a pacifier to practice with, and simply being patient with the hope that when he passed his due date the "lightbulb would go on". It's been 3 weeks now since his due date has passed.

    My support system for help ended last week. I was fortunate to have a family member with me 24/7 for 11weeks, but am now trying to encourage him on my own. The process of trying to nurse, bottle feeding, pumping, washing the bottles/pump equipment, attempting to eat & get some rest is becoming frustrating.

    Hoping for some ideas of what more I can try.

    Sincere thanks for the amazing support from LLL.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2006

    Default Re: How to help improve sucking stamina?

    Congrats on your baby! My daughter was 33 weeks, so I have been where you are and know how very frustrating it can be. And I know when people gave me the advice I am about to give you, I would be so disappointed, but it's true. It just takes time. Preemies have to work so much harder and it's exhausting. So he's going to get tired and he's not going to suck as strongly as a baby who got to live in his perfect, warm, safe womb and come out when he was fully cooked.

    What I can say is that you are in a much better place than I was. My daughter wouldn't even suckle until her gestational birthday and it took her another 2 months to get it right. At least he's nursing. He just needs time to get stronger. You are doing everything right, as far as I can tell. I know you don't want to hear that, but it's true. It will happen though.
    If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun. - Katharine Hepburn

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2006

    Default Re: How to help improve sucking stamina?

    Have you tried feeding him with a supplemental nursing system (SNS) or lact-aid feeder? That way all his eating is done at the breast, reducing the risk of the baby developing a preference for the bottle.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2008

    Default Re: How to help improve sucking stamina?

    You may just need more time for him to get that stamina to work for his whole feeding at the breast. You mentioned a baby scale - are you weighing him before and after breastfeeding? If so, how much is he taking in?

    My son was born at 29.6 wks and we didn't start breastfeeding until he was home, 2 months after he was born. He latched on in the NICU like 2 times. It took a bit to actually get him to latch on but once I could get him to consistently latch, I weighed him before and after and recorded everything, and if he took in 2 oz I didn't feed him a bottle after, I would just keep him close to me (wore him in a Moby) and nurse him again as soon as he seemed hungry. It took us 2 months after he came home to phase out all bottles.

    Keep on truckin' mama! I know it's hard and so time-consuming to attempt to breastfeed, bottle feed, pump, and clean everything, plus take care of yourself. My daughter was 25mo when my son was born, and it was super hard to do, but I was determined to get him to exclusively breastfeed, and I'm so glad I stuck with it through the challenging times, because he's now 28mo and still nursing and doing great!
    Mommy to:

    Emmalynn Marie
    Born at 37 weeks on 12/22/06
    5lbs 1oz 19 1/2in

    Owen Charles
    Born at 29 wks 6 days on 01/17/09
    2lbs 14oz 15in
    In NICU for 2 months

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