I thought now that DS has been home for a while and we have the hang of things, I would post this in the hope that it will help others who may be in the same situation.
DS was born at 32 weeks, 1 day. I started pumping the day he was born with the hospital grade pump, and rented it and brought it home. Pretty quickly I learned that I really needed to pump every 3 hours in order to keep my supply up. Going from 7 pumpings a day to 8 really made a big difference, even though it meant getting up in the middle of the night.
He was stable enough to start BF once a day between 33-34 weeks. At first, he would only suck a couple times and just kind of play with the breast or look at it, which the ICBLCs at the hospital assured me was normal.
Around 34 weeks we introduced the nipple shield. He started to suck much more readily with this. I was reluctant to use it, but he wouldn't really suck without it. At about 35 weeks he was gaining well enough that I got to do 2 breast feeds per day and then at 36 weeks we went to 4. The hardest part of BF during this time was that he was very sleepy. We had to take his clothes off, tickle him, etc. to wake him up before a feeding, and sometimes during a feeding as well. Switching sides also helped wake him up. It often took an hour to get 15 - 20 minutes of actual eating in.
We were stuck there for a while because he was a really poor bottle feeder, and they wanted him to have 2 bottles a day of EBM mixed with neosure to be sure he would gain weight. In our case, a blood transfusion for anemia transformed him overnight from taking only 10 mL from a bottle to taking 45 to 60 mL. He started breastfeeding a lot better then as well and would go for 30 minutes or so.
During this entire time, I would pump after every feed, because he never emptied my breasts.
We got to come home on the day he was 38 weeks old. I wondered if I would ever get to stop pumping. He would eat for an hour or 1.5, I would pump, then I would get about an hour of sleep, then we'd do it again. This went on for about the first 2 weeks he was home. The third week I started block feeding, and then he was finally able to start catching up with my supply. I still had to pump occasionally if he took a long nap or something.
He cluster fed in the evenings a lot. Still does.
At around 45 weeks he started to suck a lot more strongly and we were able to finally wean from the shield. YES. Without it, he eats much faster and can drain a breast in 10 min or less now.
He's 49 weeks old today and is sleeping more, taking actual naps during the day, and still eating like a pig.
All of you other moms of preemies, you can do it! It is hard work and can be so frustrating at first, but just be persistent, get help from your ICBLC (I saw several at the hospital where DS stayed) and before you know it the trial of hospitalization will be over.!