When it comes to breastfeeding, no parents’ experience resembles another. Some are able to breastfeed easily right after birth, while some experience hurdles from the start.

“I knew it was going to be difficult, so I knew I had to have the supports in place immediately,” said Melissa Oliveira, whose twin boys were born at 25 weeks and spent time in Mount Sinai Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). “I immediately asked to see the lactation consultants from the NICU once I was discharged.”

Melissa had trouble with transferring milk and adjusting to the use of a nipple shield. But no matter the issue, parents like Melissa are not alone. Nurses and lactation consultants are there to assist with any breastfeeding needs such as providing feeding tips and supporting hand expression and/or pumping.

Well aware of the challenges that come with feeding premature infants, Melissa leaned on her care team – both physically and emotionally. When they weren’t helping with positioning or feeding, their words of encouragement helped Melissa persevere when the process became tough.

“They pushed when they saw that the boys were ready and encouraged us to do our best,” she said.

Having the right supports in place can play a huge role in any breastfeeding journey. For Jennifer Campione-Fortino, she recalls her care team and partner being very hands-on and supportive when her son was born prematurely.  While her son was in the NICU, she would pump in her hospital room and her husband would bring the milk over to him.

Jennifer’s journey didn’t come without challenges. Not only did it take her longer to produce enough milk, she also experienced pain and discomfort, as many do. When she began producing, the milk flow was too quick for her son to consume. On top of this, her son was so small and fragile, Jennifer had to position him carefully. Her primary nurse was by her side the whole time.

“Our nurse Mary was very hands on when I was in need. We called her our angel,” she said. “Not only did she help with latching, she also helped me set a pump schedule and suggested foods I should avoid while breastfeeding. It was very helpful.”

When asked about advice for new parents just starting their breastfeeding journey, both Melissa and Jennifer shared similar sentiments: don’t give up. Breastfeeding is a journey – not always an easy one, Melissa notes, as it requires a lot of patience and persistence. She strongly encourages having the supports in place to meet your breastfeeding goals.

“Persevere if you can. It’s such a beautiful experience that you don’t get to turn back time on. Also – invest in a good pump!” said Jennifer.

This week is Canada’s Breastfeeding Week, and this year’s theme acknowledges breastfeeding as a shared responsibility. Breastfeeding contributes to child and maternal health and Sinai Health is committed to protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding along each patient’s journey.