Well Being

Carnival of Breastfeeding: Pumping It Up and Cleft Palate

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Welcome to the June Carnival of Breastfeeding: Pumping It Up! Check out all the contributions on the topic of pumping and hand expression at the end of this post.

Here at Breastfeeding 1-2-3 I am pleased to share this guest post from Holly, whose son has benefited from her exclusive pumping over the last 10 months!

Breastfeeding, Pumping, and Cleft Palate, by Holly

holly-baby-photo.jpgThe breastfeeding relationship I share with my son is nothing like I expected it would be.

He was born last August, healthy in every way but one–he had a cleft palate. Nine days after his birth, we ended up in the Emergency Room of the local Children's Hospital because he was dehydrated. That's how we learned that try as we might, DS couldn't nurse. (It's like drinking through a straw with a hole in it: you get some liquid, but it takes a lot of work. He was burning more calories than he was taking in.) I've been exclusively pumping and bottlefeeding him since that day.

The nurses in the ER–and in the NICU, where we spent the next three days–were wonderfully supportive of my desire to breastfeed. They introduced me to breast pumps and showed me what to do. When it turns out that my milk had gone back to colostrum because I wasn't getting enough stimulation, they made sure I didn't give up hope. The hospital's lactation consultant was a great help too, answering our questions and helping my husband and I learn to use the special Haberman nipple (see an example of a complete Haberman Feeder with a bottle here) that helps him eat.

Those early days were hard. It was discouraging to sit at the pump for 15 minutes, and see only a few milliliters of milk in the bottle! Slowly but surely, my supply caught up to my son's hunger and he has had almost exclusively breast milk since that hospital visit. I was afraid that it would be hard bond with my son, but it wasn't. We're not often skin to skin, but all that close snuggling can't be beat! And my husband gets to share the bond, since he shares the feeding.

In many ways, I am very lucky. Not only are my husband and those nurses supportive, so are my family, friends and coworkers. Before my son was born, I bought a pump from a friend in preparation for going back to work, so I had what I needed at home to start pumping right away. The book The Milk Memos made me realize how lucky I am at work: I have a second pump in my office and can pump while I work (with the door closed and a “Dairy in Operation” sign blocking the window.) I am also grateful that this was my first child, so I've never known what it's like to breastfeed. My situation is far from ideal, but it works for me since it's the only one I know.

Don't get me wrong: exclusive pumping is not fun. It's impersonal and kind of uncomfortable. And oh, so time consuming! Ideally, I pump every 2-3 hours (except at night, when I only get up once) so it seems like every time I turn around, it's time to pump again. And let's face it–it's a lot harder to discreetly attach yourself to a machine with a motor and plastic tubing than it is to discreetly nurse an infant. Our dining room table is full of the pump and all the things I keep nearby to make the best of the time I'm stuck in front of it: my computer, books, crosswords, Sudoku, the calendar where I'm recording the new things my son is doing.

Somewhere around the eighth month mark, I was DONE. My son developed a new habit of sitting just out of reach, bawling. I was sick to death of my life being ruled by the need to hook up to the milk machine. Luckily Angela pointed me to the pumping forums at KellyMom.com, and one of those moms told me about EPers, a Yahoo group just for women like me who exclusively pump. What a godsend! Those ladies helped me keep going when I needed it most.

From the start, my goal was to pump until his cleft palate repair surgery at nine months, then try to nurse him. His surgery was last month, and was a success. Unfortunately this is the most hectic time in my work life, and adding nursing to all the other demands on my time isn't working out well. Despite early good intentions, I did not keep up with putting him to the breast for comfort all these months, so we'd have a lot of learning to do. Instead, I may forgo the nursing and keep pumping until he's a year old. I know better than to make such a big decision when I'm stressed out, so I'll decide for sure when this work crunch is over.

Regardless of what happens, I will always be proud that I have been able to give him so much mama's milk. Breastfeeding has always seemed like the healthiest and most natural choice to me, so even though pumping is a drag, I never really considered not doing it. The fact that it's free and locally grown (so to speak) are icing on the cake! I will be glad to put this demand on my life behind me, but will never regret choosing to pump to feed my son.

More Carnival Entries on Pumping and Hand Expression

Please enjoy these contributions to the carnival as they come in:

Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: Tips for Introducing a Bottle
Mama Knows Breast: Enter to Win a Medela Freestyle Pump (deadline July 1, 2008)
BreastfeedingMums: Electrify Me
Adventures of a Breastfeeding Mother: Pumping Tips
Raising Baby Bee: Pumping at Work
The Attached Mother: Donating Milk
Hobo Mama: Thrills and Chills of Person-to-Person Milk Donation
Mike and Toni's: Hands-Free Pumping Invention