Monday, February 8, 2010

Pumpers are Breastfeeders, Too!

When I got pregnant, I knew I wanted to breastfeed my baby. I had this perfect picture in mind of how we would bond through breastfeeding soon after birth. However, things didn't go that way at all. I was diagnosed with severe pre-eclampsia and had to be induced at 34 weeks. After delivery, my daughter (all 4lbs 11oz of her) went to the NICU with my husband, and I went into surgery for a D&C (placenta wouldn't deliver). Other than a brief moment right after she was born, I didn't get to see her until the following afternoon. She was in the NICU for a total of 23 days, most of which were spent figuring out how to eat. We attempted to breastfeed and she did okay with latching on, but it took a lot of energy, so she got most of her food by a tube that went through her nose, down into her stomach. Leaving a newborn in the hospital is heartbreaking, so we decided to let her try drinking expressed milk from a bottle to see if it would get her home faster. It worked, but ultimately it undermined our breastfeeding efforts. Later attempts to put her to breast resulted in a screaming baby and a stressed-out mommy. I'd been pumping since the day after she was born, so I decided to simply continue, becoming an Exclusive Pumper (EPer).

Life as an EPer has a lot of challenges. Not only do I have to worry about warming milk and feeding my daughter when she's hungry - I also have to make time to pump. At first, this was every 3 hours! When we leave the house for extended periods of time, I have to make sure to bring all of my pumping equipment (pump, bottles, storage bags, etc). It's like combining the physical work of breastfeeding (minus the biting) with the chores of formula feeding! And the places I've had to pump.... When my daughter was still in the NICU, I was in my brother-in-law's wedding. At the reception, I had to pump in a utility closet with my sister-in-law guarding the door!

Despite all the complaining I could do about EPing, I'm so glad I've been able to provide breast milk for my daughter, particularly since she's a preemie. She hasn't set any records for growth, but she's on the normal growth charts and is thriving! Since reaching my goal of 6 months, I've begun to slowly wean from pumping. I'm down to 4 times per day, producing 1/3 to 1/2 of what my daughter takes in. If we have more children, I hope to be able to breastfeed, but I'm very proud to have stuck with pumping this long!

Rebecca (age 26), mom to Norah (6 1/2 months)

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