Whitney, the author of this next post in the Meeting in the Middle series, is a friend of mine from our college days at SMSU. I creeped on her Facebook pictures of her son all the time and conversed with her about our babies. At one point in time I found out that her son has Down Syndrome, and that she'd been pumping to feed him breastmilk since day one. She is one of two moms that I've asked about breastfeeding their children with Down Syndrome; both have agreed to give their story to this blog, which I greatly appreciate. Thank you , Whitney, for letting us into your life and giving us a look into what it's like to constantly pump for your son. Lots of love :)
Breastfeeding is something I NEVER thought I would consider. And to be completely honest it was because I was afraid of what affects it would have on my body (mostly my boobs!). I, like every other woman, have heard the horror stories about what happens to "the girls" after nursing a baby for months on end. I was ignorant in assuming my mom had never breastfed me or any of my siblings. I thought, "Well, my mom never breastfed us and we were never sick or had any ear infections... and she still has amazing boobs!" When I was about five months pregnant with my son my mom totally surprised me by telling me she had nursed all of us. That is when I first thought, "Ok this is something I should really consider." This along with working for a woman who had just had a baby and would nurse her daughter at work or pump in the back room totally changed my perspective on breastfeeding. Talking about it and seeing it made it less of a taboo, perverse thing.
Shortly after having the breastfeeding talk with my mom I found out my son, Daniel, tested positive for Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome). That is when my thoughts went from "this is something I should consider" to "Ok, I really need to give this a try. Darnit, I'm going to give this baby the best head start there is!" After getting Daniel's diagnosis I was crushed to learn that many babies with DS have a really hard time nursing because of poor muscle tone and other mouth problems or extended stays in the NICU.
Luckily for me Daniel didn't have to stay in the NICU for more than a few hours and we were able to give the breastfeeding thing a try. I am assuming the first few days of breastfeeding is frustrating for any new mom and baby. Nursing seems to be a learned trait. I was luckily able to nurse Daniel for about two months before I went on to exclusively pumping. It was a sad day when I realized it had to be that way. Unfortunately for this couple (Daniel and me), the little man was very lazy when it came to nursing. He would literally be attached for hours and drift to sleep from starvation. I started to get stir crazy... there were people to see and laundry to be done! After having a bottle the first few times he was hooked. I'm sure going from a bottle, which is more of an instant gratification when it comes to milk delivery, back to breast, where it takes a while to get warmed up, is not fun for any baby.
This began my journey of slavery to the breast pump. Even though I have had great success with exclusive pumping I tend to discourage it from mothers who say they want to start out doing that way. Having experienced both ways I feel the au natural way is so much better. It really strengthens the bond between mom and baby. Not only this, I felt I really didn’t get the same hormone release as I did when doing it the old fashioned way. It just feels really unnatural in comparison. I think this is why most women don’t have success when pumping exclusively.
However, if a woman decides to try only pumping I have a little advice…CONSISTANCY and DEDICATION!!! I think this is where most women go wrong. As far as consistency goes, to maintain your milk supply you have to pump every two to three hours every day, all day (I have gone four or five hours at times but I try really hard to avoid doing so). This includes getting up a couple of times a night. This is especially important because most mommas produce more milk from around 1 a.m. to 4 a.m… don’t ask me why it’s just something I read and found to be true.
To keep track of all of this pumping takes a ton of dedication! You have to drop everything, even if you’re out and about, to pump enough. I have pumped everywhere from cars, bars, grocery store bathrooms, target fitting rooms, you name it and I’ve probably done it. For moms who decided to give this pumping thing a go, a breast pump with a battery pack is a MUST! Also, choosing a pump that is portable and discreet is also important. Ryan and I bought the Medela pump-in-style. I like it because it has a battery pack and looks like a purse or diaper bag.
One other thing I found helpful is looking for other groups of moms who use this method. I personally found support in a group on babycenter.com. This is great because you can talk to moms who have gone through the same things and see what has worked for them. Also, try not to get discouraged if your milk letdown is not the same every day. I had a hard time with this at first. Some days are just better than others.
I could probably write a whole book on the subject. Bottom line is… pumping exclusively is difficult at times but it is definitely worth the benefits if regular breastfeeding isn’t an option.