• Kristina Mulligan

"I Couldn't Do Much, But I Could Do This..."

I have a breast pump under my bed collecting dust. It’s never been touched, and it hurts my heart to look at it.

I truly believe that “fed is best,” but my personal goal was to breastfeed for as long as I could. Our baby registry was filled with breast pumps, carrying cases, special bottles that simulated the breast, pads, and nipple cream (which I’d heard was a cure-all). I was all in, well, as much as I could be without an actual baby to feed. Then, Flynn was born three months early.

When a baby is born prematurely, they may not yet have the ability to coordinate their sucking, swallowing, and breathing and cannot take food directly from a bottle or breast. This usually develops around 34 weeks, but they can receive breast milk or formula through their feeding tube. So, right away, I started working on developing my milk supply by pumping with a hospital-provided breast pump. And when I say “right away,” I mean in the recovery room directly post-surgery. My husband and sister went to go meet Flynn for the first time, and I was meeting with a lactation consultant. In my mind, I couldn’t do much for him but I could do this.

Milk production begins around the midpoint of pregnancy. For most mothers, milk will increase in quantity and begin the change from colostrum to mature milk between days two and five. The thing about prematurity is, your body still thinks you’re pregnant after the baby has been delivered. This makes the process of breastfeeding/pumping extremely difficult. Every three hours, around the clock, I pumped for an hour and my husband would deliver it to the NICU. After we went home, we collected the supply and brought it to Flynn when we visited each day. When I was in the ICU, I pumped what I could, but had to throw away a lot of it due to the medications I was given. I kept going because I didn’t want to lose the supply that I had, which really wasn’t much.

I signed some paperwork so that Flynn could receive milk from an anonymous donor from the hospital’s “milk bank” so supplement my supply. The milk was screened and sterilized and given from approved donors to babies who needed it.

And after all of that, my body quit on me. I tried until I was bleeding and raw, but I couldn’t do it and I felt like a failure, once again. Yet, I can’t seem to get rid of this breast pump.

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