A little bit about me...
My reasons for doing what I do.
Talking about myself has never been something I'm comfortable doing. Although it was my own experience exclusively pumping for my son that lead me to write my books and jump head first into the world of lactation and breastfeeding support, it continues to be you--the women who visit the site and buy my books--who encourage me to continue sharing information and supporting other moms. And it is you I prefer to talk about!
Prior to the birth of my son in 2002 I couldn't have dreamed that I would ever be doing what I'm doing today. Motherhood brings many surprises. In 2006, the second "surprise" came into our lives--our daughter. She brought a great deal of healing to my life as I continued to work through the loss of breastfeeding my son and had the opportunity to experience a breastfeeding relationship that didn't require the assistance of a breast pump. My daughter breastfed for three years. As my children grow up, I continue gaining insight and perspective on my own experience, and I hope to be able to continue sharing information and supporting other mothers through their own journey.
Today I live in eastern Ontario, Canada, with my husband and children, trying to learn to enjoy the moment and find a balance in life--an ongoing process. My background is in education, and I continue to work part-time as a high school English teacher. Yet, much of my time is spent sharing information on exclusively pumping and supporting women who have had challenges breastefeeding.
Why I Exclusively Pumped
Throughout my pregnancy I planned on breastfeeding. I knew that I wanted to give my baby the best I possibly could, and for me that meant providing breast milk for as long as possible. Around the beginning of my third trimester, I began to read books on the subject of breastfeeding wanting to be sure I was prepared and knowledgeable. But having the time to read the volumes of information I collected was not to be.
Thirty weeks into my pregnancy, I developed severe and sudden preeclampsia and was immediately admitted into the antenatal ward of the hospital. Within four days of being admitted, I was induced and my tiny three pound two ounce baby boy was born. Thankfully, he wasn’t born with any serious complications other than his low birth weight, and, with the intention of giving him the best I could, I set out pumping since he was too small to nurse.
Initially, pumping was only intended to initiate my milk supply and ensure that I could breastfeed once my son was ready. Three weeks after his birth, I began short attempts to breastfeed him, and surprisingly, he seemed eager and ready. However, even after joining him in the hospital around the clock for almost two weeks, he was not strong enough to take full feeds by breast and continued to be fed by a nasogastric (NG) tube which is a tube fed through the nose directly into the stomach.
By the time he was thirty-seven weeks gestational age, we decided to introduce a bottle in order to get him home. Hospital policy stated that a baby could not leave the Infant Intensive Care Unit (IICU) until he or she was able to take all feeds by mouth for a 48 hour period. The importance of bringing our baby home before he fell ill in the hospital from the many viruses and bacteria lurking there was mentioned to me a number of times by different nurses. And so three weeks before his due date, we introduced the bottle and brought our tiny baby home.
Once home, life became an endless cycle of breastfeeding, bottle feeding to ensure he was receiving enough, and then pumping. On a good night, I was able to get four hours of sleep, although rarely four consecutive hours. Having been told to wake my baby every three hours to eat, I was quickly running on empty. Our breastfeeding efforts quickly deteriorated into extremely stressful experiences. My son would wail anytime I attempted to bring him to breast. He would scream and thrash and refuse to latch on. Needing to feed him, I resorted to bottle feeding in order to supplement our “failed” breastfeeding attempts. Throughout this, I continued to pump.
Eventually, in an effort of self-preservation, I decided that I would pump exclusively and feed by bottle. Once this decision was made, the stress level in the house dropped dramatically. Everyone, including my dog, seemed a little less on edge. But now I was faced with a future tied to a breast pump and no where to go for support or information about exclusively pumping.
The Internet became my best resource, and I located a number of discussion boards focusing on women who were pumping for their babies. Suddenly I was no longer alone, and I realized it was possible to pump long-term. These women became my source of expertise since these were the women doing it and proving it could be successful. Since at that time there were no available resources dedicated to exclusively pumping, women had to figure it out for themselves. Not only did the internet provide much needed support and camaraderie, it also provided a valuable forum for women who were exclusively pumping to share their experience and techniques.
I continued to work with my son to develop a latch that did not rely on the use of the nipple shield that we had begun to use while still in the hospital. A couple weeks after his due date we had success, put away the shield, and continued our efforts. Although I did not transition over to breastfeeding exclusively, my son did continue to breastfeed occasionally, often as a comfort measure and sometimes just because he was hungry. Complications with nipple soreness on my part, severe reflux on my son’s part that was not diagnosed for a number of months, and his preference for the bottle nipple prevented a transition to breastfeeding. And so I pumped, happy to do it for the health of my son. I am grateful, however, that I was able to experience some aspect of breastfeeding although not the breastfeeding relationship I had expected. I exclusively pumped for just over one year and weaned by choice. After I weaned, I had enough frozen milk to feed my son expressed breast milk for another couple months.