Exclusively Pumping after HELLP for a 31 Week Preemie

Wish that I had found this web-site last year. Hopefully by sharing my story it will give encouragement to someone who is facing a similar situation.

I was 39 years old and 31 weeks pregnant when I woke up with abdominal pain. The pain reminded me of a gall bladder attack only I had my gall bladder removed several years earlier. Besides gestational diabetes which I was controlling with insulin injections, I had no other problems. Because of my age I was being seen every week. Blood pressure was normal and no protein in my urine. I decided to go see the doc anyway just to make sure. They did some tests and ruled out gall bladder problems I was diagnosed with HELLP Syndrome. I had never heard of it before. HELLP = Hemolysis, Elevated liver Enzyme Levels and Low Platelet count. The only cure was to deliver the baby. I went in at 9:00 am that morning for what I thought was a routine appointment and Nicholas was born by C-Section a little after midnight. He weighed 3 lbs, 2 oz. He was immediately taken to the NICU and I didn’t get to see him until the next night.

I had planned to breastfeed so I started pumping on the second day. The first time nothing and then I started getting a few drops. I was so proud of my little syringes and hand carried them down to the NICU. The nurses would put the milk in Nicholas’s feeding tube. They told me that I was doing a wonderful job, which was very encouraging. As the days went by more milk came in and I was soon filling the 2oz bottles. I bought a breast pump and continued at home. I still planned to breastfeed but he was so small that he couldn’t latch. We tried everything…I think half the staff of the NICU had their hands on my breasts at one time or another trying to get Nicholas to latch. Eventually they started nipple feeding him and we would still try the breast but it seemed easier for him to take the bottle. They wouldn’t let him go home unless he could breast or bottle feed. I would put my nipple in his mouth and he would just look at me as if he was waiting for me to turn it on.

I believed that breast milk was best for him especially since he was a preemie so I continued to pump. Now here we are, 14 months later and soon I think he will be able to make the transition to cow’s milk. It has been quite a journey. Since he was in the NICU for 7 weeks and I could not take care of him myself, I am so thankful that I could make milk for him. It was the one thing that only I could do for him and it made me feel like I was contributing to his care. I’ve pumped in bathroom stalls, and on an airplane. I’ve gone through periods of low production, but never had to supplement with formula. Nicholas is a healthy little boy and has never been sick. I am proud of that. I am also thankful for a supportive husband who has encouraged me throughout the whole experience.

If anyone out there needs someone to talk to I’d be happy to listen. Everyone is different but we all share the common bond of loving our babies and doing anything we can for them. Best wishes for productive pumping!

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