As a young woman and pediatrician expecting my first child I had everything mapped out, prenatal care, birth plan and commitment to breast feed exclusively. My sweet little boy graced our presence nearly 2 weeks after his due date. My husband and I were (and still are) truly overjoyed. However, the following days in the hospital proved a little difficult. While recovering from my section, I worked with the lactation consultants trying to get our son to latch comfortably. This was a struggle. To encourage my milk supply to come in, I started pumping. This way I could at least offer my son my breast milk, despite our difficulties with nursing.
After discharge from the hospital, I continued working with lactation consultants. My son either never seemed satisfied or would latch for only a few seconds. I continued pumping in the interim, and we bottle fed my pumped milk. We even pursued an ENT evaluation at the request of our lactation consultant. Eventually we transitioned to solely pumping. Although this was initially a disappointment, it still provided my son with the nutritional benefit of my breast milk. I quickly became an expert on pumping, familiar with pump schedules, ways to save time, storage of milk, pump hygiene, sterilization, etc. I decided to rent a hospital grade pump, given my initial difficulties and the increased frequency of my pumping. I reserved my insurance provided pump for trips visiting family and later for the office. My son thrived on this routine, growing and gaining appropriately at his well child visits.
After four months of maternity leave, I returned to work. I had built a frozen reserve to help offset days where my pump output might be suboptimal. I had slowly decreased the frequency of pumping before my return, anticipating that I would have limited pump sessions a day. What was once 10 times a day had been weaned to 7. Despite the decrease, I grappled with the feasibility of seeing patients full time and allowing for my needed pump sessions. I further decreased my sessions to 4-5 times daily, adding a session when I felt my supply decreased. My husband and I equipped my office with a fridge so that I might store my milk at work.
Pumping was not an expected or initially desired mode of feeding for me. However, it has enabled me to continue to protect and nourish my son, especially with my return to work. I have learned to look at the pump as a tool rather than a tether. I can bring it anywhere and pump anywhere. I multi-task during my sessions, writing notes, coding and returning calls. When I return home, I can replenish my son’s supply and know that I am doing my best for him. My son is now nearly 10 months, and we are so close to the goal I initially thought we would never make! Never give up!
Dr. Walsh is a general pediatrician at Cohen Children's Medical Center.