Friday, August 3, 2012

World Breastfeeding Week Guest Post #3: Jennifer's Breastfeeding Story

          This is my friend Jennifer's story about how breastfeeding her daughter, Kennedy, taught her that things don't always go as planned. Jennifer stuck to her beliefs and fought really hard to make sure Kennedy had only her milk. Here is her story:

         While I was pregnant with my first I was dead set that I would breastfeed my daughter, Kennedy.  In my mind, there were no other options.  Someone gave me a bunch of bottles and a pump, which I gratefully accepted and put in the closet, thinking that I may pull them out in a few months when I was ready to leave her with Grandma for a few hours.  

          The day she was born, my world was turned upside down.  My midwife told me she suspected that my daughter had Down syndrome.  She was transferred from the birth center to the NICU.  This was not part of the plan.  From the moment I got to the NICU I was told things like "babies with Down syndrome can't breastfeed" and "you'll have to supplement with formula." I was shocked and discouraged.  The nurses and even the lactation consultants were not very supportive of my determination to breastfeed.  Hours after being admitted Kennedy was diagnosed with a heart defect, which would require open heart surgery just months later.  I set to work pumping and breastfeeding around the clock from the day she was born.  The nurses in the NICU continued to push formula to *get us home sooner.*  I never gave in.  My daughter could breastfeed, and at the very least, she would get my milk.  I pumped and we fed her with bottles in the NICU, to get home faster.  Once home, it was a battle to get her to breastfeed, but one I did not give up on.  I continued to pump and breastfeed.  Fortunately my milk supply was amazing.  By the time Kennedy was two weeks old she wasn't gaining much weight.  Her heart was working harder and harder and she needed more calories.  The doctors wanted us to add formula to her breastmilk.  I fought and fought.  I did everything I could to increase the calories in my milk, through dietary changes.  And when that didn't work, I fought hard against the cardiologist to find some other way.  We agreed to using oil to increase the calories she was getting.  So I used coconut oil, and protein powder.  I still breastfed a few times a day and she got bottles with the "extras" the rest of the time.  

           By the time she was three months old she had been in heart failure for 2 months and her surgery date was quickly approaching.  It was critical that she gain as much weight as possible.  It was a difficult decision, but I knew I had to do what was best for Kennedy.  I stopped breastfeeding, and continued pumping, she moved to a level 2 nipple and received all her feelings by bottle.  She didn't have to work as hard to get the milk.  She took in more ounces per day this way, burned less calories, and she would be better prepared for surgery.  I never imaged that the hand me down pump I received, and pushed into the closet would have been such a life line for us from day one.  I continued to pump and pump, making triple what she was eating in a day.  When Kennedy was 4.5 months old she had open heart surgery to repair her heart defect.  She was a superstar and in less than two weeks she was eating twice what she used to and gaining weight in record amounts.  We no longer needed to supplement her milk.  I tried so hard to get her to breastfeed again, with out success.  

          I was determined that I would continue pumping, and that I did.  Until she was eight months old and I got pregnant again.  I planned to continue pumping, but after experiencing complications early on, I was advised by my midwife to stop.  I was heart broken.  Though I had no reason to be.  I had two deep freezers full of 5,000 ounces of breastmilk.  I knew i had enough of a supply to get her to at least a year, and as it turned out, she was able to have my milk until she was 16 months old.  

          Kennedy quickly taught me that life doesn't always go the way you plan for and things change.  I had to do things differently than I originally wanted to.  I never would have imagined myself exclusively pumping, and I was sad that we didn't get to have the strong breastfeeding relationship that I had dreamed of.  I'm still disappointed in all of the doctors and nurses who tried to push formula and said that she "couldn't breastfeed" or that I would never be able to pump enough to give her all the milk she needed.  Kennedy and I proved them wrong.  I'm thankful for the support of my midwives and doula, especially in those first few weeks.  They were a huge source of encouragement and support during the time we spent in the NICU, the first few weeks home, through providing her with additional calories alternatively and in trying to resume breastfeeding post-op.  

About the author:

Jennifer is a wife to her husband Marlon and stay at home mom to her sweet little girl named Kennedy. She is expecting a little boy named Caleb any minute now. Read more about Jennifer and her family on her blog at (you'll get to see adorable pictures of Kennedy).

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