I should warn you up front that this post is going to be more explicit and mature than the usual nonsense featured here at the Kingdom. This post is about one thing. Well, two things actually. The Civee’s breasts. And this whole article has been posted with her approval.
Back before we were expecting a baby, The Civee and I had a goal for our future child: to be breastfed. There are many benefits to breastfeeding- it promotes mother/child bonding, antibodies in the milk protect the baby from infections, particularly in the ear (this will be important later on), and it costs less than formula. (However, if you ask The Civee, she’ll tell you that how each mother decides to feed her child is her own choice that ought to be supported-there are many seldom talked about trade-offs and roadblocks that make it very hard or impossible for some women to breastfeed (Can you tell who wrote this sentence?).)
For guys out there who are single and/or not fathers yet, I should take some time to fill you in on what they don’t tell you about breasts during breastfeeding:
- They get bigger.
- However, they’re also off-limits. You’re on a strict look-but-don’t-touch basis from before the baby’s birth until a few weeks after breastfeeding ends.
- Remember the Hatch in Lost? How a button had to be pressed every 108 minutes to release energy to keep the world from blowing up? Well, milk-filled breasts are the same.
- They hurt.
Despite all this, we decided to do it. However, there was a complication. As regular readers of this blog know, we found out a few months before she was born that Hope would have a cleft lip and possibly a cleft palate, which would make it difficult, if not impossible, to create the suction to breastfeed (or feed from a normal bottle). Learning that breastfeeding our daughter may not be possible was difficult for The Civee to hear. We were a little sad about it.
Nevertheless, The Civee and I decided to do the next best thing to breastfeeding- she would pump- using a machine to extract the milk and bottle it, which we would then feed to Hope. Since Hope would need two major surgeries before her first birthday and because cleft babies are more prone to ear infections, we decided this was the best way to go.
For The Civee, pumping was not easy. The actual act was. But everything involved with pumping was not. The Civee had to pump multiple times each day (it started off about seven times each day, with at least one overnight session). Each session lasted at least 20 minutes. For the first three months, she would get up and feed Hope at 2:40 a.m., pump at 3:00 am, crawl back in bed at 3:30 and get up at 5:00 a.m. to start the process all over again. There were multiple pump parts to clean each time and bottles of milk to refrigerate. If one of the pump parts broke, we had to track down replacement parts online. If both of us were around, it was a bit easier. But if, for example, I was at work and it was just Hope and The Civee, it could be quite a struggle for her to watch a baby and pump at the same time.
In addition to all that, there really wasn’t much in the way of support. Most mothers who pump do it to supplement their breast feeding. Apparently, there are very few mothers who just pump. So finding resources and information was tough. When we were at the hospital for Hope’s birth, we met several times with the lactation specialist, a person the hospital employs to help new mothers learn to breastfeed. However, the specialist wasn’t familiar with pumping, at one point answering our question with a terse “Google it.”
Even in the face of all that opposition, The Civee pumped. For the first six months of her life, breast milk was all Hope had to drink. Even after we introduced formula and food, breastmilk served as the mainstay of Hope’s diet.
When we first heard Hope would have a cleft lip, we were told many cleft babies have trouble with their milk/formula intake and have growth issues (the medical term is “failure to thrive”). There was some learning on our part how to use the special bottles, but from the beginning Hope grew. She’s not even a year old and she’s in 18-month clothes (mostly because of her height). She’s also very active. The evaluators and therapists we’ve met with are very happy with her development. And she’s only had one minor ear infection.
The Civee and I (mostly The Civee) put the pump away last month. Hope fully recovered from surgery number two (something we attribute to drinking mom’s milk moments after she woke up from surgery). Clearly, all of the pumping was worth it. Because Hope can’t do it (right now), I’d like to thank The Civee for doing all that work. We have a wonderful little daughter, and The Civee’s breasts played a large part in that.