Pump ac­tion

By ex­press­ing milk it’s pos­si­ble to con­tinue breastfeeding when you re­turn to work, says di­eti­tian Aoife Hearne

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Parenting -

I’VE re­alised I go through the same roller­coaster of emo­tions when it comes to go­ing back to work post ma­ter­nity leave. I start hat­ing the thought of it, pray­ing to win the Lotto so that I can stay home with my munchkins. Next, I start to think about jug­gling some work while still on ‘ma­ter­nity leave’ and stress my­self out way too much. Fi­nally, I move on to tak­ing time to work and send­ing my baby to our fan­tas­tic child­min­der, feel­ing a lit­tle guilty but re­al­is­ing time on my own is ac­tu­ally re­ally good for my men­tal health and for every­one around me, and feel­ing lucky that I ac­tu­ally like the work I do.

The last few months seem a to­tal blur. I think back fondly of the fan­tas­tic sum­mer we had while Zoë was a new­born. She has now just turned four months, the time seems to have flown by.

De­spite be­ing a few days over­due, I re­sisted the temp­ta­tion of in­duc­tion and thank­fully was happy to have a nat­u­ral de­liv­ery this time around again— de­spite the epidu­ral not re­ally work­ing, I won’t even go there. Suf­fice to say, I’m happy it’s over and every­one is happy and healthy.

In the past the early, crazy weeks are my favourite, although this time around things were a lit­tle tougher and I didn’t en­joy it quite as much.

Feed­ing this time hurt and I mean re­ally hurt. Noth­ing I did made a dif­fer­ence and I knew some­thing was wrong as this was very dif­fer­ent with my two pre­vi­ous ba­bies. I had self-di­ag­nosed pos­te­rior tongue tie from my hos­pi­tal room by the fol­low­ing day.

Zoë was born on Fri­day, my di­ag­no­sis con­firmed by lac­ta­tion con­sul­tant on the Mon­day and we were in the Dr Justin Roche’s of­fice first thing Wed­nes­day morn­ing to get the tongue tie re­leased.

Though it was all over in a mat­ter of days, at the time it felt like a life­time. And just to throw an­other chal­lenge into the mix, on dis­charge Zoë was di­ag­nosed with dis­lo­cated hips and one week af­ter she was born she was in a Pav­lik hip har­ness for 12 weeks. And just when I was get­ting the hang of feed­ing af­ter the tongue-tie re­lease, all of a sud­den I had to fig­ure out how to po­si­tion her cor­rectly with the har­ness. Those early days were re­ally tough.

Slowly but surely we got there, and by two weeks we were in the swing of things and we haven’t looked back.

Why did I per­se­vere with breastfeeding? Be­cause it mat­ters. It mat­ters to my health — re­duc­ing the risk of ovarian and breast can­cer, among other ben­e­fits— and it mat­ters to Zoë’s health.

It def­i­nitely wasn’t easy at the start this time, there were many (many) tears, I can’t lie, but with some great peo­ple around me we got there and now at 19 weeks it’s a walk in the park.

‘Ex­quis­ite per­son­alised medicine’ is how the med­i­cal jour­nalThe Lancetde­scribes breast­milk. Add to this re­search by UCC Prof John Cryan who says we are not only what we eat, but we are what the healthy bac­te­ria in our gut eat and it’s clear that set­ting the gut on a right path mat­ters.

Hu­man milk is unique be­cause it con­tains sug­ars, HMOs (hu­man milk oligosac­cha­rides) which can­not be repli­cated in ar­ti­fi­cial milks. These HMOs are only di­gested by the mi­crobes in the gut and by about 100 days af­ter birth the di­ver­sity of these healthy bac-

teria are set for the rest of the baby’s life. They also min­imise the growth of harm­ful bac­te­ria which af­fects longterm health and may re­duce the risk of de­vel­op­ing chronic dis­eases. This is what sets a child on a tra­jec­tory for a healthy and ro­bust mi­cro­biota.

And all that science is im­por­tant of course, and it helps me just a lit­tle as I pull out my pump from the press one more time. It’s rec­om­mended to wait un­til around six weeks to start ex­press­ing milk, when milk pro­duc­tion is more set­tled. I’m not ready to give Zoë any­thing other than breast­milk right now, or for the first year of life for that mat­ter, but I do need to start get­ting her used to a bot­tle of ex­pressed milk once a day at least.

Be­ing self-em­ployed means I don’t have the lux­ury of ex­tended ma­ter­nity leave and, like many fam­i­lies, we need two in­comes.

Within a few weeks, the pump has be­come a fix­ture again in the house as the kids look on in amaze­ment each evening watch­ing as ‘milkies’ flow into the col­lec­tion bot­tles and tak­ing turns of press­ing the “let down” but­ton on the pump.

All of this prep work is in an­tic­i­pa­tion for when I am back at work full­time. And in case you are in the same boat and have any con­cerns, let me tell you it is pos­si­ble to go back to work and con­tinue to breast­feed. I did so for my last two chil­dren and I ex­pect to do the same this time around. How­ever, I will most likely need to pull out my copy of

Work­ing and Breastfeeding Made Sim­ple by Nancy Mohrbacher to get my plan of at­tack in place. It is def­i­nitely some­thing that needs to be fig­ured out lo­gis­ti­cally into your work day — find­ing time to pump can be tricky— but it is pos­si­ble and it is worth it.

But first things first. Be­com­ing a par­ent is un­charted ter­ri­tory, es­pe­cially the first time around. Do­ing your prep work be­fore baby ar­rives when it comes to feed­ing your baby can re­ally set you up for suc­cess es­pe­cially when it comes to breastfeeding.

I can’t stress enough the im­por­tance of do­ing your re­search, mak­ing an in­formed de­ci­sion and set­ting up your sup­port sys­tem be­fore baby ar­rives. There are so many great vol­un­tary groups such as La leeche League and Cuidui and Face­book pages now to sup­port women and fam­i­lies when it comes to in­fant feed­ing. One thing I know for sure, is that I would not have been suc­cess­ful if I had not taken a breastfeeding prepa­ra­tion class dur­ing my first preg­nancy. This wasn’t a class to tell you ‘why’ to breast­feed — this was a prac­ti­cal class to ex­plain how it works, what nor­mal breastfeeding be­hav­iour looks like in a baby and how to over­come com­mon ob­sta­cles.

But what­ever your de­ci­sion when it comes to feed­ing your in­fant, own it.

My one piece of ad­vice for you is to take it easy. Don’t ex­pect too much from your­self too soon. Un­for­tu­nately that seems to be eas­ier said than done and some­thing that I can never quiet man­age for my­self. Na­tional Breastfeeding Week runs un­til Oc­to­ber 7

My one piece of ad­vice for you is to take it easy. Don’t ex­pect too much from your­self too soon. Un­for­tu­nately that seems to be eas­ier said than done and some­thing that I can never quiet man­age for my­self

Pic­ture: iStock

NA­TURE’S BEST: Breast milk con­tains sug­ars, HMOs (hu­man milk oligosac­cha­rides) which can­not be repli­cated in ar­ti­fi­cial milks.

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