Kelleny Berch, PhD, of Durham, NC, is an engineer in the women’s health field. She gave birth to baby Elena in June and, for the first four months, was an exclusive pumper while they worked out some latch and flow preference issues. Her story seemed a fitting one to tell during the week that Hurricane Sandy knocked out power for much of the East Coast.
Katy Rank Lev: Exclusive pumping, huh? That sounds like a lot of work!
Kelleny Berch: The whole first month, the most stressful thing I experienced was feeding her. It was so time consuming! I had to pump every 2 hours, so I was waking up in the middle of the night to pump. It’s not as easy as popping out a breast.
KRL: How did you manage to leave the house??
KB: I had to really keep the pumping schedule in mind, planning outings for certain windows. I had to make sure Elena was fed, plus I had to bring supplies with me–carry my milk, my cooler, my pump. All of that! Lots of exclusively pumping mothers have to consider pumping in the car or even a bathroom so we don’t miss our schedule or hurt our supply or experience engorgement. My pump is like my second baby–it’s always with me!
KRL: Were you able to let down for the pump and maintain a strong supply?
KB: I had a great supply! So much that I pumped almost double what she drank. I froze a lot of milk for when I went back to work, knowing my supply would drop. We even bought a deep freezer for our basement and I put 1200 ounces of milk in it.
KRL: That’s an insane amount of milk! Like almost 9.5 gallons.
KB: Well, a few weeks into working my supply did drop. I went to the freezer to get some of the milk I worked so hard for and it was defrosted! Completely warm. The outlet to the freezer had stopped working.
KRL: Holy. Crap. What did you do?
KB: I couldn’t sleep or function for days. I felt like someone had died. I went from having hundreds of bottles stored up to having to go out and buy some emergency formula. It turns out that a contractor that came to our house for repairs had tripped the circuit unknowingly.
KRL: I am heartbroken for you!
KB: I still have all the bad milk refrozen. I can’t bring myself to throw it in the trash can, even though I know I will have to eventually.
KRL: You could make it into soap!
KB: I never thought of that. I’ve had a mourning period and I’m finally ok with talking about the Great Milk Meltdown of 2012. Anyone who has ever said that it’s not worth crying over spilled milk was not a nursing mother.
KRL: Your situation is totally extreme, though.
KB: When I did research after the fact, I also read a lot about women with high lipase in their milk. Those women froze it and couldn’t feed it to their babies because it tasted terrible when defrosted. All this knowledge helped me feel better about the disaster.
KRL: Are you still exclusively pumping for Elena?
KB: Nope. Elena has started nursing perfectly. It just took her a few months to figure it out.