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Kenley and Kaleb Staley sit with their mom, Bobbie Staley. The twins were born two-months prematurely, and Bobbie was eligible to receive support from the Clinton County Health Department in the form of a state-of-the-art breast pump that allowed her to continue breast feeding even though the babies had to stay in the intensive-care unit in Albany for more than two months

â Breast-feeding pumps assist women when separated from newborns for long periods of time

By JEFF MEYERS

PLATTSBURGH -- If you saw Kenley and Kaleb Staley today, you couldn't imagine how tiny they were when born two months prematurely last summer.

In fact, Kenley, only 4 pounds, 4 ounces at birth, was still a pound heavier than her twin brother.

But in less than nine months, the pair has caught up in size to where they should be and are happy, healthy and energetic youngsters.

A lot of their early success can be directly related to an opportunity their mom had in obtaining a top-level breast pump, which allowed her to breast feed the twins regularly over the first several months of their lives.

The Clinton County Health Department has received some "hospital-grade" breast pumps that offer women in special situations, like Bobbie Staley, the chance to continue breast feeding when conditions force a separation of mom and infant.

"If it hadn't been for the (Health Department's) pump, I wouldn't have been able to breast feed," Bobbie said, explaining how the premature twins had to stay in Albany for two months following the birth while she had to drive back and forth.

"I had to keep pumping at home every two to three hours," she said. "If I wouldn't have had the hospital-grade pump, that wouldn't have worked."

The electric pumps, available through the department's Women, Infants and Children program, provide an additional level of support for women who have delivered prematurely and may experience periods of time separated from their newborn child.

"We've always had a hole in the services we provided," said Sue Trombley, breast-feeding coordinator for the WIC program. "We needed something for moms who delivered prematurely and want to establish a milk supply."

Prior to the recent purchases, WIC had two kinds of breast pumps available to women: a pedal pump more ideal for occasional use, and a personal-use electric pump for women who are working or going to school full time and have a well-established milk supply.

When women deliver prematurely, they are often transferred to Albany or Burlington, where hospitals have neonatal intensive-care units for premature babies. The newborns may have to stay in Burlington while the mothers return home.

Having the hospital-grade pumps helps them to pump milk while at home, so they can supply their newborn with "mommy's milk" to establish a breast-feeding schedule with the infant.

"It is quite the incentive for moms to breast feed," said Jennifer Creedon, a breast-feeding peer counselor at the Health Department, noting that WIC promotes breast feeding as an initial step in providing babies with a healthy start in life.

"The staff in area hospitals is committed to breast feeding," she added. "They support us, and this gives us the opportunity to support them as well. When a mom delivers a preemie, we like to do all we can to help. This gives us another option for them."

The pumps, which run about $700 compared to less than $200 for the personal-use pumps, are free for those moms enrolled in WIC who qualify based on their pumping needs.

"Because we have so few (hospital-grade pumps), we have set high standards for their use," Trombley said. "For now, they're for moms with premature babies."

When moms receive the manual and pedal pumps from WIC, they are theirs to keep because of state regulations against reusing the equipment.

The hospital-grade pumps have special barriers in their supply lines to prevent the pumps themselves from having contact with a mother's milk, so a new mom will keep the suction tubes, bottles and plastic lines but must return the pumps to the WIC office.

The upgraded pumps are also beneficial in that they "mimic" the natural delivery of milk a baby receives form the mother's breast, Trombley noted. "There is a minimum and a maximum suction," she said.

"It changes speed exactly as a baby does. At first, the delivery of milk is very fast, and once the initial suction occurs, the milk flow slows down."

A baby may feed at its mother's breast for up to 40 minutes, but WIC promotes a regular pumping schedule of about 20 minutes per session to maximize the milk flow without wearing a woman down from too much pumping.

WIC is a supplemental food program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program is for pregnant and breast-feeding women and children up to age 5 who are at nutritional risk due to inadequate diet and income.

Studies have shown a definite relationship between diet and the health and development of young children.

An adequate diet is especially important during pregnancy and infancy when a child's body and brain are growing most rapidly.

WIC food checks and nutritional counseling are available once a month at a WIC site, which are located throughout the county. WIC food checks allow participants to receive free food, such as milk, eggs, cheese, juice and cereals, at participating stores.

jmeyers@pressrepublican.com

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