Breastfeeding Helps Ashley Connect with Son After Early Arrival

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Baby boy sleeping

Dr. Ashley Haggerty’s family recently grew to four. 

Riley, the second son of Dr. Haggerty, MD, MSCE, and her husband, Pat, made an earlier-than-expected entrance into the world on June 8 in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. The couple’s first son, Bennett, will turn three in August. 

After each birth, Dr. Haggerty had vastly different breastfeeding experiences. 

“I breastfed with Bennett, and pumped a lot when I went back to work,” said Dr. Haggerty. “Then with Riley — he was born at 31 weeks — I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, but I started pumping right away and had great supply right away.

“It was nice to know he was getting my breast milk while he was in the [neonatal intensive care unit].”

Helping Riley Grow

Every mother produces breast milk that changes to meet the needs of her baby at different stages of life. Studies have shown that breast milk produced moms of preemies contains extra calories, fat, protein, and vitamins to help the tiny babies grow quickly. It also contains live cells and antibodies to protect from infections, and is much easier to digest than formula.

Aside from the nutritional, neurological and immunological benefits for Riley, Dr. Haggerty found that breastfeeding also gave her a sense of accomplishment at a time when she wasn’t fully in charge.

“I know that it is great for my children to get my breastmilk, and that’s particularly true for Riley,” she said. “Being in the NICU was a difficult experience, but being able to give him my breastmilk was huge for me to do something good for him in a situation that seemed like it was out of my control. He wasn’t home with me, but it made me feel a lot better in terms of what I could do for him as his mom.” 

Riley first received Dr. Haggerty’s breastmilk via feeding tube, but was later able to get it by a bottle.

“He had a feeding tube for a while,” she said. “He decided to pull out his own feeding tube, and they just let him fly after that.” 

Working with a Lactation Consultant

Shortly after Riley was born, Dr. Haggerty worked with international board certified lactation consultant — just one of the many breastfeeding services offered at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania — to begin her breastmilk pumping journey. 

“She has been so helpful to me,” Dr. Haggerty said. “Riley delivered, and I was out of the OR at 10:30 or 11 in the morning, and she was in my room a couple hours afterward.”

In the beginning, Dr. Haggerty focused on pumping, and as Riley grew, her feeding strategy changed. Through it all, a lactation consultant was at the ready. 

“Getting help starting out exclusively pumping was really helpful to figure out how often to pump, how to optimize that, because that wasn’t something I did right away with Bennett,” she said. “The first few times we tried to latch Riley, we made a plan for [a lactation consultant] to be there for that so I had their assistance the first couple of tries. 

“Riley was pretty small when he was first born, so it was helpful to know the logistics of how to best position him.”

There’s an App for That

Dr. Haggarty also used the Keriton app, a breast milk management system designed for new moms, that the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania’s Intensive Care Nursery (ICN) began testing last year. 

“I am a huge fan of the app you have for moms in the NICU,” Dr. Haggerty said. “It was great. I could see how much I was pumping and how much milk supply Riley had.” 

In addition to helping track Dr. Haggerty’s milk inventory, the app also allowed her to stay in touch with Riley’s care team via text messages and photos.

Lasting Support

In mid-July, Riley left the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and headed home for the first time with his parents and big brother Bennett. 

Soon enough, Dr. Haggerty will return to work in her role with Penn’s gynecologic oncology program. But, when she is back on the job, she knows she will have the support of Penn to help her along the way.

“I’ll be going back to work for a job that’s fairly demanding on my time,” she said. “Penn having different mother’s rooms and lactation rooms makes it easier for moms to be able to breastfeed when they get back to work.” 

Share Your Story

We want to hear how Penn Medicine supported you during your breastfeeding or breastmilk pumping journey. Share your story using #PennMedicineBreastfeeding, and you could be featured in a future post on the Penn Medicine for Women Facebook page.

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