Thursday, August 10, 2006

Stories from the Pumping Trenches

Christine’s Story

Danielle Nicole was born on January 3, 2006. I start with her birthday because it differs from her due date, which was originally February 4th. I think that’s where my “exclusive pumping” existence began. Danielle was a normal sized baby at 7lbs, 13oz and 19.5 inches. However, since I was a gestational diabetic, the hospital staff watched her blood sugar like hawks and supplemented her with formula several times within the first 24 hours of life. Most of the nurses were great, supplementing with cup or syringe feedings, but I now know that a few bottles were given on those trips back to the nursery for sugar tests.

Danielle was very tired for the first 72 hours, as all babies are. We nursed on demand and woke her up for feedings while we were in the hospital, often calling on the nursing staff for support. Once again, most of the nurses were great, but others were so “pro-formula” that it was difficult to get their support. The Lactation Consultant was unavailable during my stay, so we tried to go at it alone. It wasn’t until her first check-up with the pediatrician on January 6th that we realized something wasn’t working.

Danielle was severely jaundiced by her 3rd day of life. Her pediatrician understood my desire to breastfeed. In fact, she encouraged me and continues to do so to this day. She set up an appointment for Danielle and I with a Lactation Consultant at another facility that day. Laurie, my new LC, checked Danielle’s Bilirubin and determined that I needed to start pumping and supplementing breast with pumped breast milk and/or formula. Unfortunately, Danielle also had developed a lazy suck and would not take in enough of my areola for an effective latch. I spent nearly 8 weeks with sore, cracked, blistered and bleeding nipples until my LC determined that “the damage was done” and it would be a “miracle” if I could get Danielle back to breast. She also said that it was “highly unlikely” that I would be able to provide her with enough breast milk by pumping. She was partially right. Danielle never did latch on. Although this “failure” was an incredible blow to my “super mom” ego, I refused to let Laurie be totally right!

I’ve been pumping since January 6, 2006. As I write this, I have been giving my daughter expressed breast milk exclusively for over 7 months. I plan on doing so until she is at least one year old. Her pediatrician thinks I am a hero, my family thinks I’m crazy…I think I’m a mom who’s trying to give her baby the best possible start at life. I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Jen’s Story

Hayden was born November 22, 2005 at 10:05 pm. His due date was December 20, 2005. For being a month early he was of a fair size weighing in at 6 lbs 8 oz and measuring 19.5”. When I was admitted to the hospital I let the nurses know that if necessary I was ok with giving formula because I did not know if my son would have any medical issues but that I wanted to breastfeed as much as possible. I did everything I read in books about breastfeeding. I had a natural birth, as my son was ok physically so I put him immediately to my breast and had him on my bare chest. In those first moments he seemed to latch. We were sent to our recovery room and all went to bed. Due to him being premature the hospital watched his weight more closely. It is normal for a baby to lose weight after birth but due to him being premature they wanted him to lose as little as possible. The next morning when we woke our breastfeeding experience started.

Every time I tried to feed Hayden he would fall asleep. I swear just the sight or smell of my bare chest and he would be knocked out. We tried every trick in the book including; tickles, changing diaper, talking, and cool compresses but he would be out right away. Because of this I had to start to hand express to get the colostrum out then we would hand feed it to him in a dropper. We lived by a timer. Every 3 hours we would start the process of trying to get Hayden to nurse and each time I would end up hand expressing with the help of a nurse or lactation consultant. When they checked his weight later that day he had lost too much weight and they wouldn’t let us leave the hospital. I was determined to get this breastfeeding thing so I tried and tried and 3 days later we were still in the hospital. Each time we came to a feeding I was stressed and so became my son. The lactation consultant wasn’t very supportive and made me feel even worse like I wasn’t trying and my son should just get it.

I should add I have flat/inverted nipples. Yes it is out there for the whole world to know now. Nothing brings these girls out. Trust me I have tried everything. Even pumping for 60 minutes draws them out for maybe 3 seconds before they go back into hiding. I found out this may be an issue even before I had Hayden so for the week before I went into labor I started to wear shields that are supposed to draw your nipple out. Okay, enough about my nipples and back to the story.

On my fourth day at the hospital a new lactation consultant walked into my room. She was pulling a breast pump and had a nipple shield. We had to work at getting my milk in. So I started pumping and feeding my son formula with a dropper. When they finally let us out of the hospital after 5 days my milk still wasn’t in and Hayden’s weight had dropped to 5 lbs 10 oz.

My milk took a full 7 days to come in. I started to pump and breastfeed. I tried to breastfeed Hayden every time he needed to eat. I was using a nipple shield because he would not latch without it. Even if he did latch he would take 4 sucks and be asleep and we could not wake him. However, 10 minutes later he would wake up screaming for food. For the first 2 weeks we only ever gave Hayden milk with a dropper or put him to the breast. This took quite a bit of time so we switched to a bottle.

I was so disappointed in myself for not being able to breastfeed. I had a lactation consultant come and try to work with us and basically she told us we were a lost cause. Slowly I just started to pump and feed Hayden with a bottle. I did try several times a day to get him to latch up until the day I quit pumping. I hoped as he grew and got stronger he might get the strength to directly breastfeed so I tried everyday at least once a day.

So I survived pumping for 4 months. Until Hayden was almost 3 months old and due to his weight issue I had to feed him every 3 hours and pump a minimum of every 3 hours 24 hours a day to keep my supply up. As you can imagine this was very physically tiring. I got my first plugged duct at about 5 weeks postpartum. After that I had them constantly. I got mastitis the first time at about 10 weeks postpartum and was put on antibiotics. I always had cuts on my nipples and usually started to bleed every time I pumped. As soon as I would get rid of a plugged duct another would come.

At about 12 weeks postpartum my breasts magically knew my son would have a growth spurt so my supply grew. It actually exploded and didn’t calm down. I was pumping every 3 hours and I was pumping for 45- 60 minutes each time to empty myself. I would have to stop pumping to change over flowing bottles and was getting 50-60 oz a day. Hayden only ate about 28 oz. I never seemed to empty fully and my plugged ducts just got worse. At about 14 weeks postpartum I got mastitis for my second time. This time I got it really bad though and ended up in the hospital for a few days for IV antibiotics. When I was at the hospital my boyfriend and I made the decision I would stop pumping. This was one of the hardest decisions of my life. I slowly weaned and at 4 months postpartum Hayden had his first bottle of half formula and half breastmilk since he left the hospital. I am a firm believer in the power of breastmilk and was so disappointed in myself for first not being successful at breastfeeding and then not at pumping. I have learnt that I am not alone in these feelings of disapointment and guilt. I had quite a stash in my freezer though. I had enough breastmilk to give my son 8 oz of the 28 oz he ate a day in breastmilk until he was 6.5 months old.

Amy’s Story

After a difficult pregnancy and seven weeks of bedrest, I gave birth to my third child, Maegan, on October 7, 2005 at 36 weeks. She was 6 pounds 13.6 ounces and was 18 inches long. I immediately tried to breastfeed her, but she just would not latch, so I decided to just let it go until we were alone in our own room to try again. I was allowed to spend 2 hours with her after she was born, still in the delivery room - which is not normal protocol for my hospital - and the entire time I kept saying “something is not right, her mouth is purple...” Everyone was trying to reassure me that she was fine, but I knew, as only a mom knows, that there was something wrong and I would have to repeat the “black days” in the NICU once more. They finally got me into my postpartum room and not five minutes later a nurse came in and tells us that our baby has turned grayish and was not breathing properly so they had transferred her to the NICU and that they would let me know when I would be able to see her. I KNEW IT!!!

I was not allowed to hold her for the first 24 hours that she was in the NICU, so I immediately began pumping. She was fed my breastmilk through a tube and then once I was allowed to hold her, I attempted, again, to breastfeed. I was still unable to get her to latch and I could not relax and spend the necessary time learning how to breastfeed (I was only allowed to hold her for 30 minutes every 3 hours). They had strict rules about intake and output and because she was losing more weight, they were supplementing her with formula until my milk really came in a couple of days later. Every chance I got, I would put her to the breast, but it was such a struggle and I decided (once again), I would let it go until I got home and was alone with her to work on it. I continued to pump...

On the first day we were home, I put her to the breast at every feeding; still no latch and a lot of screaming. So I would break down and give her a bottle of my milk and try again the next time. I looked for different reasons why she was not able to latch, I figured it was because of her size and the size of my breasts or that her mouth was too small; my nipples would be out until she touched them and then they would go flat; too many people around (visitors), etc., but even looking for reasons was not fixing the fact that she was still not latching. I was painstakingly pumping with my manual pump after each failed attempt of breastfeeding and decided to buy breast shields. I thought they would do the trick, but she would only latch for a few seconds, pull off and start screaming again. Frustration really kicked in when I was so engorged that she stopped trying all together. I went to a breastfeeding shop and rented a hospital-grade pump (Medela Symphony) and I went home and pumped immediately - I pumped for an hour and got so much milk out that I had to switch bottles in the middle so as not to overflow. What a relief that was!

I continued over the next few days with bringing her to the breast, but because of her low weight (just over 6 pounds) and high bilirubin levels, we had to go to the pediatrician’s office every day that week for weight checks and blood work. Well, on her 11th day of life, her bilirubin went back up to an extreme level and she was admitted to the NICU at the children’s hospital. She was taken off of breastmilk and put on formula while having intense phototherapy again for a couple of days, thus further hindering our breastfeeding attempts. Even at that hospital, I continued to pump...

For the next two weeks, her bilirubin levels continued to escalate, so again she was taken off of the breastmilk and put on formula (arg!) for a weekend so that she could be tested again on the following Monday morning. You guessed it, I continued to pump...

The findings from the tests showed that she had no genetic issues, so they diagnosed her as having breastfeeding jaundice. She was finally allowed to have breastmilk again (that was the last time she ever had formula, too).

Over the next couple of months we tried to have a breastfeeding relationship, and had one glorious weekend of her actually latching on for every feeding, but just as quick as it started it ended. The stress of failing every single time we tried was just too much for me to handle and pumping was going so well, so I decided to stop torturing myself and pump exclusively.

At her six month checkup, we found out she was tongue tied, which explained a little more why she would not latch properly. At seven months, she had her tongue clipped. I attempted two more times to breastfeed after her surgery, but it was too late - *sigh* - she looked at me as if I were an alien!

I have only had a few issues while pumping; nothing like the ones I had with breastfeeding; I produced enough milk to have a large stockpile, which was eliminated when I had my hysterectomy and an extended hospital stay where they had me pump and dump (unnecessarily) for the entire time; I rebuilt my stockpile, thankfully; I have ripped parts of my nipple off twice; I have had to take herbal supplements to maintain my supply; and I have used so many Johnson’s breast pads and so much Lansinoh that I might as well own stock in both companies.

This has been the hardest thing I have ever done in my life (the most time consuming, too), but here I am, over 10 months later, still going strong and determined to make it to that one year mark with her only getting my milk!

25 comments:

amy said...

i was just reading our stories and i think we all deserve a pat on the back for what we have done; not only for the health and wellbeing of our babies, but also in the name of love...
WAY TO GO !!!
((big hugs))
amy

Rachel said...

You ladies are my heroes! My baby refused to breast feed at 7 1/2 months, and I decided to pump until she was a year old. I only made it two weeks. It was sooo hard! Seeing the trials you went through were incredible! I am so impressed that you would do this for your precious babies! Awesome. If I ever have to go through it again, I am coming here for support and encouragement.

jandsdawes said...

you are my hero!! I have been exclusively pumping for 4 months now and I didn't know if I would make it to 6 months...let alone 10 months you are an inspiration...

jandsdawes said...

You are one awesome women!! I am in my 4th month of exclusive pumping and wondered if I would ever make it to 6 months let alone 1 year...you give me hope!!

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Kristin said...

My son started to wean himself at 3 months (16 weeks ago) and it has been so tough. I thought I would pump until he reached 6 months but that is coming up this week and I just feel so guilty for thinking about stopping!! But pumping is so crazy- its taking over my life (doesn't help I have low-supply). Your stories are inspiring!

Jenn said...

Thank you for sharing your stories! I have been exclusively pumping for 3.5 months now. It has gotten a lot easier, but still so time consuming. My world revolves around pumping schedules! My goal is 6 months. Who knows, maybe once I reach it I will have the strength to keep going!

addie's mom said...

my daughter went on a nursing strike at 3 months. I worked hard and got her back to the breast but at 6 months she did it again and I gave up. Thank goodness for the internet. I found this site and others so helpful and motivating. I turned to exclusive pumping and we are now at 12 1/2 months! I pump four times and day a get just shy of 30 oz. It's actually easy now compared to the earlier days of pumping 8 times a day, waking up in the night to pump, sleeping with a cooler by the bed, etc. I have to tell you momma's that what you are doing is so great. Hang in there and before you know it you will be at a year and pumping will just be part of your schedule. I plan to taper down and drop one pump per month, which should get her to 18 months. Keep going girls, it gets easier!!

BouMama04 said...

I started pumping the day my son was born May 20th 2011...I knew my supply would drop around 4 months like it did with my daughter and I wanted to stockpile...we had a gret breastfeeding relationship until 4 months when he just started screaming and pulling away...it broke my heart...he would get so mad that he had to wait for a let down that the stress was just killing both of us...I would pump after every feeding and get 1/4 -2 oz everytime but it did not increase my supply...NOTHING has increased my supply...I tried pumping 12 times a day, I tried Fenugreek and mother's milk tea, I tried eating and drinking huge amounts...I finally went on Domperidone...yes it worked but I have to supplement with a formula I make from raw goats milk as I am not making enough to feed a now 8 month old... I have EP'd for 4 months and I am wearing out... my husband is done with me doing this...it is a commitment beyond my wildest imagination...but I can't give up...I need more milk and I don't know how to get it...any suggestions?

jumping overboard= having faith said...

I am currently pumping. My son started refusing to nurse 3 weeks ago. My supply dropped. 4days ago I ended up needing to give my son formula. (neocate) he has a dairy allergy. I am currently pumping 3x a day but I get about enough for 2 bottles. Sometimes less. I am hooked up to a pump all day so it feels like. Takes me a hour sometimes more, just to get 3oz. I don't know how much more I can handle. I breastfed my daughter for 14 months no problems... I thought babies don't wean before a year? I hate formula, but I don't know if I can do this everyday for the next 5months. I want to be a hero, but I don't know how to do this. I feel so horrible for not being able to bf my son. My goal was a year... This is devistating.

jumping overboard= having faith said...

Boumama I was in the same boat. My son started coming off n screaming too at 3m. Losing weight, refusing to nurse etc. Finally took dairy out n went on reflux meds... seemed to work. Now he won't nurse at all. I'm pumping 3x a day for like a hour sometimes more. Power pumping at night... Still.not.making.enough. I was giving goats milk as well just stopped that n started neocate formula. I'll b checking back to see if anyone can help us. My hubs is supportive but idk if I can do this all the.time neglecting houseoerk n even my toddler. N hubs.

Akit said...

Thanks for taking time for sharing this blog for breast pumps ; it was excellent and very informative. It’s my first time that I visit your website. I found a lot of informative stuff in your post. Keep it up.

kayleesmom said...

My daughter is 6 weeks old. I desperately wanted to breastfeed my little one and was so excited to try!
I had an emergency c section after being in transition for 4 hours and having her heart rate drop 3 times. As soon as I was able to see her when I woke up we tried breastfeeding. They gave me a nipple shield to help because of my inverted nipples and not knowing what a latch should feel like I assumed everything was fine. During the first 2 days she wanted to feed constantly and she was so fussy I couldn't imagine why!
My colostrum would come in full force. I would literally drip like a faucet but she was still hungry!
One of the doctors came in the 3rd day and told me she thinks my daughter has a cleft pallet. The ENT came in to confirm it so I had a lactation consultant see if there was any way she could help us out. After an hour and a half of trying to get a latch my little one got too worn out to try again.
My lactation consultant brought in a pump for me and I got out 20 of the 30ccs (1oz) that we needed to start with.
I was very unhappy that we had to give her any formula at all but if it was necessary I just wanted my baby to be satisfied.
We were encouraged to try to put her to breast for 10-15 minutes before bottle feeding every time and I tried this for the first 2 weeks.
I finally decided to exclusively pump because it was devastating to me to see my child so frustrated at my body and I felt like a failure each time.
Now she is much happier and is gaining weight wonderfully!!
I still feel like a failure at times but I know that I did what I could and after research I found that only a tiny percentage of babies with cleft palate can breastfeed because most can't get enough suction for a latch.

jumping overboard= having faith said...

Hey kayleesmom I know how u feel about feeling like a failure! I did everything I could to breastfeed. We did it for 7m then he flat out refused! I did everything to get him to the breast, but refused! I had supply issues. I said I did I knew I did... Yet everyone else "KNEW" I didnt! Started pumping. Managed to get 10oz out a day. Soon went down to 6oz a day. I pestered n pestered my doc for meds. Finally after months they gave it to me. One week on meds n I'm from 6oz up to 15 oz. Also got donor milk from human milk for human babies. I have to keep reminding myself that its what's in the bottle that counts! N there's breastmilk in my son and that's all that matters! Ur doing an awesome thing! Keep up the good work! (i think I saw Ur post on excusively pumping breastmilk?

Biz said...

Thank you for sharing!
I just wish I would have found this when I first had my baby girl about 9 months ago.
I felt so alone.
I am now writing my own post about exclusive pumping and will link people here for additional resources!

Andrian M said...

I too am exclusively pumping and using Ameda's Purely Yours pump. I started pumping when I went back to work and my son was just about 3 months old. We had diificulties from the start with breast feeding and his latch but made it to 3 months exclusively nursing. I switched to exclusively pumping once i went back to work due to his latch regressing from bottle feeding when i was away.
I debated for a long time whether to wean and switch to formula or get a pump and stay with breastmilk. Due to the fact I work overnight shift as a nurse, I'm often too busy to pee or eat, so making time to pump 2-3 times a shift has been extremely hard. But I was committed to making it to the 6 month mark.

I anticipated it would be difficult and time consuming to pump at work, but I've been doing it for almost 2 months now. My supply is slowly starting to decrease and I have gone through what small amount I had stored away. So I'm now only able to pump barely enough to feed him which is about 30oz a day.
I know that to have made it this far on exclusive breastmilk is an achievement, and every feeding I can give him is better than nothing . But having to supplement with formula has been a bit heart breaking.
I keep trying to add more sessions or pump for longer each time but inevitably life happens so I will just have to take what I can get.
For everyone who is trying to decide to exclusively pump or not, do your research about what all goes into pumping and figure out whether or not your lifestyle can adapt to the commitment it's going to take to maintain a good supply. I'm going to continue to pump for as long as my body will let me or until frustration wins out. Which ever happens first ;-)
Stay strong ladies, you can do it!

Shah Hemal said...

Breast Pump is everything mum needs to easily and comfortable express, feed and store breast milk.

Becca, Kenset Shelties said...

My daughter was unable to nurse, so I pumped exclusively. We tried everything to get her to nurse at breast - multiple LC's, cranio sacral therapy, specialists, feeding clinics, etc - finally I decided when she was 5mo that I would just pump and stop trying to nurse. Despite plugged ducts (at least two/week per breast for the first 6 mo), mastitis, cracked nipples and pumping for 45+min per session (8-10x per day), I managed to have her exclusively on my breastmilk. Around the 6mo mart got a little easier and I dropped to 6-7 pumps per day. I pumped for her for 16 months, until my milk dried up due to my pregnancy. By then, I had enough frozen milk stored away (40 gallons) that she had a full supply to take her until my baby (her brother) was born. My son was diagnosed at 2.5 weeks old with a posterior tongue tie and was unable to nurse effectively. Surgery corrected the problem and by 3.5months I am SO HAPPY to report that he was 100% on breast!! I did (and continue) to pump for my daughterwho after all this time was also diagnosed with a posterior tie). Five months postpartum and we have stock piled just shy of 20 gallons breastmilk - after both kids have been fed! (I initially had supply issues so this really has been a blessing).

Let me be the first to say I HATE PUMPING!! BUT,,,, it has allowed me to provide "gold" for my children and I am happy to be able to provide it for them. I encourage anyone struggling out there to take it one day (sometimes one pump) at a time. It does get easier, and you are doing such a marvelous thing for your child!

megan downes said...

Keep up the good work! As an exclusively pumping full time working mom I understand the exhauting frustration. I too was adament about providing my baby tje most natural healthy options as we also went cloth diapers. I was nervous at first and starting using my pump right away at the hospital on top of latching to bring my supply up as soon as possible since I was required to return to work 6weeks postpartum (active duty navy) with my schedule being alternating days/nights I wanted to good freezer supply so I wouldn't stress amd have enought tosupplement incase I missed a session here and there. At first I only pumped at work and latched at home and fought through the nipple confusion/shields and all that good stuff but then good old teeth came and I tried to work with her about no biting but realized hurting her feelings and mine for something she didn't understand (saottle nott me though) wasn't worth it. I have had a couple boughts of milk supply drop but addimg sessions, massaging, and the medela pump has allowed me to give my baby girl 100% breastmilk. My cord went out one time and to save some money I got the amedela purely your double only one available on shelf i couldnt get half of the amount so I still ended up specia l ordering a new cord and my supply is back to normal

JennyRenee said...

I exclusively pumped from birth until 2 weeks ago when my baby all of a sudden learned how to nurse. She is 15 weeks old and was a little tongue tied when she was born. We got her tongue clipped, didn't really help with the latch. I noticed her being able to nurse coincided with some linguistic development. I had to use a nipple shield for two days to get her to take the breast but now she is doing well. Pumping is hard work! I was so close to giving up and switching to formula! For the ladies who really want to breastfeed, I recommend trying again from time to time (maybe with a nipple shield) when you and baby are relaxed. You never know when your baby might just latch on.

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Wife~Mommy~Nurse said...

I am a NICU nurse looking on the internet for encouragment for the mother of the infant I am taking care of. We often provide "breast-feeding" support, but we often forget about "milk-supplying" mothers. As a mom of 3 girls, I had experience pumping and breastfeeding, and by far, pumping is the most difficult thing ever. I'm so glad to see this blog and will give the address to the mom I am caring for. Thank you for taking the time to pump for your children, in addition to encouraging other moms on the same journey. You moms are awesome!

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