Today is the first day in 356 days that I haven’t pumped. During my whole journey I’ve pumped 26,000 ounces with a total hours equal to 36 days straight *I watch a lot of NetFlix*. I knew this day was coming, I’ve been preparing for it. Over the past month I have cut down from 8 pumps to 4, 4 to 2, and then to 1. I cried over the decision many times. Am I doing the right thing? Does she still need this fresh milk? Am I stopping because I’m selfish and just want my body back to myself?
The truth is I’m doing it for her.. and me, yup definitely I need a break too. But more I’m weaning so that I have that extra 2-3 hours a day playing with her. I’m doing it so I can relax while she naps so I can be refreshed and give her the best of me. I’m tired of trying to pump and she’s crawling all over me wanting to play and I have to tell her to wait. She is only so little for so long and I want to spend as much fun time with her as possible.
November will be one in just a short nine days. This mama has all the feels. I think back to a year ago when we faced so much uncertainty what would happen when she was born (you can read my birth story here). From the meds I needed to be on, would she be born with Floppy Baby Syndrome (extreme lack of muscle mass), Cleft Lip and Pallet, or even the full out withdrawals and needing morphine to wean her off. Luckily we just had to deal with some jaundice and “Sleepy Baby Syndrome” where she was difficult to keep awake for anything and she went from a plump 8 Pounds 3oz (97th percentile for her gestation) to 6 pounds 1 oz (7th percentile) in a short time.
Due to her chronic sleepiness, November wouldn’t breastfeed at all. She was too tired to do the amount of sucking it required. Even bottle feeding was hard to the point we had to strip her down and put a cold cloth on her back. But we did it, she got stronger and slowly gained back the weight she lost. She has always been so happy and resilient even from that itty bitty age.
It wasn’t my plan to exclusively pump. It started out of necessity. It started because she wouldn’t latch and if I didn’t pump she would need formula. Not that there is anything wrong with formula, I just felt with everything she had going on that breastmilk was my top choice for her. We had 3 lactation consultant appointments, tried shields and every other type of aide and position under the sun.
My life was on a 2 hour cycle: try to feed baby, baby scream and refuse the boob for 15 minutes, baby latch on and immediately fall asleep, I cry, strip baby down, try to keep her awake to get the required amount 2-3 oz that I was told she had to have no matter what, I cry some more, pump for 20 minutes, cry, and repeat. #postpartumdepressionsucks (read more about that here)
But then we got in a groove. Luckily I had a ridiculously high milk supply of 80-110 oz a day. It didn’t come without it’s challenges I had mastitis 3 times and thrush that lasted for three months and was so severe that I developed a secondary bacterial infection on the thrush wounds. I would have to bite down on something the first 5 minutes of each pump.
Six months approached and it became easy. Besides the 2-3 hours a day I sat and pumped it was wonderful! I lost 85 pounds and I felt a connection with my daughter. I felt like I could provide my body’s best for her. I had a few supply dips but did everything I could to restore it with power pumps and Fenugreek. For the most part I could pump 6 or 7 times a day four times a week and then 3 or 4.
I learned a lot. One of the main thing I’ve learned is there is not a lot of resources out there for exclusive pumpers compared to moms who traditionally breastfeed. There is also a ton of misunderstanding and understanding about how much work it takes and how every drop of that liquid gold is precious. There were many times I felt alone with no one to talk to. I feel like it’s such a new way to provide nurturing for your babies that even most GP doctors don’t know how to answer any of my questions. My least favorite moment was the two individuals asked me why I felt the need to store so much breastmilk, why not just pump what she needs… well friends it just doesn’t work like that:
1) I can’t really take a break and pick up where I left off. You need to pump 6-8 times a day to keep your milk levels established and keep your hormones where they need to be.
2) A baby at her peak drinks 40 OZ a day.
3) If I spontaneously dry up they can pay for the $150 a month for formula. (Just kidding but in that moment I was very annoyed).
So here are somethings I have learned. Google has been one of my best friend. Also my local Le La Leche leader had generously gave me her phone number and she helped me out when doctors didn’t know how like how to properly boil milk with thrush. So here friends are the things I have learned:
*Disclaimer* Always default to your OB, Lactation Consultant, or GP for more info.. sometimes it’s just finding the right one!
1. Pumping Builds Connection: I am so glad I could provide for my baby. It created this special bond that I was giving her exactly what she needed. I was given the advice of using her saliva on my nipples so that my supply would adjust to what she will need. I also loved the snuggles we had while bottle feeding.
2. Pumping Isn’t for Everyone: I was so lucky that I have always made way more than what she needs. In the beginning if I was fighting to make my supply grow, I would have happily thrown in the towel. There were many tears shed and many walls hit that I had to work through.
3. Some Doctors are not Familiar: when I first had thrush, the GP at the walk in clinic told me I should stop. Also he told me boiling the yeast milk would make the yeast grow more which was later confirmed to me to be false. I immediately got a second opinion and my OB told me that if any doc tried to put you on a medication where you can’t breastfeed or tell you that you should stop with the information from just one walk in appointment, they need to find an alternative. Find a doc who is educated and willing to help you through the bumps in your journey *there will be bumps*.
4. Do Your Research: the first few months of pumping I read every article, blog, and medical journal I could find. I learned about power pumping, I learned about maximizing your pump time, I learned about ideal pumping comfort level, I learned how to get around pumping in the middle of the night, I learned about how double pumping increases your milk hormones like crazy! Do your research so that you can deal with the overwhelming things right when they happen.
5. People May Not Understand Certain Aspects: Your boobs do the same thing as if you were contact feeding *LEAKING AND ENGORGEMENT*. I remember being out when November was 5 weeks and I pulled out my breastfeeding cover and portable pump as soon as we arrived in the restaurant. Someone asked lovingly, “do you have to do that now?”.. yes.. the answer is yes. After explaining for most woman they would have had the opportunity to empty since their baby would have ate, they understood my need.
6. There are Some Benefits: For me due to my large supply I lost 80 pounds. My body needed that. It helped with my pain levels and made me healthier. Also it was wonderful that my husband and I could switch off night feeds.
No matter how you choose to feed your baby, you are doing the right thing. A fed baby is a happy baby and a sane mom is a happy mom. Thank you for taking the time to read my feeding journey!