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Exclusive Pumping

August 10, 2009

Did you know August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month?

Breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do for your baby.  For some women it’s also one of the most challenging.  For many different reasons some women are unable to breastfeed at all. Luckily for Baby O and I, there are some ways to get around that.  You see, Baby O does not latch.  No one can tell me why, but they haven’t been able to help either.  Part of the reason is that he sucks his tongue so fiercely that you cannot get anything else in there, not even a bottle sometimes.  (No, he is not tongue-tied.)  This is frustrating for both of us.  I honestly believe the rest of it is a result of our dramatic birth.

While in the hospital we could not get Baby O to latch.  Several nurses and our midwife all tried to help and I kept trying around the clock.  He didn’t latch.  No one could convince him to do otherwise.  I had brought my pump to the hospital never intending to use it, but I was glad to have it when we needed it.  I pumped colostrum and we fed it to Baby O with an oral syringe.  It took an hour to pump an ounce, but at least he got it.  Two days later when we went home Baby O still was not latching.  He would either fall asleep or get frustrated and scream every time we tried.  Once we got home, I continued to pump and called a lactation consultant.  When that LC inexplicably could not help us, I called another.  I tried and tried to get help.  After our looong labor and surgical birth we were both exhausted.  The stress of it all was more than I could bear.  I just wanted to give my baby his mama’s milk.  Does it ultimately matter if it came directly out of my breast or if I put it in a bottle?  My answer:  no.

I’ve joined the ranks of “exclusive pumpers”.  Women who for one reason or another cannot or choose not to breastfeed directly but express their milk and give it to their babies from a bottle.  There is shockingly little support for the exclusive pumper.  I’m even sometimes met with disdain, as though even though my baby gets exclusive breast milk I might as well be giving him formula (which may as well be poison as far as some are concerned) because it’s coming out of a bottle.  I’ve also been told by some LCs that feeding this way will never work, that I will “dry up in no time”.  I disagree.  I happen to know it can.

For the first week or so Baby O ate about 1/2 breast milk and 1/2 formula.  Our pediatrician actually thought this was a good thing.  She felt the combination of the two would allow each to compliment where the other might be lacking.  (I do not believe breast milk lacks, but that is another post.)  By the second week I was able to pump enough milk to feed Baby O breast milk exclusively.  Now we’re almost 8 weeks along and my supply is doing just fine, so is my baby.  I pump between 40-45 ounces a day and have quite a freezer stash.  I use a hospital grade double electric pump 7x a day during the week and 8x a day on weekends when B is home to help me get an extra pump in.  I do not pump in the middle of the night.  When we first got home from the hospital I would get up in the night (every 3 hours) to pump.  I think this probably did help my supply at first.  Then I realized that my baby was sleeping through the night almost immediately…  If he wasn’t eating every 3 hours at night, why was I pumping that often?  I dropped the middle of the night zombie-like pumping sessions and realized that the extra sleep helped me.  I started getting much more milk when I wasn’t so exhausted.

In my intro I talk about things I wasn’t prepared for when becoming a mother.  One of those things is the incredible amount of pressure to breastfeed, breastfeed well, and breastfeed immediately.  I was also unprepared for the complete lack of support when things did not work out “as they should”.  The stress and disappointment were incredible.  Here’s something I wrote when Baby O was two weeks old.  It’s a bit raw.  Please know I’ve come to terms with things a bit more since then…

Thoughts on Mammary Shortcomings:

Today we went to see our midwife.  While we were waiting a woman came in.  She sat down and just started to breastfeed her baby.  Simple as that.  Meanwhile I’m bottle feeding my baby and completely embarrassed.  There is breast milk in the bottle but no one has anyway of knowing that.  I feel like she is judging me, harshly, though she probably isn’t.  She’s very nice and trying to make small talk but I can barely manage to be polite because it’s so painful for me to watch her breastfeed and I’m barely holding it together.  I know our midwife can tell something is wrong but I try to act like I’m fine so I don’t completely lose it in front of a woman who is killing me by doing what I desperately want to but can’t.  The bottle gets low and I worry I haven’t toted along enough expressed breast milk for my baby and I resent the woman that can so easily access hers.  By the time we leave my self-esteem is nonexistent and I burst into tears the minute we walk out the door.  I didn’t even make it to the car.  I look at my baby and cry the entire way home.  Then when we get home I pump and cry some more.
Between the c-section and breastfeeding failure I feel my body has (I have) already failed my baby in the most important ways.  I’m loathing myself and the machine I feel enslaved to.

If you are having trouble breastfeeding or are an exclusive pumper, know that you aren’t alone.  Although LCs were unable to help Baby O and I latch, they are often very helpful.  Contact your local La Leche League for support and remember if you’re doing the best you can then you aren’t doing anything “wrong”.

Also in honor of Breastfeeding Awareness Month Babies R Us is offering Free Shipping on Medela & Boppy orders over $20 .

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. Melissa permalink
    August 11, 2009 6:49 pm

    *Hugs* Carrie! Your doing a great job, Mama!!

    I’m so glad you wrote this. Maybe it will help a new Mama that is having trouble and feeling the way you and I do. It really is hard to not be able to do something that is suppose to be a “completely natural” thing to do.

    • August 19, 2009 7:55 am

      Thanks Melissa. I know others are probably out there struggling and feeling rotten. I think it helps to not feel alone.

  2. August 16, 2009 9:42 pm

    Carrie did you ever try a nipple shield?

    Landon had a traumatic birth and he also wouldn’t latch. He would just scream at me. We had to teach him to suck with a paci and finally was able to get him to nurse with the use of the shield. We used it for 5 months before he would finally nurse off of me. It was crazy but it worked and really it was just nice for us.

    I am so glad to hear that pumping is working for you. I am so happy you are able to at least still give him mama’s milk! ((hugs))

    • August 18, 2009 12:10 pm

      We did try the nipple shield. It helps a little. O has a hard time with a paci, just pushes it out with his tongue.
      I feel your pain on the screaming. Every time I try to get O to latch it usually ends with him falling asleep or screaming.

  3. Michelle permalink
    August 18, 2009 9:17 pm

    I worked a lot so I pumped more than my kid’s nursed but it made me feel good they were still getting the good stuff ;) good for you for pumping! sometimes its not easy but I was still doing it with Kam until he turned a year!

  4. August 19, 2009 12:36 am

    We had to try a few types of paci’s the MaM was the ones that finally worked. They are itty bitty. So hard when they don’t seem to catch on to something that is so “natural”. BFing is not easy at first. I had troubles with both kids but once/if you get past some hurdles it DOES get easier. I would just keep trying even though it seems it goes nowhere. That pump has to suck (literally)! You are having to do double the work, I really sympathize for you.

    You are just so awesome for all that you do!

    • August 19, 2009 7:54 am

      Thanks Ashley!

      We actually just tried another type of paci the other day. This one is more flat and he has an easier time with it, but still sometimes pushes that sucker outta there!
      The first ones we had we got because they were supposed to be more naturally shaped (yeah right).

  5. August 25, 2009 4:57 pm

    Oh, man. I just want you to know that I know exactly how you felt and what you are going through. I was an EPer for 9 months- it can be done, and it gets much easier. I was devastated when my supply dried up, but I had enough frozen milk to get her to almost 10 months of exclusive breastmilk.

    Please write me if you ever want to talk/vent about this.

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