an exclusive pumping story
I gave birth to Baby J in December 2017. I labored for 16 hours and could not wait for it to be over. When he was born, covered in all that blood and gunk, I thought he was the most beautifully disgusting thing I had ever seen in my entire life. Even though I was not very keen on the idea of having a baby in the beginning, at that moment I completely understood what everyone talks about. I cried my eyes out the first time I held him in my arms and I got it. I finally realized what it meant to love someone, I mean truly love someone more than life itself, to be willing to sacrifice everything for his safety and happiness. He looked at me with those big eyes and just cried. I can’t even imagine what that experience must have been like for him. At that moment I wanted our bond, the bond between mother and child that cannot be replicated or replaced. I loved him and I wanted him to love me too. All of my reading said to start breastfeeding immediately to build that bond. So I tried… and nothing. He wouldn’t latch. He just screamed. “Okay,” I thought. “He’s just been through a lot and he just needs some time to settle down. We’ll get there”. So I waited… and waited… and waited some more. This little guy just wasn’t having it. After about 8 hours of him not eating, the nurse took him and pumped his stomach. Apparently he swallowed some amniotic fluid on the way out and not only did that tell his little tummy that he wasn’t hungry, but it also upset him and made him not want to eat to flush it out. So we tried some more. Nothing. After 36 hours of multiple stomach pumps, several glucose tests, and some very unsuccessful attempts at pumping colostrum, I had to supplement with formula. Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely no problem with formula. I am a firm believer that fed is best no matter how it happens, and at this point in time it was the only way my little one was getting fed. Needless to say though, we got off to a rocky start with our breastfeeding journey. From that point on things got both better and worse. It took a while to push that fluid through his system before he would start eating normally. We went through some extreme measures trying to get him fed. The next couple of weeks involved a lot of syringes, tubes, and pain on my end. I finally got him to latch, but he was really bad at it. After our first session, I was completely chewed up and in so much pain I nearly threw in the towel right then and there. I didn’t think I would ever be able to get this to work and I just wanted to cry. The hormones were definitely not helping either. When I woke up on the fourth day after J was born, I had coconuts in my bra. My milk had come in and good god did it hurt. They were like rocks, but this was a good thing. No more colostrum meant that I could feed my baby and get rid of the formula. Boy was I wrong. I think J liked my boobs even less when there was that much milk. It’s harder for babies, especially babies so young, to latch onto a fully engorged boob. So we kept on with the formula. We had this really weird system where I would fill a syringe with a small tube attached with formula, then tape the tube to my nipple. That way when he would latch he would always get something. It was an attempt to teach him that being on the breast was a good thing. In a way, it worked. He started to latch, though still poorly, but it was something. When he was 2 weeks old we finally stopped using formula and I went to exclusively breastfeeding. I figured out how to use my breast pump and started pumping after our morning session when I was most full and began setting some milk aside. Things started to look good. I knew that we were still playing a bit of catch up, but J was hungry all the flipping time. I did nothing but nurse this child and I was in pain and exhausted. He would nurse for 45 minutes to an hour and then still be hungry an hour later. It was even worse at night when he would cluster feed. I would literally be moving him from one breast to the other for hours on end, never able to put him down. I was in so much pain. I had massive blisters and I really started to dread feedings. I was so emotional over the whole thing. I wanted so desperately to be able to provide for my son since I knew the benefits of breast milk. I also wasn’t ready to start paying for formula. It was just too expensive for me to feel comfortable with. I began trying to pump a little extra milk so that my husband could bottle feed him in the evenings when I just needed a break. I can’t even begin to tell you how much that helped me. Being able to go 3 whole hours without a tiny human trying to rip your nipple off is a level of pleasure that I will never be able to describe. This also allowed me to take a nap for a little bit while my husband took the first “shift” at night. J could sleep really well once he went down, but man did he hate trying to go down. There was a lot of screaming in my household for a while, and I really thought that a lot of it had to do with my milk supply. I began to worry that I wasn’t producing enough. I mean, why would he always be hungry if I was? We took J in for his 4 week check up and found out his weight was dropping. He was now down to the 9th percentile. He had only been in the 12th to begin with, but this still wasn’t good. His doctor suggested I try pumping after each feeding and also giving him a bottle of expressed milk or formula after each feeding to make sure that he’s full. The theory was that he would get enough food to hold him over for a couple of hours and we could bring his weight back up. So we tried that. Bottle feeding him worked. He still nursed for a ridiculously long time, but he would take a bottle and stay content for 2-2.5 hours. He was drinking between 20 and 25 ounces of pumped milk though. I really thought that was a lot for a baby that was nursing too. At 7 weeks we took J back in for another appointment with his lactation consultants. We had been bottle feeding after each nursing session for a couple of weeks and nursing was getting even more difficult. Drinking from the bottle was easier than it was from the breast. He didn’t want to wait for the let down anymore and started to scream when I would try to nurse. I was devastated. My LC described J as a gourmet baby rather than a steak and potato baby. A steak and potato baby will eat everything in sight really quickly and be good. A gourmet baby on the other hand likes to sip and savor his food. He’ll take a little bit here and a little bit there without ever really filling himself up. That described J’s eating to a T. He was always hungry because he was only drinking the really easy foremilk rather than working for the fatty hindmilk. He never emptied me and my supply was dropping as a result which only led to less and less milk for him to work with. They gave me some more advice on different ways to get him interested in breastfeeding again. One suggestion was to pull out that syringe and tube again, but I was done. I made the decision then and there that I just couldn’t do it anymore. I just couldn’t keep trying to nurse. I was devastated. I began doing some research into exclusive pumping. I had heard the term before and had an idea what it was about, but I wanted more information. I had questions. Could this be done successfully for a long time? Can the body produce enough milk that way? Will the baby lose out on any benefits? Will we still be able to bond? I had all of these and more. As I dug deeper, I started to become hopeful. It seemed that exclusively pumping was more popular than I originally thought and that this might actually be a viable option for us. I even found a Facebook group specifically for exclusive pumpers. (Check it out HERE) Those women are an inspiration. Just having somewhere to go and ask my questions without being judged is absolutely amazing. Moms can be pretty harsh to each other every now and then. Having that support when I most needed it changed everything for J and me. Though it was hard emotionally for me to give up nursing, (I cried a lot in the beginning) we have been able to make it work. I’ve had ups and downs with my supply, a couple of cases of mastitis, not to mention the struggle of trying to move my freezer stash 3000 miles away, but we’re making it. My son is almost 9 months old and we are still going strong. We still supplement every now and then because I still don’t have a huge supply and my kid eats like a horse, but that’s okay. He eats primarily breast milk and he is happy and healthy. And though it may look a little differently to some people, I am still breastfeeding my child. We have also still been able to create our bond. It is so much better now that feedings have become more relaxing for the both of us. J isn’t much of a snuggler, but when he wants to, he’ll look at me with those big eyes and play with my hair while he eats. And since he’s bottle fed, I get to see him better. We gaze into each other’s eyes and I talk to him while he runs his fingers through my hair. Sometimes he’ll rub my cheek; sometimes he’ll just fall asleep. Either way, I know that he is happy and that is the most important thing. Exclusive pumping has not taken anything away from my relationship with J, like I thought it would. Instead it has given me so much more. Related Posts: