My story

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-12-2013
My story
6
Thu, 09-12-2013 - 1:31pm

Hello to all of you strong, clever women reading this. Clearly, you’re strong or you would have given up by now and taken the far easier route of feeding your baby formula. And, clearly, you’re clever, or you wouldn’t have even thought of exclusively pumping as an option. So, here we are, kicking a$# and taking names.

I’m not usually one to talk about myself, but I suddenly feel the need to share my story. If it weren’t for the great women of discussion boards like this one, dedicated professionals and specialists like KellyMom, and the internet in general, my story would have turned out differently. I sincerely hope my story helps someone else.

First, a confession. I hate pumping. Most days it pisses me off to sit strapped to that infernal device. On my best days, I’m slightly irritated and bored. On my worst days, I’m angry because my 10 month old son wants to be held, and I sit there pumping, lamely trying to distract him with a toy and cursing under my breath.

I’m still not sure why, but my son was never able to latch. At 25 days old, he was still losing weight. My husband and I talked at length with: three lactation specialists at two different hospitals, two doctors, three nurses, two dedicated and experienced La Leche League members, and several doulas. So many people saw my boobs in those first few weeks that I might as well have been featured on a Girls Gone Wild video. I read everything I could get my hands on. The only thing that kept my son from seriously dehydrating early on was manually expressing my milk into his mouth. And, boy was that fun. It took so much pressure, that I didn’t have enough hand strength to keep it up for more than a few minutes. So, my dutiful husband would take over; squeezing and squishing with all his might. Not the most romantic moments in our marriage, but at least it was a team effort. I’m here to tell you, we were dedicated to making this breastfeeding thing work.

But, obviously, it wasn’t working. At 25 days old, we gave up. We started supplementing with formula, and I started EPing.

My supply has never been great. I think we got such a slow start, that my body didn’t get the right signals early on. In the first few months, I pumped eight or nine times a day while my husband attended to the baby’s needs. I charted milk production. My supply slowly ticked upward, little by little, week by week. Eventually it flattened out at about 18-20 ounces per day.

Since my supply has never been enough to fulfill my baby’s needs, I’ve tried several things over time to increase supply. I ate tons of oatmeal in the first few months. I took so much fenugreek that I smelled like maple syrup. I tried another herbal blend for over a month. I drank 3-5 cups of Mother’s Milk tea per day. I changed my diet to have high calorie weeks, high protein weeks, and increased water intake. I tried to get more sleep, though, honestly, it never felt like enough. None of these things increased milk supply. Eventually I stopped obsessively charting milk supply and simply accepted that only about half of his food intake would be breast milk and the rest would be formula. On the bright side, milk storage was never much of a problem because he would eat what I produced almost right away.

When my son was nine weeks old, I returned to work full time. I drove about 45 minutes each way to work. I learned quickly that the only way to keep up a strict pumping schedule was to pump in the car. I purchased a car adapter directly from Medela. I covered myself, hooked up while still sitting in the driveway, moved my seat as far away from the steering wheel as possible, and prayed that the airbags didn’t deploy. It worked great.

Along the way we had one major incident that almost ended our EPing adventure. At ten weeks old my son caught RSV and had to be admitted to the hospital. The first two days in the hospital, I was so stressed that I couldn’t achieve let down. I talked with a lactation specialist who encouraged me to keep pumping anyway. After some very uncomfortable days, pumping started to work again. However, given all the other things going on at that time, I was only able to pump about five times per day. As it turned out, pumping five times per day, but for 30 minutes at each session, still netted the same amount (i.e., about 18-20 ounces). So, if there is a silver lining to our bout with RSV, it’s that I learned I could do fewer, but slightly longer, pumping sessions to produce the same amount of milk.

When we reached the eight month mark, I was truly and completely exhausted. I decided that my sleep was more important than feeding my son breast milk. Until that point, I pumped at least once overnight. I decided that I was going to sleep as much as possible even if my milk dried up. I pumped right before bed, usually around 8:30 p.m., and then again when I got up the next morning, usually around 6:30 a.m. I still had to get up once or twice each night with my son, but at least I could go back to sleep as soon as he went back to sleep. Going for such a long stretch without pumping each night definitely impacted my supply, but only by about 3-5 ounces per day. After a couple of months on this schedule, I’m producing about 12-15 ounces of milk per day.

So, here we are at the 10 month mark, and I’m proud to have made it this far with EPing. Do I have regrets? You bet. Some days I feel like I spend more time with that d@#& pump than my own baby. But, we have a healthy, happy son. I’d like to think that our hard work with EPing has helped make him that way.

For what it’s worth, here are a few things that helped keep me sane along the way.

1.      I wouldn’t have been able to do this without my husband’s support. It was tough for me to pump and take care of the baby at the same time, so I’m not sure I would have kept it up if he hadn’t been on board.

2.      I only washed pump parts once each day and threw them in the fridge between sessions.

3.      I found that a car adapter, soft-sided cooler, frozen gel packs, and a nursing cover were indispensable. I spent a lot of time pumping in the car (e.g., commuting to work, driving to visit family, and occasionally while running errands).

4.      The Pumpin Pals shields allowed me to get more comfortable while I pumped. In the first few months, my back ached from spending so much time leaning forward while pumping. The shape of those shields allowed me to maintain slightly better posture while pumping.

5.      My iPhone was also indispensable. I could talk on the phone, read books, surf, and do some basic work while pumping.

6.      Early on, I charted milk production in a spreadsheet. It was comforting to see the numbers slowly rise. Later on, when production leveled, seeing the numbers bummed me out. So, I stopped charting.

7.      My workplace is equipped with a comfortable and private lactation room.

8.      On occasion, I had to tell other people about my pumping. I tend to be a private person, so this really bothered me. For example, I once traveled for business with my male boss. I had to explain why I had to disappear for 30 minutes at a time. It was uncomfortable and awkward, but we both survived.

If you’re part of the EPing adventure, I hope you’ve experienced success. I’d love to hear your story.

 

Avatar for cmkristy
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-05-2005
In reply to: bes74
Mon, 09-16-2013 - 7:01am

Thanks so much for sharing your story with us!  It's refreshing to hear the challenges as well as victories. We appreciate you sharing your advice on what helped you as well.  I hope that we'll see you here often!  You have a lot of great feedback to share! 

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iVillage Member
Registered: 10-15-2013
In reply to: bes74
Tue, 10-15-2013 - 7:38pm
Thank you for posting your story. I'm only a couple weeks into EPing and I already need a pick me up. Your story is inspiring and makes me feel like I'm not the only person on Earth that has decided to pump to give my baby breast milk whether it's through an actual breast or not!
Avatar for Honeybee1984
iVillage Member
Registered: 11-02-2013
In reply to: bes74
Mon, 11-11-2013 - 10:44am

So wonderful to see an honest-to-goodness EPing story, with all the ups and downs and some great tips!  I'm really loving this board so far, and am glad that Google led me to it.

I also feel compelled to share my story, so here goes: We just had our first child a month ago (it's his one-month "birthday" today!)  During the pregnancy, I kept having unsettling dreams about breastfeeding.  I wanted it to work so badly.  Oddly, in my dreams, it often did work, but with some other strange twist.  Needless to say, my waking AND sleeping hours were spent, in part, stressing about what is "supposed to be" such a "natural, easy" thing to do (note the dripping sarcasm).  I could've smacked my OB when he asked, "You're planning on breastfeeding, right?"  To which I replied, "Yes, if I can..."  His response?  "There's no reason a healthy woman can't breastfeed."  Yeah, sure.  Would've been nice if he'd taken a look at "the girls" and given me the heads-up about my unbeknownst-to-me flat nipples...

Regardless, I dutifully went to La Leche Leauge meetings during pregnancy with my friend, who was struggling to get her little one off and running.  When I found out I'd likely need a c-section because baby was breech, I asked about feeding after essentially never going into labor.  I tried so, so hard to be prepared while still keeping in mind all the dedicated, strong, and smart women I know who just couldn't, for the life of them, get this "breastfeeding partnership" to work.

So the big day arrives- our little man is born.  I was lucky enough to have a nurse who advocated for me and got DS skin-to-skin just minutes after he was born while still in the OR.  Lots more in the recovery room, too.  Hubs and I were amazed at his natural rooting reflex, and how quickly he sought out the boob.  He'd maybe kind of latch, maybe kind of suck... and then... nothing.

Yep, our DS was born teeny tiny (5 lb 14 oz, at 38.2 weeks gestation), and had the "laid back" demeanor of his father (this is my nice way of saying "occasionally lazy").  The nurses were great, honestly.  They tried everything once they saw my "lazy baby" and my flat nipples (again, where were you on that one, OB?!)  Ice packs, nipple shields, pumping to draw them out... I hand-expressed a tiny medicine cup of colostrum and just tossed it down his hatch, and felt like a champion.  But, when he lost over 8% of his birthweight before they sent us home, the nurses started talking about formula supplementation.  I flat-out sobbed as Hubs gave him his first half-ounce of the stuff, which he sucked back like a starving man.  Later, Hubs told me I almost broke his heart.  I'm not so staunchily against formula that I forbade it, but it hurt so much to feel like I couldn't feed my baby.  The nurses were all cautious, saying that as a first-time mom and a post-c-section, my milk could take a week to come in.  I hated hearing that.  Hubs was absolutely phenomenal thorugh all this.  He said, "Don't think of it as replacing your milk; think of it as 'medicine to cure 'tiny baby syndrome''.  When he gets better, he'll stop taking it."

When we got home, I dutifully followed the nurses' instructions (breastfeed from one side for 30 minutes, the other for 10 minutes, give 10 ml of formula, then pump for stimulation for 15 minutes).  This often hour-and-a-half long rigamarole needed to be repeated every two hours.  Just shoot me.

When we went to our maternal-newborn follow-up visit, I braced myself knowing that DS had probably lost even more weight.  Sure enough, he had.  The nurse watched me breastfeed him with my nipple shield (which I'd been using incorrectly all along, apparently...) and wasn't impressed with my son's laid-back attitude and lazy suck.  She recommended spending less time BFing and more time pumping.  Then came the game-changer- she suggested I EP.

Fireworks.  The Alleluia chorus.  Mind.  Blown.  I'd heard of EPing before, but honestly didn't know when/why people did it.  This made perfect sense for our family, as I'll be going back to work when DS is 10 weeks old (here in Canada, most moms get a year, but I work across the border in the States).  Hubs was going to be stay-at-home dad, bottle feeding during the day ANYWAY.  I liked this plan.  I liked this plan a lot.

A lot of people, when they find out I'm EPing, treat it like a loss.  "Oh, I'm so sorry it didn't work out."  "Don't worry, you could reintroduce breastfeeding later if you like."  "Oh, but before you decided to do that, did you try.... (insert LC, herbs, meds, shields, holds, etc etc)."  The funny thing is: I don't feel like I've experienced a loss or a failure AT ALL.  BFing had become something I dreaded, as my cute little baby nodded off and refused to suck at my stupid fake-shielded nipple.  I got frustrated with him; it was like being paired up with the laziest kid for a school project, with the project being this "breastfeeding partnership". 

Now, I've gotten pretty good at politely shutting down people who don't see my experience the way I see it: empowering.  I can usually fend off unwanted comments by saying, "Y'know, luckily this just works perfectly for us as a family", or joking, "He just seems to like it in a bottle instead of 'on tap'!"  I love seeing how much milk I'm making and charting it (just shy of 40 oz a day now, on domperidone since 1 1/2 weeks in).  I pat myself on the back each time I have so much fresh that I'm able to freeze some (I've got more than 75 oz!).  I adore seeing Hubs feed him and bond with him; in fact, if I'm pumping at the same time, I often see a resurgence in milk just because of watching how cute they are together!  DS' grandparents, great-grandma, and other family can even get in on the action, visiting and feeding him while I pump away.  This just feels RIGHT.

Do I miss having him at my breast?  Only in the middle of the night, when I'm pumping and he's fussing and I wish I could just give it to him "directly".  Do I feel compelled to do everything I can to breastfeed the next baby?  We'll see when we get there!

Like Bes74, I've already found a few things helpful:

-Hands-free bra.  This is a MUST.  Luckily, instead of spending over $30 on one, I've used 2 old bras (often ones where the underwire popped out) and bought three additional "cheap" bras (for less than $30 total) and just cut holes in them.  They're even kind of cute!  Aside from the hands-free aspect, this helps make people a lot more comfortable talking to me while pumping, since most of my boob is covered.

- A good, spill-proof water glass; I get SO thirsty during pumping and want to stay hydrated.

- Larger nipple shields/horns (though I did just order the Pumpin Pals sheilds based on the success stories here!!)

- My pump- a double electric advanced "insurance model" from Medela (essentially the same as the Pump-In-Style).  Thank you Affordable Care Act for giving me this $300 pump at zero cost to me!

- Playtex Nurser bottles with drop-in liners.  Only ones that DS could take without being overwhelmed by fast milk flow.

Other things that have been helpful:

- I'm not wasting all the lovely "nursing" shirts I bought while pregnant; these give me easy access to my hands-free bras and make the whole operation extremely discreet (well, as discrete as possible with horns and bottles sticking out of you...)

- My nursing pillow has become a great baby-holder; DS can be propped up in it in a semi-sitting position on the couch next to me so I can feed him comfortably while pumping (without the aforementioned assembly and my c-section incision getting in the way...)

I'm just glad that things I bought anticipating that I'd be breastfeeding haven't gone to waste!

Wow, this ended up being a long post, but honestly, I feel great getting this story out there.  Any of you other fantastic ladies have a story to share?

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-24-2008
In reply to: bes74
Tue, 11-12-2013 - 1:05pm

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Wow.  Some of you ladies have some dramatic, incredible stories to share.  Mine is a bit more mundane, though I suspect at this point I may have crept up to being one of the “longest total duration” pumping moms on this board. 

So far DH and I have 4 kids on earth and one in heaven, and I have pumped 1 year for the first, 10 months for the second and third (ending of pump time for all was determined by pregnancy with the next kid drying up my milk), and 5 months for the 4th(he is 5 months old now).  With our first, I had planned to breastfeed at the start, and then switch to a combination of breastfeeding and pumping (since I had to go back to work after 6 weeks).  But she was born at 38 weeks, was very sleepy and had a lazy suck, and I have flat nipples.  The first week was a blur of lactation consultants, waking the baby with cold washcloths, pain, and finally squirting formula into her mouth with a syringe after she lost too much weight.  I started pumping with the pump that I had already bought for work to keep my supply up and take the pressure off, and after a few days found that I produced WAY more than she needed, and a bottle led to a much happier baby and less tired/stressed parents.  I tried breastfeeding on and off for another 3 weeks, as the lactation consultants kept telling me that I couldn’t maintain my supply with just pumping, but by the end of the first month I was making 50 oz per day, and just threw in the towel on direct breastfeeding.  I didn’t actually find this board until she was six months old, when I discovered what I was doing was called exclusively pumping, and other people did it as well.  I did the pump 8x per day thing with my first for the first 3 months, and ended up with a serious oversupply and freezer stock – donated about 3000 oz over the course of her first year after the freezer filled up. 

With baby number 2 I tried nursing for about 3 days, but it was painful again, and he also was very sleepy (all of mine have been born between 37 and 38 weeks, and fine except SO SLEEPY for the first 2 or 3 weeks), so I reverted back to pumping.  With two kids under two at home and working full time after 6 weeks, I didn’t have as much time to pump as before, so never managed more than 6X per day.  I still quickly was making more than he needed, though never enough to completely fill the freezer, and ended up using my stash to take him to a year after getting pregnant at 10 months with number 3.  With numbers 3 and 4 I didn’t even try to nurse – took my pump to the hospital, pumped colostrum, and fed it with a syringe.  With babies 1, 3, and 4 I had an epidural, and my milk didn’t come in until day 3, so they all had a little formula to tide them over when they started getting dehydrated.  With baby 2 we didn’t get to the hospital until 30 min before he was born (not on purpose), so no epidural, and my milk came in on day 2, so no formula. 

I don’t believe formula is poison, so have no problem using a bit at the beginning, but I think breast milk is better, and although definitely more work, have not found pumping to be overwhelming.  I have been fortunate, with the exception of a little formula in the beginning, to feed breast milk until switching to cow milk at a year for all of my "weaned" kids (number 4 is still a work in progress - about a month out from the first bite of cereal).  I work a desk job with a private office, so pumping at work is easy – I just close my door.  At home with 4 kids underfoot is a bit more challenging, but my husband is very supportive, and with a hands free bra you can pump while holding a couple of kids and reading a story to the others.  I have chalked up some unusual pumping location over the past 5 years – lots of airports, cars, and conference bathrooms, tents and lean-tos when camping (climbed over 20 of the 4000 foot peaks in the Adirondacks dragging my breast pump along), etc.  Just had to get over telling people about “dairy duty”, or being embarrassed by TSA inspecting my gear.  For the new moms just getting into this – it does get easier with time, and maybe even become second nature…However many kids we end up having, I suspect I will be pumping for all of them.  (My oldest is in kindergarten, and recently brought home a picture she drew of Mommy sitting on the couch with pump horns on - may have to explain that to the teacher...)!

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-18-2013
In reply to: fon2424
Sat, 11-23-2013 - 7:12pm

All I can say is...you are AMAZING!

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-12-2013
In reply to: bes74
Mon, 12-16-2013 - 3:16pm

It's so great to read other stories!

It has been quite an...ummm...adventure? :) At almost 14 months, though, that adventure is coming to an end for me and my little one. My low milk supply began dipping even lower at about 12 months. I went through another round of trying to increase milk supply (e.g., adding more pumping sessions, taking Fenugreek again, etc.), but nothing helped. I suspect the problem was that I started purposefully working to lose weight. I've read weight loss can decrease milk supply, and my experience seems to support that. I thought I was losing weight slowly enough (i.e., about one pound per week), but apparently not. I also thought that when I made the decision to stop pumping, I'd have a few weeks of ramping down to get used to the idea. Boy, was I wrong. I decreased my pumping sessions (from 5 per day to 3), and it's like I flipped the off switch. It's only been about 48 hours, and I think this bottle will be the last with my little one. Oddly, even though I was never thrilled about EPing, I'm quite emotional about ending this rocky relationship with my pump.