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|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.