Today we have another exclusive pumping story! Below is Ashley’s story about exclusively pumping for her son after he wasn’t gaining weight through nursing.
I was upset one night because I couldn’t figure out why my son and I couldn’t get the hang of nursing. My husband told me that we should only ask Mother Nature for one favor, and I had used up that favor in avoiding a medically necessary c-section by having my partial placenta previa move itself (at 35 weeks) so that I could have the natural delivery that I so badly wanted. I thought nursing would be easy; I read a lot of books about it, how good it was for the baby and I’ve seen many women in my family do it, as well. Why wasn’t it working for my little guy and me? It’s a natural thing, so it should be easier than this, I thought.
In the hospital, after delivery having no luck with the first few hours of my son’s life, I asked the nurse to grab me a pump so I could get him some milk. That first night I pumped almost a 1/2 ounce of colostrum for him and fed him with a cup. Every nurse we had while in the hospital tried to help us, but we just couldn’t get the hang of it, so I continued to pump and tried to nurse.
Nurse, Bottle Feed, Pump
We saw a lactation consultant a few days after we were home and she gave us a lot of pointers, but he still wasn’t getting anywhere near enough milk from me. She gave us this plan: I would try to nurse him, then feed him a bottle, and then I would pump. I would need to do this 8-12 times a day. She had also said that since he was born about 2 1/2 weeks early, he was considered a late preterm baby, and he wouldn’t have some of the full term newborn feeding instincts until we were closer to his due date.
I left that appointment in tears; it was so overwhelming. I was a first time mom, absolutely exhausted, and I had to try and complete a three step program to get him to eat every two hours. Even with the help of my husband to bottle feed him while I pump, it was too long of a process when he needed to eat every 2 hours. How was I going to keep this up when he went back to work? I had a ton of self-inflicted guilt, mostly from all the books I read about how feeding a baby from the breast is the absolute best and how they only get certain benefits from eating that way versus drinking expressed milk.
Needless to say, I tried as much as I could, but I couldn’t do it at every feeding. Not only was I physically exhausted, but this drained me emotionally. During all this, I was also trying to recover from heavy blood loss during delivery and high blood pressure for weeks after. I felt so overwhelmed.
Possible Tongue Tie?
We had our second lactation appointment after what would have been his due date. When they weighed him, it showed he took in no milk. I think the lactation consultant had no answers for us because she said that my son was tongue tied and when we had that corrected he would be able to nurse. I held onto this hope even though our pediatrician had already checked my son for this after he was born. My son also had a habit of clicking his tongue, so I was in denial about this possibility. My husband and I brought this up to him at his next appointment and he said he wasn’t tongued tied.
That was my last of glimmer of hope that we would figure this out. I still felt guilty that we couldn’t get the hang of this; like it was somehow my fault. I continued to pump regularly and try to breast feed him, maybe once a day, was my goal but with no continued success.
Making the Decision to Exclusively Pump
At our little guy’s one month appointment, the doctor asked how his latch was. I said, embarrassed, that he wasn’t latching, and I was still just pumping. He told me “that’s okay – you’re still breastfeeding! You’re getting him what’s best for him, your milk.”
I left that appointment feeling SO much better. I thought to myself, “He’s right. I am still breastfeeding, just not nursing.” I did a little research on exclusive pumping, I found this blog, and came to the decision that this was right for me and my son. I felt relieved for the first time since he was born about what I was doing. At the end of the day, no matter how much I wanted nursing to work, I had to look at what was really important to me, and it was my son getting my milk whatever way he could.
I felt such a relief once I made the decision to exclusively pump. We had really gotten into a routine, and it was working well for us.
9 Months of Exclusive Pumping
I exclusively pumped for 9 months. I chose to stop at 9 months because my son was becoming very mobile, getting into everything, and it was hard to stay hooked up to the pump long enough. Fortunately I had oversupply while pumping, and I managed to save about 1750 oz. (We had to buy a deep freezer to store it all!) I am very lucky to have had the oversupply, and even now that I have stopped pumping, my son is still getting my milk. We should have enough until he is about 1 year old.
There were times I wish we could have gotten the hang of nursing (like when my sink was filled with bottles and pump supplies to wash or when I had to plan where I could pump if I was out of the house for more than 3-4 hours). It wasn’t always been easy, and it was a lot of work, but when I look at his little face that is growing every single day, it is worth it to me.
I wanted to share my story because reading about others’ experiences with exclusive pumping helped me so much with my decision. It was really hard on me at first not being able to nurse, but looking back on it, I did the best I could with the situation I had, and I’m proud of myself.
A big thank you to Ashley for sharing her story! Fantastic job pumping for 9 months!