Below is Lindsay’s story about exclusively pumping for her son after they struggled with his latch.
Before my son William (“Will”) was born, I had things all planned out in my head. I was going to nurse him exclusively until I went back to work, at which point I would pump for him while I was away and then continue to nurse him when I was at home. He was born on the second of June and I’m a teacher, so the timing was perfect. I’d have the whole summer to just enjoy nursing him and then start pumping in the fall. My OB practice was rather forceful about watching breastfeeding videos and hammering home the importance of breastfeeding. By the time Will was born, I was 100% ready to nurse and sure that this was what I wanted to do.
Then he was here, and he didn’t latch.
We were able to get him to latch-ish a few times while in the hospital, but only with the assistance of nurses. Mostly, he was spoon-fed the colostrum my husband was able to express. Our first night home was awful – it was about midnight and we were all sitting on the living room couch. I was desperately trying to get Will to latch onto my right breast while my husband was hand-expressing my left breast. The only time Will wasn’t crying was when he could swallow what was in the spoon. I honestly have no idea how we got through that first day.
The next day, all of the stress of the lack of breastfeeding success (plus the post-partum hormonal crash and the lack of sleep) all came to a head and I started to break down. The hospital-grade pump I’d ordered for work hadn’t arrived yet, and the earliest I was able to schedule an appointment with a lactation consultant was two days later, but Will was hungry and was losing weight. My wonderful husband drove out to Wal-Mart, bought pretty much the first pump he could find, and thrust it into my hands. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it was something like, “Try it. You can still keep the appointment with the lactation consultant. You’re going to need to learn how to pump for work anyway. You’re still breastfeeding this way. You’re not a failure.”
Tearfully, I gave it a go. My milk hadn’t come in yet, but I was able to get a few ounces of colostrum. Will was very happy to accept the bottle and its contents. Two hours or so later, I repeated the process. It was much easier the next day, when my milk started to come in. I noticed then that I was actually getting ahead of what Will was able to eat, which was a great feeling! Even more great was that my son was starting to seem content.
I kept the appointment with the lactation consultant. The best part of the appointment was at the beginning, when he was weighed. He had gained seven ounces in the three days since I’d started pumping! The rest of the appointment, though, was rather frustrating. While the consultant was glad that I was still feeding Will breast milk, I felt that she regarded pumping as clearly inferior to nursing. I also felt, and probably more strongly, that she thought that I would not be able to exclusively pump. It wasn’t encouraging, but I was fortunate enough to have the support of my wonderful husband who was of the mindset that if it was working, keep on with it, and if it stopped working for whatever reason, we’d figure something else out then.
However, the opinion that exclusively pumping was not desirable or feasible was a pretty pervasive one. I had many well-meaning friends tell me that it simply was not something that I would want to attempt to do. I was told that it would hurt, that I’d be “tethered” to the pump, that I wouldn’t produce very much, and that it wasn’t a good experience. I was told that I would end up hating it, and that I’d be better off ditching it in favor of nursing or formula.
Now, I’ll be honest – pumping was never exactly my favorite thing in the world to do. And there were times – particularly when I got lazy with the lanolin – when it did make my nipples sore. But I didn’t hate it. I was feeding my kid in the way that worked best for my family. By getting into a good pumping routine and sticking to it, I was able to maximize my milk production while trimming down the amount of time that I actually spent on the pump.
My goal was to be able to exclusively pump for a year. I had my last pumping session two days before Will’s first birthday (I had to stop a little bit early, unfortunately, because I had to start taking a medication that does not allow for breastfeeding), so I’d say that’s close enough to count. I was fortunate enough to produce enough milk to create a good-sized freezer stash, which should last us for the rest of the summer.
Tips for pumping mamas:
- Exclusively pumping IS an option! It may or may not work for you, but do not let anyone tell you that it’s impossible.
- You can make a hands-free pumping bra. I bought a couple of sports bras on the cheap and cut holes in the center, and those worked pretty well. Then you’re free to type, do breast compressions, or whatever.
- Drink lots of water and Mother’s Milk Tea, and eat lots of oats to boost milk production.
- When it’s time to wean, eat peppermint and drink peppermint tea to dry up supply.
- Invest in a deep freezer if you’ve got a good enough supply. It’s good for storing milk for several months, and then after you’ve weaned you can of course use it for regular food.
- Lanolin lanolin lanolin! Dry and cracked nipples hurt and get infected, which is no fun. Baby-safe lubrication is key!
- If you work, be upfront with your workplace. You have a right to pump at work. Be polite, but assertive: “I will need to pump at X time for Y minutes each day. Where would be the best place to do that?”
A huge thank you to Lindsay for sharing her story! Way to make it to (two days shy of) a year!