Below is Tara’s story about exclusively pumping for her preemie twins and a singleton.
Why did you decide to exclusively pump?
Initially, I didn’t choose to exclusively pump. My girl/boy twins were born at 28 weeks, and pumping was the only option at that early of gestation.
I worked very hard to get my milk in – I pumped, massaged, and squeezed the hell out of my breasts every 2 hours around the clock for the first two weeks. Every single drop (and I do mean every tiny drop) was collected and put into an eye dropper for my twins. I would put one drop at a time on each of their lips during feeding time.
Until my full supply came in, the twins were on donor milk, which I am forever grateful for. It took two full weeks for my supply to come in. Once my supply came in I was a cow. Literally! I produced 70oz of liquid gold a day. I pumped 6x a day for an hour – full time job right there.
Since my twins were never able to drink that much in a day, and I was running out of freezer space, I donated my milk and fed 6 other babies. I did try to nurse the twins once they were able to but they both kept falling asleep at the breast and wouldn’t drink enough. Pumping made it easier to monitor how much my twins were drinking.
My singleton was born at 37.5 weeks, so he was a term baby. I chose to exclusively pump for him because, like the twins, he kept falling asleep at the breast. Plus my good friend’s supply was drying up, and she asked if she could have my milk if I chose to pump again. Her baby was a month older than my singleton.
How long did you end up exclusively pumping (or, if you haven’t weaned yet, how long do you plan to)? What made you decide to pump for this long/set this goal?
I pumped for 14 months with my twins. I would have pumped until 18 months, which was my goal, but my nipples started to bleed and I was just done at that point.
With my singleton I pumped for 10 months. During those 10 months I was able to fully feed my singleton and my good friend’s baby as well. My plan was to pump until 14 months, but my iron levels dropped, which caused my son’s to drop as well.
How did you make EPing work for you? Was there anything in particular that made it easier for you (products, tips, etc.)?
I had to gather everything I needed for the next hour before I sat down to pump each time. I sat on my couch, set up Netflix, had my drink and food on my end table along with my pump, bottles, and pumping freezer bags. The only pump that worked for me and fully drained me was the Medela Symphony. I had to pay $75/month to rent it, but it was so worth it. I tried 3 other pumps, and they all couldn’t get me fully drained, so I kept getting mastitis.
When I would get clogged ducts, I would use hot washcloths and put them on my breasts for 10 min. I kept the washcloths as hot as I could tolerate, and then massaged each breast while pumping, focusing on the clogged area(s).
What was your biggest challenge with exclusive pumping?
Being able to pump until I was drained, which took a full hour. One (if not both) of my twins typically would start to cry during my pumping sessions. My body would literally stop my letdown whenever one of my twins would cry. Midstream stop! It was so frustrating.
What advice would you give to a new exclusive pumper?
It’s a full time commitment and you can do it!! It’s much harder than nursing, in my opinion. Pumping requires double the work. You pump and feed the bottle to the baby vs baby to boob.
We all scream we want to give up, we hate pumping, can’t do it anymore – but you can do it and you will love yourself for sticking to it! Best benefit for your little love(s). Plus it gives daddy the chance to bond with the baby(s) during feeding time as well.
Anything else you’d like to add about exclusively pumping?
Dr. Brown bottles are amazing – yes, the extra parts are a tad annoying, but they are worth it. Also, the Lansinoh pumping bags are the best. I’ve tried just about every single bag out there, and Lansinoh are great. They don’t rip from being frozen, they hold more milk, and they thaw faster.
A big thank you to Tara for sharing her story! Pumping for twins isn’t easy – and neither is pumping for a singleton when you have older twins to care for. Awesome job!