Below is Jean’s story about exclusively pumping after her baby didn’t gain weight in the weeks after her birth. You can read more exclusive pumping stories here. Thanks to Jean for sharing her story!
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Why did you decide to exclusively pump?
It’s funny; I think pumping actually chose me. I was about ten hours into labor and three hours into pushing when I had this instinct that it wasn’t working. Sure enough, my baby’s heart rate was accelerating, and I spiked a high fever. We needed to get this baby out and fast. So after an emergency c-section, my daughter was squeezed out of my hips (she had gotten stuck), bagged (she had aspirated) and brought into the infant nursery. I was not allowed to see her until 24 hours after my fever had subsided.
The good news – she was stable and healthy. The bad news – I had NO idea what to do. I thought that I would hold her up to my breast, she would start to feed and we would take it day by day. But now, I had no skin-to-skin interaction and no baby to breastfeed.
About 28 hours after delivery, I finally got to see my child. I held my baby to my breasts, opened her little mouth and….nothing. She wanted nothing to do with my breast or my milk. I was so confused. We fed her formula for the four days she was in the hospital, while I tried and tried to get her to feed from my breast. My lactation specialist sent me home with the breast guards. She told me that they were like little bottles and maybe it would work better.
So for the next two weeks, I used those stupid guards at every feeding. It was working! She was feeding! Then, after two weeks, I went to her pediatrician. She told me that my daughter had not been gaining weight (in fact, she lost more), which meant that she wasn’t getting enough food.
I knew I had to change something and change fast. I knew I had to pump. I set a goal; I would exclusively pump for one week. If I could monitor how much she was eating, then I would have more “data” to understand why she was losing weight.
After one week, we went to the weigh-in, and she had gained 5 ozs. It worked. They wanted her back in another week. I set another goal – 1 more week of monitoring her intake. When we went to the doctor’s, she had gained another 5 ozs.
From that moment on, I knew that I had to exclusively pump so I could monitor what she was eating and if she was gaining weight. Plus, I had to go back to work soon so I would need to pump anyway. I set a new goal – one year of exclusively pumping – I was in for the ride of my life.
How did you make exclusive pumping working for you?
I put in calendar notifications every time I needed to pump. This way, work was not interrupting me, and my husband knew when I needed to pump and he would need to watch our daughter. Also, I would keep a timer of how much time I needed to pump so I could stay on track.
What was your biggest challenge with exclusive pumping?
What wasn’t a big challenge? From cleaning pump parts all the time, to interrupting my daily life to get to my pump, to when my supply would be low and I would just sit there and cry. From traveling with my pump and finding the right outfits when I knew I had to pump in the car – EVERYTHING was a challenge.
I think the hardest part is a year of self-motivation. That is a long time to stay pumped up (pardon the pun) and motivated to just sit there and pump. There would be days that I would try to convince myself that skipping one wouldn’t hurt my supply that bad or that I was too tired or too sick.
How long did you exclusively pump?
I am two weeks shy of a year and I WILL do it. I will hit my goal. If I have lasted this long, I can do two more weeks (insert Rocky theme song and self motivation achieved)!
What advice would you give a new exclusive pumper?
1. You will cry. I have cried more in the last year than I have in my entire life. Spill the milk? Oh yeah, complete meltdown. Baby decides to throw that bottles across the room? Meltdown. You know how long it took me to pump that?!
2. You will go insane. The amount of calculations that have gone through my brain this last year is mind numbing. The number of ounces I can pump in a day, to how much daycare will need, to how much she is eating. The questions you will ask yourself – why can’t I pump more? What if I adjust to this schedule? The negotiations – dear boobs, if you could just keep up with her demand, I promise to let you out of the bra at dinner time.
3. You will want to throw the pump against the wall. I hate that pump. I hate just sitting there while it does its magic. I hate that AWFUL sound. I hate that it pulls at my breasts like they are taffy. I hate that it takes up a ton of counter space, and I hate that I am tied down for two hours out of the day, literally. Every day, I want to throw it against the wall.
4. You will have one of the best experiences possible. At the end of it all and all the craziness you will deal with, seeing your little chunk with his or her tummy full is one of the most amazing experiences possible. It’s what motivates me every day and what makes this all worthwhile. Knowing that I know where her food comes from, that it is truly raw and organic and that I did that, is something special. Also, knowing that I am participating in something women have been doing since the beginning of time, really makes me feel part of a very exclusive and powerful group.
Are there any other thoughts about exclusive pumping that you’d like to share?
My experience won’t be yours. Maybe you like taffy breasts, I don’t. Maybe you like that awful sound, I don’t. Maybe you need to supplement throughout the day. Maybe you are producing such an oversupply you don’t know what to do with it. Maybe you have one of those god send, hands-free pumps and you want to rub it into the face of those that are attached to the wall – you don’t get to do that, that’s mean.
My mantra is – you do you. You do what is right and comfortable for you.