Below is Kelsay’s story about switching to exclusively pumping after TEN WEEKS of triple feeding. You can read more exclusive pumping stories here. Thank you Kelsay for sharing your story!
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My exclusive pumping journey began abruptly when my Little Lottie arrived 4 weeks early. After (unknowingly) laboring at home for way too long, her birth was speedy and surprising, to say the least. As soon as she was born, the nurses began to warn me that her preemie body may have some trouble. They encouraged me to begin pumping regularly after feeding to increase my supply and build up a stash, in case she were to need it later on. Even so, within an hour of being born, she had latched on without a hitch and was sucking and gulping with ease. Her glucose levels and weight remained normal throughout our two day stay, and we went home with a clean bill of health.
Besides the fact that she was ultra-drowsy and often fell asleep at the breast, we had a normal first day at home. The second day brought a few more struggles as my little girl became very frustrated at the breast, but when given breast milk via syringe, she would gulp it down immediately. That afternoon, we had our first pediatrician appointment. Her weight was low, but on the edge of normal. Her color, however, was abnormally yellow. Her pediatrician sent us for labs on the way home as a precaution, assuring us that it was likely normal. Nope. Her bilirubin levels were way high. We soon got the call telling us to head to the NICU-we were being admitted. Worst. Day. Ever. (For all of you NICU Mommas out there, bless you!)
We arrived in the NICU and they start poking and prodding and shining blue lights on my little girl. She cried. I cried. We all cried. At first, they attributed her jaundice to the fact that her liver just wasn’t ready to work on it’s own. She was 36 weeks gestation and most likely needed a little help getting started. During this stay, I saw five different lactation consultants. They were incredibly encouraging and helpful, but not one could figure out the problem. Latch? Picture perfect. Suck? Good. Swallowing? Yep. They would look and listen and test and all looked fine!
For all appearances, we were doing great and there shouldn’t have been any issue…but there was. A big one. Little Lottie was not transferring milk. She was sucking with all her little might and swallowing when she could get a drop, but she was not taking in nearly what she needed. She had not truly eaten in days and I had no clue … Cue total devastation, guilt, shame, and sadness. I had starved my baby for three days and now we were in the NICU. Awesome.
This is where the real fun began: Triple Feeding. Every three hours, I would attempt to nurse her, supplement breastmilk through a tube in her nose, pump … wait an hour … repeat. I was so exhausted, I couldn’t even think straight. Enter in my newest best friend: the pumping bra. After pumping every 3 hours for a few days, I begged my dear mom to find a pumping bra that I thought I had seen on Pinterest at some point. Besides life itself, it’s the best gift she (or anyone else) has ever given me. This true and loyal friend hasn’t left my side since. If you don’t have one, I can’t recommend it enough. I honestly don’t think I would have made it this far without it. In the NICU, my pumping bra enabled me to pump AND supplement my babe at the same time, allowing for about 30 minutes extra sleep! PRICELESS.
After a week in the NICU, I was so determined to get home, I agreed to bottle feed breastmilk to my little one and work on breastfeeding at home. I convinced them, and they let us go! I spent the next ten weeks triple feeding, seeing lactation consultants, going to breastfeeding support groups, working with an occupational therapist, trying nipple shields and SNS and praying that she would get strong enough to transfer milk on her own.
On my very last visit with a lactation consultant, I hit my breaking point … my rock bottom. Feeling sure that we were making progress, I went in for a pre/post feeding weight check. We weighed her, I nursed her (great latch, good suck, 20 minute feeding, “Woohoo! We’re getting somewhere!”) and then weighed her again … *drumroll* … 0 oz difference. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero. I was totally devastated. How had our last ten weeks of nursing and therapies done nothing?
I did everything in my power to compose myself, when all I really wanted to do was ugly-cry and flail myself on the floor. Seeing my utter despair, my sweet lactation consultant asked, “Have you ever considered exclusively pumping?” I hadn’t. I hadn’t even heard of the term. Throughout my pregnancy, I was so set on breastfeeding that I hadn’t even looked into other options. I felt defeated and humiliated, but I will never forget how kind and encouraging my lactation consultant was this day. She explained that I was essentially already an exclusive pumper, I could just drop the highly emotional and fruitless attempt at nursing. I was hesitant, but after a bit of research and a lot of tears, I was ready.
Ten months later, I can say that exclusive pumping definitely isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s a bit stressful, lots of hard work, and often misunderstood, but it’s worth it. I get to provide for my babe and she gets to consume her nutrition in a way that’s best for her! I still have guilt, and I still go speechless when someone asks whether I’m breast or bottle feeding. But at the end of the day, my baby is fed, I’ve developed a whole new world of self-sacrifice and self-discipline, and it works for us!
If you are new to the EP world, or are looking for some helpful tricks and tips, here you go! Here’s what I’ve learned (often the hard way) over the past ten months:
1. The Pumping Bra. I know I already mentioned it, but it’s worth a second (and third and fourth) mention! I mean it when I say, I COULD NOT have made it this far without it. It enables me to multitask in a way that makes my life so much easier! In the morning, I pump while I pack lunches. At work, I pump while I answer emails. On my commute home, I pump and drive (super safely)! At home, I pump and hold my baby after a long day at work. At night, I pump and load the dishwasher and wash my bottles and pumping supplies. That’s over 3 hours a day that I wouldn’t have otherwise – priceless!
2. Multiple Sets of Pumping Supplies. Early on, I stocked up on four sets of pumping parts and it’s a game changer. I use my parts throughout the day, and wash them all at night. Washing every three hours is HARD. If you can, great! If not, pop them in the fridge and wash them all in the evening! (while you are pumping with your awesome pumping bra!)
3. Get a Roll-ey Cart. I know this sounds silly, but I have a pumping station on a wheeled cart that I roll ALL over our house. It carries my pump, my water, extra breast pads, my milk supplements, and anything else I need! I roll it around with me wherever I may need to pump at that time. At the kitchen sink, roll it over … playing in the living room, roll it there …wake up late, roll it in front of a mirror … need a moment away, roll it to a back bedroom! Get your pump on wheels!
4. Pumping and Playing. To me, the very worst part of being an exclusive pumping is when pumping takes my baby/mommy time. I hate being attached to tubes and a machine, when my baby wants my attention. My best compromise is to move my pumping station to the middle of the living room and sit on the floor, surrounded by toys and a squirmy baby. (All things are possible with a pumping bra!)
So, to you who are new or old to the exclusive pumping journey, good luck! You’re doing a great job! You can do it! When you can hardly keep your eyes open to pump, when your hands are red from washing bottles/parts, and when your baby uses your pump tubing as a teether … (my baby’s personal favorite pumping activity – see below.) Please know that you are a good Momma and you’re doing your very best!