Below is Rachel’s story about exclusively pumping for two of her children. You can read more exclusive pumping stories here. Thanks Rachel!
Before I got pregnant with my oldest daughter, I knew I wanted to nurse my children. My mom nursed both me and my sister and has always talked about how wonderful the experience was, and how much it bonded her to us. I also wanted to nurse for the health benefits for both my baby and me.
My oldest daughter, Kayleigh, was born on January 26, 2016. She just turned two! She was a super lazy nurser. She would sit on the breast for an hour or more, sleeping and sucking, back and forth. She also had issues latching at first. I saw many lactation consultants and eventually decided to use a nipple shield to help her for a while. I used this for about six weeks, then got fed up with it and weaned her off of it. I went to a local breastfeeding support group which turned out to be the biggest help of all. (I called this boob group.) The ladies there (mothers and consultants) were all amazing, and I wouldn’t have continued my breastfeeding journey without them.
I started pumping when I went back to work but wasn’t making enough to keep up with her feedings. I had already supplemented some formula with her, but was doing it more and more the older she got. Since she was STILL a slow nurser even at four months I decided to pump in the mornings and give her a bottle. Then I pumped at work. So really the only time she was nursing was in the evenings. At about five months I quit nursing all together and just pumped since I wasn’t enjoying the nursing experience with her. I already had a lot of extra pump parts, even an extra pump I kept at work. I hated pumping, and still do, but knew it was for the best for her. I pumped until she was about nine months old, then weaned myself off. I didn’t have hardly any milk in the freezer so she was switched to formula. About two weeks after I quit pumping for good, I found out I was pregnant, again! Big oops.
My second daughter, Julianne, was born on July 12, 2017. She seemed immediately hungry, rooting around and everything. The first two days she latched fine, but then I think she got frustrated because she wasn’t getting anything. She started pinching the crap out of my nipples, and she bruised both of them pretty badly.
I saw the lactation consultant multiple times in the hospital and she was somewhat helpful, but not a whole lot. I left the hospital feeling defeated because yet again nursing wasn’t going as I had “planned.” I made an appointment with another consultant just days after Julianne was born. She praised me for being proactive but also told me to just go home and relax and be with my baby. Easier said than done. I made the decision to give her formula until my milk came in. She finally took some from a bottle and never had to be put on the bilirubin light for jaundice (like Kayleigh had).
I went back to my breastfeeding support group immediately. Julianne was still pinching pretty badly even though my milk was in by now. Luckily, I knew this time I needed to pump a lot since I was giving bottles. This is something I wish someone had told me the first go around. My supply is exponentially better this time since I started pumping often early on.
We tried using the nipple shield to help with the pinching. It did help some, but it would take forever to nurse her after we got settled, and this time around I had a 17 month old I also had to deal with! The older daughter spent some time with grandparents and aunts during the first 3 weeks but after that we were on our own. (My husband works a swing shifts – two weeks on days and two weeks on nights. For two weeks at a time I am pretty much by myself.) I hadn’t been able to get Julianne to nurse well yet without a shield or really at all. I saved time by pumping and giving Julianne a bottle at the same time at first. That way I also knew I was pumping enough to cover when she would have been nursing. I still tandem pump and feed some too, but it’s not as often now since I’m not pumping as much. The first few weeks were just awful. So much pumping. The night time feedings/pumping sessions were by far the hardest.
With a very heavy heart I decided it might be easier to just pump for Julianne instead of trying to nurse her. There were lots and lots of tears. That’s not the decision I wanted to make. I still to this day wish I had just tried harder to nurse because I think we could have done it. But it was so, so hard at first with a toddler and a newborn and being a single mom for two weeks at a time.
I wanted to quit so many times, but it has gotten so much easier. Some days I had to take it one hour at a time. Other days I could think, yeah, we can do this for a few more months. We are still going strong at six months, and I have a massive freezer supply. My plan for now is to start weaning myself again at around nine or ten months and hopefully have enough milk in the freezer to last Julianne until she is a year! I pump five times a day for 130 minutes and don’t plan to change that until I start weaning.
My first piece of advice would be to get support – either online or in a group setting. Boob group was my key to keep going. They were so incredibly supportive and encouraging during both of my breastfeeding experiences, even as an exclusive pumper the second go around. Your newsletter has also been really supportive, especially the stories from other moms. [Thank you!] It helps me know I am not alone and hearing other tips and tricks is also really helpful!
When I pump at work I read, which makes the time fly by. I also invested in a car adapter. We don’t travel a ton but it has definitely come in handy to be able to pump in the car. And my last piece of advice would be to let the ladies dry out! I tend to get yeast/thrush issues if I don’t air dry really well. Sometimes I can’t, and that’s OK, but I definitely walk around at home without a shirt/bra on a lot (my husband doesn’t complain about this either)!