Reluctantly, Exclusively Pumping

4.03.2014

From the time I found out I was pregnant, I looked forward to breastfeeding the new baby. Although it started out rocky with Emerson, when we were done at 14 months I felt like it was one of the coolest things I had ever done. During my pregnancy I never even considered the idea that breastfeeding just might not work out. I even took the time to make some adorable nursing covers because I just knew I would be nursing while we were out and about. Unfortunately, it hasn't gone quite the way I envisioned. I want to share our story not only because it has been such a huge part of our lives for the last 11 weeks but also so that maybe someone else going through something similar can find encouragement. So, here is our breastfeeding story as of now. I do hope that it may change but for now, it is what it is.

Right after A was born she latched right on. The following day she seemed to be having issues latching so the lactation consultant came to our room and tried to help. After several failed attempts she offered to bring me the pump. She taught me how to do finger feeding with a syringe. She said to do it for a few days and that Adelyn would most likely catch on. She also gave me a nipple shield to use when attempting to nurse. Luckily I had really good production right from the start. At this point I wasn't worried at all. It took Emerson a good two weeks to latch effectively and I figured it would be similar with Adelyn.

Once we were home I continued pumping and trying to feed Adelyn. After 3 days of finger feeding we decided to switch to the bottle. Using the syringe and the tube was just so time consuming. Sometimes she refused but most of the time our biggest issue was that she was just now swallowing the milk. She would nurse forever but she was just letting the milk pour out of the side of her mouth. We would both end up soaked and she would still be starving after a 45 minute nursing session. I became increasingly frustrated! I remember several times where Adelyn and I would both be crying by the time it was said and done.

After several weeks of this I decided I needed help from a lactation consultant. The hospital had a free support group but I really felt like one on one help would be more beneficial and I didn't feel like dragging Emerson and Adelyn back to the hospital. I found a private LC and she came to our house that very evening. She showed me a few different positions and gave me a different nipple shield to try. I was shocked when we were able to get Adelyn to latch and she transferred over 1.5 ounces. I really felt like we had turned a corner! That evening she also noticed what she felt like was an upper lip tie and posterior tongue tie. She recommended that I take Adelyn to a pediatric dentist to have it evaluated.

The next day I felt like we were back at square one. Although A would latch, she was not swallowing any milk like she had done before. I decided to set up an appointment with the dentist.

On February 13th (A was 4 weeks old) I took her for the consultation. The dentist confirmed that she had a Class IV Upper Lip Tie (the most severe) and a Class II posterior tongue tie. Both of these can interfere with breastfeeding and pose dental and speech problems down the road so we decided to have them removed. The dentist used a laser and the whole procedure was done in less than 10 minutes. I prayed that this would be the answer to our problems.  The next day Adelyn nursed with a nipple shield like a champ. I was more than elated.

Unfortunately that was pretty much the last time. From that point on she pretty much refused to nurse in any way.  I'm talking screaming, arching her back, and turning her head if I even put her in a nursing position. We did the stretches and sucking exercises that were recommended but she seemed to have developed an aversion and nothing helped. I took her back to the lc who recommended that we consider taking her to a chiropractor. Jesse was really skeptical about it but I decided it might be worth a try.

The whole chiropractor thing could be a post in itself so let me just keep it short and sweet. The chiropractor did a consult and said A had all of these issues that would require 48 visits over 6 months. Obviously our insurance does not cover this and $2,000 for newborn chiropractic care just wasn't an option. She did have two adjustments and it did seem to relax her but I saw no change in the breastfeeding issues. Overall I liked the chiropractor but I felt like it was pretty insane that a newborn would need 6 months worth of treatments. I've done quite a bit of research and many women say that chiro treatment helped but I just couldn't justify the expense. I also knew there was no way we would be able to go to the chiro three days a week. It was just crazy.

From that point on, I researched like crazy. I found every article I could about the reluctant breastfeeding and I tried it all. My lactation consultant told us to just keep trying and she might eventually get it. At first I tried at just about every feeding. Most of them ended in tears. I can't quite explain what it's like, but I will say a failed nursing session could bring my mood way down in a matter of minutes. Eventually I started trying just a few times a day. instead of every feeding We've had probably a total of 4 times since then that she actually latched but she has never had a full feeding.

During some of those early weeks my emotions were all over the place. I didn't want to give up hope but I also couldn't bear the thought of containing to pump around the clock. I was pumping 7 times a day and I literally felt like I was constantly hooked up to that dumb pump. I couldn't hold Adelyn when she was crying and I couldn't always help Emerson when she needed me. I also couldn't be away from the house more than a couple of hours.There were days where I literally dreaded my next pumping session and I couldn't imagine going on like that for another day. I also hated the middle of the night pumping sessions. I would feed and change A and then pump. What should have been a 20 minute process usually turned into more than an hour. It was wearing on my emotionally and physically but I decided to keep going. I set a goal for myself to continue pumping for at least three months.  

Somewhere along the way, things got easier. Pumping just became part of my routine. I figured out ways to make it a little bit more manageable and I was able to drop down to 6 pumps a day instead of 7. This week I'm experimenting with pumping just 5 times a day and I no longer pump in the middle of the night. I get up at 5 am every day for my first pump and then spread them out throughout the day. Most of the time I pump for 20-30 minutes which means I'm spending about two hours a day hooked up to that thing. It's not ideal but for now it's just part of life. I'm also blessed with a great supply and for that I am extremely thankful. We even had to buy a deep freeze to store all of the extra- I think I have around 1350 ounces in there now.
One of the hardest parts about pumping is that it is twice the work. It takes away the convenience of breastfeeding because everything takes twice as long. Washing bottles and pump parts is a never ending task and it's hard being tied down to one spot a total of two hours a day.

Some people may wonder why I continue to do this. It's definitely not convenient and it's not the easiest thing in the world but for me it just seems to be the only option right now. I am still holding out hope that Adelyn will eventually latch and until there is no hope for that I just can't quit. The whole process is kind of a one step forward, two steps back kind of thing. Some days she will show interest and even try to latch and then the very next feeding she will be right back to screaming if I even think about trying. Luckily I don't get upset about it anymore. I am in a much better place about it than I was just 3 or 4 weeks ago. I have come to accept our situation and have promised to make the best of it, even if it's not what I envisioned. If you would have asked me during my pregnancy or even after A was born if I would be an exclusive pumper the answer would have been NO! I would have never, ever pictured that this is where we would be at 11 weeks. But, like many others have said, the most important thing is that Adelyn is being fed and she is healthy and thriving. I really can't ask for more than that.

So, that's our story. Like I said before, I pray that I can eventually change the ending so that this is a breastfeeding story and not a pumping story. However if I can't, I know I will be okay with it. We have done everything possible and I have given it my all. What more can you do? 

shelleystursma said...

I'm sure I've posted before that I have been there. And you're right, in a way pumping exclusively becomes a part of your daily routine. It's not fun, but you are doing what you think is best for her, and she looks great!

Lauren said...

Kudos to you for sticking with it! I know how hard pumping can be. When I went back to work I started pumping about 5 times/day plus 2-3 feedings/day on top of that.

Make sure you cycle through the freezer stash! I had about 1800oz in there before I realized some were hitting the 6month mark.

If you keep pumping now, you might be able to stop early if she doesn't catch on to latching. I had enough in my freezer (and no supply left) at 9.5mo to quit pumping but he is still getting breastmilk exclusively.

Tiffany said...

I know it is hard, but it is so great that you are sticking with it! I can still remember the day re realized it just wasn't working and we had to switch to formula.

April said...

I know you must be so exhausted! You are amazing in my book! I would have given up weeks ago and stuck it out with bottle and formula...which by the way is perfectly fine. :) I applaud you for setting a goal and achieving it and Adelyn is thriving from the pictures you have posted.

Traci said...

My first, Hadley would not nurse and I can remember those exact emotions. The crying, the fighting, more crying it was so frustrating. So I pumped for 9 months and then with Gunner I pumped again for 12 months. He latched and nursed better but it still wasn't easy and I gave up too easily on him but I knew pumping worked for me.

Do you have extra parts? I think I had four sets of pump parts so I only had to wash once per day...I also would use the same parts for 2 pumping sessions. Since breastmilk can sit at room temperature for 6 hours I figured my pump parts could sit that long as well.

I also pumped while in the car all the time. It was the easiest time to do it since both kids were buckled up, it just made the most sense. Then whenever I got home I could do whatever I needed to do instead of going straight to pumping. They make a power cord you can plug into the lighter of your car and then I would just use my homemade sports bra with holes cut into it and covered myself with a scarf and off I went.

By the time I was done with Gunner I had so much in my freezer I ended up donatng it. I actually still have some in there but he wont drink it anymore.

Traci said...

Oh and to follow up on the precious freezer stash comment....they say milk in the deep freezer only lasts six months but that's not true. According to the company I donated to it does last longer. It never actually goes bad it just starts to lose some of its nutritional value. The milk I donated was over 10 months old and the gladly accepted it.

Jami said...

I know how you feel! Breastfeeding didnt work for us either so I decided to pump. I pumped until Paige was a year old. It is very time consuming but after a while, you get so used to it that it never bothered me anymore.

Tammy said...

I feel your pain girl...I pumped with Morgan for 6 months and it was torture. But I didn't really know what I was missing; I just got used to my routine and the predictability of it all. It must be especially disappointing for you since you already knew all about and loved BFing the first time. Hang in there, you are doing what is best for A and that's all you can do! You are such a good Mama!

Melissa @ i carry your heart said...

I know i've commented about this before, but Azalea would not nurse, so I started exclusively pumping at 2 weeks. Although my supply was SUPER low, so she got about 2/3 formula and 1/3 breastmilk. It is SO hard to be tied to that pump so much. But I totally get continuing on because you feel like it's the *one* thing you can control when it comes to feeding. I'm super jealous of your stash. I was only able to compile about 60 oz. before going back to work and now i'm only about a day ahead of the milk Ashford needs for daycare. Yikes!

Stephanie said...

Thanks for sharing your story. I was not able to breastfeed Chloe and didn't produce enough so we supplemented from day 1 and I gave up altogether when I went back to work after 12 weeks. I really commend you for being committed to doing it, it's certainly not easy. But WOW do you have a stash!!! That is amazing!

theacorsfamily said...

I will be lifting you both up in prayer! Praying that one day soon it will just "click" for Adelyn and she will start nursing. Kudos to you for being committed to pumping, that's double the work (not to mention the cleaning of bottles and pump parts!)

Allison said...

I'm so proud of you for sticking through! I don't know what it's like to exclusively pump, but I do know that it's no walk in the park even for just a couple times a day. You're absolutely right, you have and are continuing to do everything possible and that's all you can do. Adelyn is being fed and she's thriving and happy and oh so BEAUTIFUL. You're doing awesome. When I would pump I would store my parts in the fridge so I didn't have to wash them every single time, but every other. Maybe that will help save some time for you. xo

Paula Lynch said...

So proud of you for sticking it out. You can tell Adelyn is thriving on the breast milk. So glad that you have such a good supply. Prayers that she will be breast feeding soon.

Jacana28 said...

I exclusively pumped for 19 months for my preemie. It was one of the hardest things I ever did, but so worth it. You're right, it does eventually become part of your routine and you adjust. It does get easier after you start dropping pumps. Best of luck to you!
Julia

Catie said...

You are doing so great! I'm so proud of you- moms that breastfeed are so great in my eyes :) I had so much pain plus mastitis with my second child that I started exclusive pumping within a few weeks but I only did it for 3 months. I also only nursed/pumped my first child 4 months. I plan to finish with my current son at 3 months too. Any time that you give your child milk is a wonderful sacrifice that you give them and is such a gift. Keep up the amazing work :)

Amanda said...

You are an amazing mom!! I was the same boat as you when I had Mallory. I had to pump and I agree, it felt like twice the work but I knew it was what was best! You are doing great and I love seeing pics of your beautiful kiddos!

Mandy said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story so that other moms going through the same thing can find done encouragement and hope by reading your story. Breast feeding is definitely something that you won't know how it's going to go until you're in the moment. Pumping is that much more unpredictable, but you have handled it with such grace and Adelyn is thriving and is so lucky to have you for a mommy! I'm so proud if your determination and I'm still praying that she latches one day!! Love you girl!

Mateya said...

You are an absolute rockstar! Pumping is definitely a lot of work, but so worth it. Adelyn looks happy and healthy and that is the most important thing! Keep it up!!!!

-Lauren said...

Wow! What a strong mama you are. What an inspiration you are to all moms! xo

Carla Geddes said...

I have been in your shoes. I am 30 weeks pregnant with #3, and despite my desire to nurse my first two babies, it just did not go smoothly and I ended up pumping exclusively for about 6 months each. I hated pumping and all the work involved in keeping equipment clean etc... but it was worth it for my babies to get breastmilk.
I was also very fortunate to have a fantastic supply. By the time my babies were about 3 months old I was able to reduce to pumping only 3 times a day (Every 8hrs), and still get enough to feed them for 24hrs. That definitely made my life so much easier. Every 8hrs doesn't seem that bad compared to the early weeks when it's every 2-3hrs.
Good Luck. Just keep at it, and see how it goes. In the end, we all just do what works best for us and our babies :)

Megan said...

Wow. What hard work! I am so impressed by you sticking to it and being so strong and POSITIVE through it all. You are inspiring!

Have you ever heard of "The Girl In the Red Shoes" blog? She does a weekly "Breastfeeding Diaries" series, and you should really consider contributing your story to her series, if you feel comfortable. I'm sure others would love to hear your experience! http://www.girlintheredshoes.com/p/the-breastfeeding-diaries.html

Good luck- sending lots of good thoughts and prayers your way!

Amber said...

One of our good friends just had a baby is going through this same thing. It definitely must be hard but as long as your little girl is nice and healthy that is the important thing. Hope things get better for you :)

J and A said...

You are amazing. Good for you for keeping at pumping. I hate pumping so can't imagine doing it exclusively. You are a great mama!!

Beth Ann said...

I admire your attitude and resolve to make the best of it! It's great that you have such a plentiful supply - with all that you've built up and continue to pump, maybe you can continue to cut down on pumping sessions. I understand the feelings that go along with the whole unsuccessful breastfeeding experience because I went through similar screaming, both-end-up-crying experiences with H. Not sure if you remember, but nursing ended for us around 4 months. I didn't even attempt to pump because I knew it would make me miserable (just me, personally) plus I didn't have a very good supply (part of our whole problem.) Thankfully, I've had a redeeming experience with Brooks! Honestly, I'm glad to have both perspectives. A lot of people take breastfeeding for granted/think that everyone should be able to do it/if they don't, they must not be trying hard enough, etc. and that just is NOT the case. Keep pumping for as long as it works for you - as long as you are BOTH happy and healthy. :)

Erin said...

I found your post while surfing for info on going from EPing to BFing, and I wanted to offer you some possible hope.

My little girl (Adeline) was a 33 wk preemie with really bad reflux. She was super small and just couldn't latch until about her due date, but she her reflux got bad around then and so did her aversion to breast feeding because of it.

My LC and docs kept saying practice nursing daily, but she would just scream if I offered my breast... which like you said, is the absolute worst feeling in the world. Family and friends would ask constantly "how is BFing going? Have you tried today", they just didn't understand how emotionally hard it was to fail at this. I had to ask them to stop because I didn't need to be reminded constantly.

So we stopped practicing, I got into a pumping routine and life went on. Around 3-4 weeks ago her reflux greatly improved. A week ago at the age of 5.5 months I offered my breast with shield and she latched! The first few sessions weren't overly productive, she played, but there was no screaming. She gets impatient with switching breasts but is surprisingly fine with the pacing of nursing. A week later and we are exclusively nursing!! After 5.5 months attached to a pump we are nursing.

So just wanted to say, there might be hope for your little Adelyn down the road. But if not, its awesome that you stuck to it and are offering her what you can, it takes a lot to EP especially with two children to take care of!

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