|The hospital grade Medela pump I'm using|
I will be writing many a blog post about exclusive pumping. This first one, I thought I'd just talk about how I slipped into being an EPer (EP=Exclusive Pumping) with my first and briefly touch upon EPing with my second daughter. I touched upon exclusive pumping in my first blog post, and some of this will seem repetitive but it's a bit more detailed about my EPing journey!
My first daughter was born at 34 weeks due to severe preeclampsia. I tried really hard to breastfeed her but every time I'd bring her to my breast, she'd fall asleep. The few times she kind of latched on (and it was never a proper latch), she would doze off before she could start suckling and never got even close to causing a let down. The lactation consultant (LC) at the hospital where I gave birth was pretty useless and didn't help AT ALL. Luckily, when my daughter was in the NICU, the nurses brought me a breast pump and had me start pumping immediately. If they hadn't, I honestly don't think it would have ever occurred to me to pump full time and I'm guessing I would have taken the formula route. I continued for several weeks to try and get Olivia to breastfeed but each time, we would fail and I would end up a sobbing, pumping mess while my husband bottle fed her. After several weeks, I gave up and just decided I would pump. I had NO idea what I was doing or how often I should pump. I called a lactation consultant and she said to pump every 3-4 hours. I pumped every 3-4 hours and for a while, I woke up at night but the LC told me I didn't need to do that because my sleep was just as important. NOTE: Yes, sleep is EXTREMELY important while your breastfeeding but if you go 7-8 hours without pumping, it drastically decreases your milk supply!! I also wasn't using the right size breast shield (which is the part that actually touches your breasts) so my pumping wasn't as effective as it should have been.
I tried to find support and help but I didn't know the term "exclusive pumper". I felt like I was the only person in the world who pumped their milk for their baby. I also had no idea that you could actually do this successfully because the advice I had received from the LC was incorrect and my supply was decreasing drastically. I started looking into what I could do to increase my supply. I tried the typical things, drank tons of water, ate oatmeal everyday, Fenugreek, and Mothers Milk tea. The Fenugreek and Mothers Milk Tea did actually work a little bit. I believe it increased my supply by about .5 ounce each pumping, sometimes as much as an ounce. Olivia was eating way more then I was producing though and it was getting to the point where she was getting more then half her feedings in formula. I found some information about marathon pumping sessions and I tried this a few times, but that didn't help me very much because by the time I tried, my milk supply was so low it just didn't make a difference. By the time Olivia was 5.5 months old, she was getting one bottle of breastmilk a day and the rest was formula. I was beside myself and knew that it wouldn't be long before I wouldn't be able to give her any breastmilk at all. Luckily, I was able to get her to latch on and successfully breastfed her until 16 months, but that's a story for another day!
My second daughter, Ella, was born at 29 weeks gestation and with her, I started pumping within hours of her birth. I know so much more now then I did with Olivia and my supply is out of this world. I'm hoping that this continues, and I'm working hard to ensure that my supply stays up until she's strong enough to start breastfeeding which probably won't be for several more weeks. The LC program at this hospital far, far surpasses the one at my original hospital and they are used to dealing with moms with preemies so I have high hopes that we'll be able to successfully breast feed! I'll talk more about why I'm so much more successful with EPing in my next EPing post.