My name is Jamie, mom to two beautiful girls, Lydia and Eliana. Lydia is my first born and came into this world on September 12, 2008 weighing just 6 lbs 13 oz. Prior to giving birth, I had decided that I was going to breastfeed and pump so that my husband could feed her. No one in my family had every nursed, so this was a totally foreign concept to me, although very important. When Lydia was born, I made sure to get her latched on as quickly as possible, and as far as I knew, things were going well. She seemed to be doing great, and I was so much in love with her that I ignored the pain. I worked with the lactation consultant at the hospital while we were there, but could never really get her latch just right. By the time we came home, just two days later, I was bleeding and in so much pain that I was crying through each and every feeding. For anyone that knows me, you would know that I don’t cry. I’ve actually been told I’m a robot because it takes A LOT for me to cry. I knew something was wrong and didn’t know where to go for help. We had a home nurse come visit us and she was able to help get her latched on properly, but by the time she left we were back to square one. At the same time, Lydia continued to lose weight and it was starting to get me worried. I continued to nurse her and fought through the pain, but after 10 days I knew that something needed to be done. I had been holding out on pumping because I wanted to wait 3 weeks before introducing a bottle.
I called the hospital and scheduled an appointment with the lactation consultant. We went in that day, and she tried to help as much as she could, but when she tested Lydia’s suck on her finger she confirmed my suspicions that Lydia was biting me with EVERY. SINGLE. SUCK. Ouch! She basically told me that some babies are biters and I could deal with it, pump exclusively or give her formula. She even patted herself on the back and said that one of her kids was a biter and she just suffered through it for an entire year. No thanks, crying at every single feeding for a year?! That didn’t sound healthy for anyone. I decided right then and there that I was going to go home and pump and feed her that way.
When we got home we hooked up the pump and Lydia took the bottle right away. I felt and immediate relief knowing exactly how much she was getting at each feeding, and knowing that her weight would start to go up since she was indeed getting enough milk each day. I Googled “exclusively pumping” and found a slew of resources and was relieved to know that I wasn’t alone in making this decision. The best website for me was a message board on ivillage. Although I never posted there, I found myself there daily getting tips on how to succeed. I learned that the first 12 weeks are the most important, as this is when your body is building up the supply. It’s crucial to pump every 2-3 hours around the clock to mimic the feedings of a newborn. Pumping 8 times a day wasn’t easy. There were times where I would pump for 20 minutes, clean all the parts, get a bottle ready, feed Lydia and then find myself starting the whole process all over again. The hardest time to pump was in the middle of the night, which coincidently, is also the most important since that is when your body produces the most milk. The message boards told me not to drop the middle of the night pump until at least 12 weeks. But I was lazy, and I found myself dropping it very early. Luckily for me, I was able to
very quickly build up a very large supply. I was making more than Lydia could eat each day and built up a good freezer supply. I was happy, my husband was happy and most importantly – Lydia was happy and healthy. Mommy wasn’t crying and making her anxious with each feeding.
Perhaps the best thing I learned the message boards was that I didn’t need to wash and sterilize my pump parts with each feeing – that was taking up a lot of my time! I just had to rinse them after each use and put them in the fridge throughout the day. I tried to micro-steam sterilize the parts each night before bed as well. I continued to pump and feed Lydia throughout the course of the first year of her life. Because I didn’t know any better, I pumped 5-6 times a day for the entire year. Honestly, once I got used to it, it really wasn’t that big of a deal or hassle. We even went on a road trip when she was 9-months old, and I pumped throughout the trip and kept the milk in a cooler on ice. When she was 11.5 months old I gradually started mixing whole milk in with her breast milk bottles and after about 2 weeks she was weaned completely from breast milk. For those two weeks, I was dropping a pumping session every couple days until I was finally able to stop pumping completely without any engorgement or pain.
Three days after I quit pumping, I found out I was pregnant with baby #2. So much for a break! J Throughout this pregnancy people would ask me if I was going to pump again or if I was going to breastfeed. I knew that I wanted to try and nurse, but given my success with pumping, I was open to the possibility of pumping as well. One important thing to note is that I work part time as the Sales and Marketing Manager for a local catering company. This job requires nights and weekends, and I was back to work meeting with clients about 3 weeks after Lydia was born. One way or the other, I would be pumping and bottle feeding at least part of the time as #2 was due in the middle of our busiest time of the year!
Fast forward to May 26, 2010 when my daughter Eliana Clara was born weighing a whopping 8 lbs 9 oz. She latched on like a pro at the hospital and I thought for sure it was going to be smooth sailing from there on out. Not so much. Just like her big sister, Eliana had lost enough weight in the hospital to put her right on the edge of having to supplement with formula. Because of this, the pediatrician wanted us to take her in to our clinic over the weekend for a weight check. We went in on Saturday morning and found out that Eliana had continued to lose weight. I know this is common for breastfed babies, but it’s still not very comforting for a new mommy. While we were there, I mentioned to the doctor that I had noticed a white spot on the pupil of Eliana’s eye. The doctor took a good look at it, and basically told me that it was definitely not supposed to be like that, she didn’t know what it was, and that I needed to see an ophthalmologist right away. This was Saturday morning of Memorial Day weekend and everything was closed until Tuesday. I was a nervous wreck from the vague response the doctor gave me and Eliana was fussy and hungry so I decided to nurse her while the doctor went to get the contact information for the ophthalmologist. I didn’t have my Boppy with me and I wasn’t very skilled at nursing, but I knew it needed to be done. The second she latched on, the familiar pain from my experience with Lydia came back with a vengeance and when I looked down I saw blood. NOT AGAIN. I was an emotional wreck about her
eye and her weight, and right then and there my husband and I agreed that we were going to break out the pump as soon as we got home since my milk had already come in.
The second we got home, I pumped 2 oz. and Eliana gulped it down immediately. My friend, Medela, and I were reunited once again. I worked really hard to build up my supply at the beginning by pumping 8 times a day, including overnight. Within a week I was pumping over 50 oz a day! This was obviously too much for my small little baby, but I was able to build up a nice freezer supply for future needs. Could I have tried harder to get her to latch on properly? Probably. Do I regret not trying harder? Not at all. I was actually relieved to start pumping again because I knew it was something that I could control when there were so many other variables with Eli’s sight that I couldn’t control. I gave myself a quick refresher on pumping by reading up on the ivillage message board, but ultimately went with my gut instinct and time available to pump. Chasing a hyper not quite two year old around is hard enough, pair that with pumping around the clock and a new baby and that makes for a very busy mommy! I started dropping pumps pretty rapidly, and stabilized a 5 pumps a day for a quite a while. Today, Eliana is almost 6 months old and I pump an average of 30 oz. each day and I only pump 3 times a day. I usually pump in the morning, sometime in the afternoon (between 2:00-4:00) and right before bed. Eli is a really big eater, and there are days when I have to dip into my freezer supply, but as of right now I’ve still got 30 oz. in my fridge at any given time. For those readers wondering about her eye, she was diagnosed with a pupillary membrane on her left eye. Basically it’s a cloudy membrane that restricts her vision unless her eye is dilated. Long story short, we have to dilate her eye twice a day with drops, patch her “good” eye for two hours a day to strengthen the other eye, and she wears glasses whenever she’s awake. With all of this treatment, we’re hoping to salvage as much of her sight as possible. Regardless of the outcome, she still has one eye that works great and she’ll be able to lead an otherwise normal life (i.e. she’ll be able to drive a car).
Pumping has worked great for us, I can leave the girls when I have to go to work, and it’s really come in handy at the multitude of doctor’s appointments that we’ve had for Eliana’s eye. I’ve found that the doctor is able to get the best views of her eye while I’m feeding her a bottle. It’s also especially handy because I only have to do it 3 times a day, which leaves me the rest of the day to chase Lydia around. J I intend to continue pumping until she reaches a year, just like her sister. I have come to terms with the fact that my supply might diminish because I pump so infrequently. But I am a firm believer that everyone has to do what works for their family and what they feel is in the best interest of their child. Pumping has been such a wonderful experience for me. Do I enjoy being hooked up to a machine? Not really, but I find it to be pretty relaxing. I CAN’T do anything else other than watch TV or play on my phone, so it’s a nice break from the rest of my crazy days. Most importantly, both of my girls are happy and healthy and God has blessed me with a good enough supply to feed them exclusively with breastmilk for the first year of their lives.