Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Giving Myself Some Grace: Exclusively Pumping {My Story...}

Please excuse any errors in this post...it's long and I'm 20 cups of coffee short of functioning.

Throughout my pregnancy I had my eye on the prize! I was going to be breastfeeding.

(Let me just say this before I continue. I understand that every parent is different and I truly believe that breast milk, formula, or both is an individual decision. I am no one to judge anyone. It's not like they ask you if you were breast fed or formula fed on your college application...)


 I was so sure that I was going to be breastfeeding that I purchased many of my supplies ahead of time. I wanted to feel that bond with my daughter. The idea that I would be feeding her the best possible nutrients I could made me feel like super mom.

So there we were. I was admitted to the hospital on Friday at 7 AM to be induced. My husband and I were so excited to finally meet our baby girl. At around 4:30 PM she was born. As per my birth plan, I wanted to have skin to skin and breastfeed as soon as she was ready. They put her on my bare chest and already I was so in love! She started making her rooting face and was searching me out. "Perfect!" I thought to myself, we can establish a good latch right here and now.

Well...if only I knew what was coming.

Everything happened so fast. We positioned her in the cross cradle hold and tried to have her latch. Immediately I had this sinking feeling. She didn't latch at all. And what was worse she got frustrated at the breast extremely quickly. Before I knew it, the nurse that was "trying" to help me got a nipple shield. We put it on and she started to suck.
Excruciating Pain!!! That is the only way to described it. I was shocked at how horrible I felt. After about 20 minutes on the nipple shield I looked down to see my nipple cracked, bleeding, and black and blue. I was devastated, however I kept on. Every two hours we tried with the nipple shield. About every other feeding we tried to get her to latch right on to me and it was the same thing. She wouldn't latch and then scream after a minute or two.

The next day, both my nipples were shredded to nothing and the nurses could only offer me lanolin and ibuprofen. The lactation consultant does not work weekends at my hospital and I delivered on a Friday at 4 PM and went home Sunday at the same time.The nurses tried to offer me some support and help, but everyone had a different opinion about what I should try. I think I cried to every nurse concerened that I wouldn't be able to feed my baby.

Then more bad news...

After one of her check ups in the NICU the pediatrician came to our room and said she had lost 6% of her weight in two days. They said they don't like to see more than 10% weight loss in the first week and she has lost 6 % in only two days. They suggested I supplement her with a formula feeding.
"Absolutely not!" I thought to myself. This wasn't how I had it planned. I wanted her to have my breast milk and ONLY my breast milk. The next few hours were so emotionally draining. I cried for hours trying to get her to latch and trying to see if she was getting enough out of the nipple shield. She would scream at the breast and act hungry after hours on the nipple shield.
Finally, a nurse came in with a supplement and sort of "shoved it in my face". (Let's be clear, the nurses were great but I believe they are VERY quick to give formula) She basically made me feel like I was starving my child and I finally caved in. The nurse feed her a supplement feeding while I cried the entire time.
Upon discharge, it was recommended that I offer a supplement every 12-24 hours in place of a feeding until my milk came in. Luckily, I didn't have to wait long for my milk to come in, but then entered an entire new set of problems.

My daughter still was not latching directly to me. It was a frustrating experience for both of us and after about 10 minutes each feed of trying to get her to latch we would end up using the nipple shield. However, once again the pain from the nipple shield was unlike anything I have ever experienced.  I pushed through for several days working with the nipple shield. Little did I know, because I wasn't told, but the nipple shield dampers milk supply and production. I didn't know this so I wasn't pumping afterward. This is a no no.  I also had been in contact with several lactation consultants trying to work on my latch. I had sore, cracked and bleeding nipples each time we nursed and then it hit me. Mastitis. A week into nursing with the shield I developed horrible chills and a fever of 102 for 3 days. I made an attempt at urgent care where they gave me an antibiotic. I took that for two days and nursed through the pain, however on the second day I had a change of heart about taking the antibiotic. I was worried about my supply. She would nurse forever and still be hungry. She obviously wasn't emptying my breasts with the nipple shield. That, and the opportunity for thrush, made me stop the meds and I went to try to get rid of the mastitis on my own. I took ibuprofen and used warm compress every time I nursed. I also started to pump more. I wanted her to have breast milk. I wanted to feed her. Plus I was able to empty my breasts better and my nipples were healing a bit. Every time I used the nipple shield she wouldn't get what she needed, my nipples would re-crack and bleed, and my breasts wouldn't empty.

I started to lose faith in the nipple shield. After another appointment with my lactation consultant she still wouldn't latch on to me. I would slip out of her mouth and she would scream. An endless cycle. Ultimately, the lactation consultant didn't seem very positive and ended up suggesting I just use the nipple shield--she mentioned I can use it up to 9 months or so. To me right there made me feel like even she thought my daughter wouldn't latch. I tried to explain how I thought the nipple shield was causing more problems than helping, but I didn't seem to get through.

That night I sat down with my husband and discussed our options. I cried and cried because I felt like a failure. I told my husband my desire to pump my breast milk for her if I couldn't nurse. This is where it started. The pumping. Every two hours like clock work to mimic her feeding schedule. I started researching exclusively pumping and realized this was going to be super demanding because it's like double duty. I have to pump then also feed her. However, I am determined to make this work.

I must say the emotions have been up and down over this. I cry and feel guilty, but then some days I offer myself a little bit of grace by telling myself I'm doing the best I can. I'm at least giving her breast milk which is the most important thing to me. And! I AM FEEDING HER!

It's always interesting when people ask me if I'm breast feeding. They see me giving her a bottle and maybe assume I'm formula feeding (BTW I'm not knocking formula, trust me I KNOW how hard this is and parents need to do what works for them!). She is getting my breast milk. I'm learning to give myself some slack and I'm going to try to exclusively pump for as long as I can in order to give her the best possible.

I've been reading several other blog posts from mommas who have exclusively pumped for their baby. There are PROs and CONS. The PROS means that my daughter can have my breast milk and the benefits that come with that, but I do find there are more CONS. I am constantly tied to a machine and I can't leave the house without planning to be back in, AT THE MOST, 3-4 hours. On top of that I think I have spent more money on Amazon ordering replacement pump parts, extra parts, and other items to make my machine time  much more bearable. There are many more issues here, but I really don't want to complain. I think the best post I came across was from this blogger who said "Remembering that if push comes to shove, I am more important to my baby than my milk".

Side Note: We still continue to work on her latch and we are making some progress every now and then. That I'm still working on too :)

Additional blog posts I found encouraging:
http://www.healthytippingpoint.com/2013/02/mind-and-body-after-baby-8-months.html
http://thehumbledhomemaker.com/2013/08/finding-support-for-exclusive-pumping.html
http://beingmrsriley.blogspot.com/2013/08/postpartum-exclusively-pumping.html

15 comments:

  1. I love following your blog! You are preparing me for the future!

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  2. You are doing what's best for you and your baby and that is all that matters! I don't have a baby yet but have always considered exclusively pumping as an option for when the time comes. Thank you for sharing your story!

    - Melanie
    www.athistage.blogspot.com

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  3. I cried reading your post! As a FTM who gave birth on Feb 5th reading your story was like reliving my own experience. My son also won't latch without a shield, lost 11% of his birth weight in 3 days and I too was "shoved" into supplementing with formula. I spent those first few days balling about my failure to not only have him latch to me but also to have to supplement. While we are now feeding with the sheild, pumping and supplementing, I keep telling myself that he is still getting my milk and that he is happy and full. I knew breast feeding would be tough but had no idea how much of a struggle it would be! If you ever want to chat feel free to email me at jessmoseley@yahoo.com

    Congrats on your little one! And hopefully both of our feeding journeys have the worst behind us.
    -Jessica

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  5. I'm so proud of you for taking care of K. You're such a great mommy! And you're EXACTLY the mommy that God wanted her to have. Love you!

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  6. Great post honey! As we have talked on phone, like "your mom" told you...."your love is more important to her then whether you breastfeed or formula feed." You are a fantastic mommy! Stop being so hard on yourself....like what God's wisdom told you...."give yourself some grace". That's God speaking to you! <3

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  7. Wow - reading your post was like reading a page from my journal!! My bean is now 12 weeks and we are still having latching issues. He latching occasionally now (we're still working on it) but I'm pumping and giving him what I can and topping him up with formula when we need to. Bean also lost too much weight in his first week (we were in NICU for 13 days so this was closely monitored) and ended up with jaundice.
    I have had to learn to "let myself off the hook" where my plan for breastfeeding is concerned. Since we started supplementing his feed, he has been putting on weight and is now developing those beautiful baby rolls.
    As Moms we do what we have to do! Thank you so much for sharing your story and letting the rest of us know it's not just me.
    x

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  8. This is almost identical to my situation when my son was born last October. I went through many of the same problems. My baby was born almost 9 lbs so he was very demanding from the beginning. He lost weight in the first week and my pediatrician could tell that we were struggling. She suggested supplementing and I was really down on myself, but at the same time wanted my son to be well fed. I felt like the worst parent ever. After we started supplementing, I felt better... I was finally able to get more rest and actually enjoy my time with him instead of always feeling behind on pumping. We ended using formula exclusively and it definitely saved our sanity. It didn't turn out the way I wanted, but sometimes life has different plans. Hang in there! :)

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  9. I bought a breast pump when I was pregnant because I worked outside of the home. I only did every 3 hours. I was determined to do it for a year, and it was exhausting. I, however don't regret. Our problem was also latching because my milk supply was beyond plentiful. We had so much that my husband had to buy a small deep freezer for us to store it. Just remember that you don't need to breastfeed to bond with your baby. Nutrition is what's important. Besides, once she starts table food, you won't need to do it as much. Or, you can just do it for a few months if it gets to be too much.

    Finally, give yourself a break. Breastfeeding isn't easy. Ease up on yourself. Whatever you decide will be what's best for you and your family. You're going to do great. Enjoy her.

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  10. Congrats on your baby K! You will always be the best mom for your child never forget that. I experienced the same thing as you are now, when my son was born in May. We used nipple shield and have to give him supplement as well as I was pumping. It turned out he had tongue tie, and after we had that sorted (In my country they cut it) he started to latch and we have been breastfeeding since "like normal".

    Even if things aren't going as you planed right now, your plans can change and your original plan may work later on. Every mother and baby's situation is unique and you do whats best for the two of you! Giving your baby love can be done in many ways!

    http://milkmatters.org.uk/2011/04/15/hidden-cause-of-feeding-problems-however-you-feed-your-baby/

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  11. I love your YouTube videos. Do you plan on making more videos in the future?

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  12. You must take care of yourself first. Your baby is in good hands

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  13. My daughter is 4 weeks old and lost 11% of her weight in the hospital. She was slow to gain because of poor latch (tongue tie) and only just got back up to birth weight at 4 weeks. The doctors tried to push formula on me, but I was able to pump extra for her and then at least she was gaining some. I've been mostly pumping due to the pain even after getting tongue tie released. We still try to latch sometimes, but it's so frustrating for both of us that I have come to exclusive pumping as a desperate attempt at sanity for me and health for her. I have been shocked at how unknown EPing is and how people don't really understand or know how to support it. It is hard. Very hard. But so is having a crying baby while you cry because you can't meet her needs adequately. Thanks for sharing your story. It's something that needs to be talked about more!

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  14. My daughter is 4 weeks old and lost 11% of her weight in the hospital. She was slow to gain because of poor latch (tongue tie) and only just got back up to birth weight at 4 weeks. The doctors tried to push formula on me, but I was able to pump extra for her and then at least she was gaining some. I've been mostly pumping due to the pain even after getting tongue tie released. We still try to latch sometimes, but it's so frustrating for both of us that I have come to exclusive pumping as a desperate attempt at sanity for me and health for her. I have been shocked at how unknown EPing is and how people don't really understand or know how to support it. It is hard. Very hard. But so is having a crying baby while you cry because you can't meet her needs adequately. Thanks for sharing your story. It's something that needs to be talked about more!

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