Today I am continuing on my guest posts related to infant feeding. This post today comes from Elizabeth (LutherLiz) and she is a mommy to a very handsome boy (Baby Goat) who is now 15 months. I put out a tweet looking for a mom who was able to exclusively pump for their baby and she so amazingly agreed to share her story. So, without further adieu – here is LutherLiz’s story in her own words:
I didn’t plan on pumping exclusively when my son, baby goat, was born. In fact I wasn’t even aware that it was a realistic option. I knew that breast-feeding moms pumped to make their lives simpler at times, particularly if they were working moms, so I put a pump on my baby registry and didn’t think too much of it.
Or rather, I didn’t have time to think too much of it because a week before my first baby shower I found myself heading to the hospital. A routine check had found my blood pressure had skyrocketed (176/110) and there was little question that our plans had to change. I was 32 weeks pregnant.
As it turned out pre-eclampsia had already taken route and despite bed rest in the hospital and lots of blood pressure drugs I delivered my son at 33 weeks by C-section. There was no thought given to whether labor should be induced, or whether it could be held off longer. I made it a week which gave the Dr’s just enough time to get some steroids for my son’s lungs and prepare us a bit for what to expect with a premature baby, but it was safest for me and baby goat to delivery immediately.
When you have dreams of a real labor, a full term baby, and a moment of initial bonding with your child on your breast the reality of an early C-section hits hard. Regardless of what people told me I was aware that my body had failed my son and that guilt is huge. When you are so sick and drugged that you have little to no memory of seeing your son the first time and you don’t hold your son until over 24 hours after delivery it is painfully clear that this not the way it is supposed to be.
Because he was 7 weeks early he didn’t have a developed suck reflex yet so a tube was necessary to feed him. And so the day after his delivery, after I was taken off the more serious drugs, a nurse wheeled an industrial pump into my room, gave me a set of sterile pumping supplies and left. It was hardly the breast-feeding moment that people dream about.
And so I pumped. With the help of the instructions, my mom and a nurse I figured out the basics and sat there crying as I pumped for the first time. I got 12ml and I cried some more. It was such a tiny amount. I was certain I was doing it all wrong and that my body was going to fail my son yet again…until my husband took that small precious vile down to the NICU.
It turned out that it was a HUGE amount. They were in awe I am told, and baby goat received his very first feeding and it was breast milk and not formula. (He’d had an IV before that). It was a victory for us.
During my recovery and upon going home I pumped religiously every 3 hours. That first pumping was not a fluke and whatever issues my body had with blood pressure didn’t translate over to milk supply. I was a pumping rock star. Before long I’d filled our space in the NICU’s fridge and freezer, and then our freezer, and the my IL’s freezer too.
But I was worried. I had to be coaxed into taking a 6 hour stretch in the night so I could recover myself. I worried about the supply, about being able to breast-feed when the time came. It was one thing to feed baby goat breast milk through a tube but I couldn’t do that the whole time, could I?
When we got to try breast-feeding in the NICU I was thrilled. I didn’t know what I was doing any more than that first moment with the pump, but my mom was there and my MIL wasn’t far away. I was lucky that they were both breast-feeding mom’s when it wasn’t even considered the way to go.
In the NICU breast-feeding is very scientific. They need to know how much milk the baby gets so they can provide the right amount of calories. When they tube fed they boosted my milk’s calorie with a bit of high calorie formula so it was important to know just how much he’d gotten.
To do this they weighted him before and immediately after breast-feeding. The difference was the total ml of milk he received. And so we’d try every time I was there for a feeding (He was fed every 3 hrs.)
3 ml, 0 ml, 5 ml, 2 ml, 0 ml, 9 ml
At this point he was being tube fed 20-25 ml each feeding and it was clear he wasn’t getting enough from me. It didn’t make sense as I had more than enough milk to overflow every freezer in the tri-state area, but we weren’t clicking breast-feeding.
We saw lactation consultants who berated me and made me feel like I wasn’t trying enough (?!). We tried different holds and latching techniques. And there was virtually no change. We’d try for 30 minutes or longer as he got increasingly hungry and fussy.
1 ml, 4 ml, 10 ml, 3 ml
We tried pumping a little first to get a let down started. We tried starting him with a bottle to get him going and then switching to me. The milk was there but he wasn’t getting it. I think we hit 20 ml twice in all our attempts over many weeks.
We tried this for almost a month as he grew and thrived in all other respects in the NICU.
Then I had to back to work.
My sick days had been used up and I was saving my maternity leave so I could be home with him when he came home from the NICU. All of a sudden our attempts dropped to a few times a day. I’d go in the morning, or over lunch or squeeze in a few in the evening, but otherwise he’d take a bottle. He took the bottle so easily, he could chug it right down, but when you put him on the breast he couldn’t make it work.
Finally, the week before he left the NICU we looked to a Physical therapist who was able to diagnose what was going on. Being early, baby goat had developed a suck that worked for him but was untraditional. It was a vertical “chewing” method rather than a horizontal “drawing” method which meant he closed off my breast milk when nursing but was able to still have success on the bottle.
We were give exercises to try to improve things and we tried and kept trying to breast-feed with little success. And so when baby goat finally came home 46 days into his young life we were behind. He bottle-fed like a champ but nursing was a source of frustration for both of us.
A week into him being home it occurred to me that I didn’t need to stress about it so much. He WAS getting breast milk and when I went back to work (I was now on my real leave) he’d have bottles of breast milk a lot as Dad was staying home with him until he was big and strong enough to start daycare.
I wanted to breast-feed and I spent much of his first weeks of life I was concerned because I wasn’t. Except that I was. And I did. Gradually, we stopped our breast-feeding attempts. I pumped 6-8 times a day or so and we fed by the bottle. My son has an amazing bond with both me and his dad because we both fed him routinely.
I pumped at work, at home, in the car, in bedrooms in other people’s homes. I routinely had to excuse myself from rooms to go pump in private. I inadvertently flashed a few people. I had times where every pump was a struggle and other times where it was easy and even relaxing. I pumped everyday for 13 months until baby goat was fully adapted to cow’s milk. Even a minimum estimate says I probably pumped approx 2500 times and who knows how many gallons that adds up to.
I still deal with guilt sometimes. I want to point out my circumstances to breast-feeding moms, to educate working mom’s that exclusively pumping can be done, to make people aware that this is a real option for feeding your child. I do believe that breast milk is not only the best food for a child but the most cost effective too, but if breast-feeding really doesn’t work it doesn’t mean that formula is the only answer.
My case in point…baby goat at birth, 4 lbs 7 oz.
baby goat at 15 months, 29 lbs 4 oz.
I think we did just fine.
I want to extend a HUGE thank you to Elizabeth for sharing your positive story on exclusive breastfeeding! Amazing – that is all I can say!
::What is your experience with pumping? Did you do it at all? Occasionally? Would love to hear your thoughts!::