Exclusive pumping provides the worst of both breast and formula feeding. Like breastfeeding, it is hard work, the mother’s breasts are constantly ‘in demand’ and the weight of responsibility is squarely on mom’s shoulders; And like formula feeding, bottles still need to be steralized. Yet paradoxically, exclusive pumping also offers the best of both worlds – baby is getting mother’s milk, yet mother does not need to be on location.
One thing is certain, the extra time and commitment involved in exclusive pumping raises a host of unique issues. When her newborn had trouble latching, this mother turned to exclusive pumping. However, trouble was lurking around the corner. Was this a decision she would live to regret?
“It all started after a hard 42-hour induction for pre-eclampsia at 38 weeks. Our daughter and first born Zoë came into this world screaming and the nurses demanded that I put her to the breast immediately. Baby and I were both exhausted and we couldn’t get her to latch, so we decided to take a nap and start fresh. After a couple hours, we were awake and ready to go. The nurse came in to ‘help’, took one look at my small breasts, grabbed them, shoved my nipple into Zoë’s mouth, and proceeded to tell me how difficult it was going to be for me being small breasted. I started to wonder, “Can I really do this?”
After 24 hours, we moved over to the post-partum wing of the hospital. A nurse came in to tell me our daughter was severely jaundiced and needed to be under the bili-lights. She made sure to stress that I was not to take her from under the lights for more than 10 minutes at a time. I was devastated. It was taking at least 10 minutes to get our daughter to latch at this point. The nurse seemed indifferent to my distress. The next day another nurse came in to check on our progress, said we were doing great, and after 5 days in the hospital we were sent home.
The WIC were very supportive of my want to breastfeed by pumping and provided a hospital grade pump, but wouldn’t provide suggestions as to why I was in so much pain while breastfeeding. Everyone kept telling me, “get through the first 6 weeks and it gets easier”. Week 1, it’ll get easier. Week 2, it’ll get easier… and so on. We got to week 6, it was not getting easier. My nipples were cracked and bleeding. Every latch resulted in stabbing, toe curling, tear triggering pain. I resented every cry my new baby made. I didn’t want to hold her or be near her for fear that she would be hungry. I was engorged, swollen, and sore. I wanted to give up. I saw all the doctors available to me and cried about my experience; they said, “keep at it.” I wanted my baby to have breastmilk, but just couldn’t breastfeed any longer. I made the decision to start pumping.
Pumping was easy and painless, but time consuming. Every 2-3 hours, day and night. The routine was endless. Pump, fridge, reheat, feed, washing parts. I was exhausted and my supply was dwindling. Every single day was a struggle to provide what our big eater was needing between 35-45oz depending on the day. I bought some fenugreek and prayed it would help us and sure enough it did! My supply doubled and I was finally able to put some away in the freezer for a rainy day.
We then battled clogged ducts and 2 cases of mastitis, but carried on. I wanted my daughter have every ounce of liquid gold I could provide. The mastitis was horrible! The first time I did not even know I had it until it was too late. I felt like I had the flu with the chills, shivers, headache, and fever. Along with that I had a strong, throbbing, and stabbing pain in one of my breasts. I couldn’t just rest and sleep like an ordinary sick person, but had to pump frequently; the very thing that was causing me the most agonizing pain. I stayed in bed for days only sitting up to pump or care for baby.
Drop in supply
We made it to 7 months and the fenugreek stopped working. I tried power pumping, increasing my fluid intake, upping the frequency and length of my pumps per day, oatmeal, you name it. To make matters worse, the WIC emailed me saying that they needed me to return the pump. I thought that this was the end and was beside myself. I decided to give latching once last try. It worked! Zoë’s latch was pure perfection. She ate greedily at my breasts and coo’ed noises of delight. I thought this was a fluke but she latched again to her tummy’s content, and again, and again… I was able to stop pumping that day and we never turned back.
I feel defeated when a mother decides not to breastfeed without having tried. Breastfeeding has provided me with this bond that I could never explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it. My daughter still enjoys being near my breasts and even still makes the suckle face as she falls asleep. I’m a very strong advocate that any new mom should just try. I feel the idea that breastfeeding provides comfort and joy for both baby and mother has been lost. You can talk to someone all day about the benefits of breastfeeding, but it comes down to them.”
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