My Pumping Journey…
Breastfeeding didn’t work for us for a variety of reasons. M was 10 days early, jaundiced, tongue tied, delivered with ventouse so very sleepy. I had a blood transfusion so had low iron, was very tired, and was struggling to cope mentally.
After cup and syringe feeding, a tongue tie snip, biological nurturing, nipple shields, skin to skin, a supplementer…M was loosing weight. So it was ‘give her a bottle’ or have another stint in hospital. After 6 weeks of trying, I finally called it a day and decided that M would get breast milk by any means. So my pumping journey began!
I could pump 2oz between every feed to begin with, with a Medela Swing, so I was prescribed Domperidone and started taking Fenugreek. I pumped at least once between each feed, and at least once during the night. Milk supply is highest between 1 and 4am.
It took 4 months to get rid of the formula, but my supply slowly increased. I struggled to keep up with M at first, who was drinking 7oz 4 or 5 times a day. But it kept gradually creeping up. Her formula feeds became less and less. I had to throw a half used box of formula away, it had been open so long. I bought ready made cartons, just in case I couldn’t pump enough. Pumping during the night meant I could keep up, as I pumped about twice as much milk during that time. It was time consuming, taking half an hour to pump 4 or 5 oz. But my double pump arrived and cut the time in half! Well worth the £200. I had a lot of support from my Mum during the day, so that I was able to pump without having to stop half way through to see to M.
My fridge was full of milk. It got to the stage where I was pumping milk to be used in 3 days time, so I started freezing some. I never thought I’d get there. My supply increased so slowly that I barely noticed it happening. I’d begun to give up on being able to just feed M breast milk. And suddenly, there we were. She hadn’t had formula in weeks.
I started working again part time, so I dropped to 4 pumps a day. In the morning, at 3pm, at bed time and in the early hours. It still meant that I could keep up with demand, with the occasional bag to freeze. M started dropping feeds, so I reduced pumps again, dropping the early hours session. I was concerned this would effect my supply, but with the other sessions and the Domperidone, I kept it going. On the rare occasion M slept through the night, I got a full nights sleep! No trip to the fridge on the cold kitchen floor and 3am chocolate digestives!
M continued to need less milk, so I dropped the 3pm pump. 2 pumps a day was working for us, I was still producing enough milk for her. I’m now down to one pump a day, in the morning for 25 minutes. I can pump 12oz of milk in the time, just the amount M needs. She has 6oz at bedtime, and often another 6oz during the night.
I’ve struggled with nipple pain, which was reduced once I bought a smaller pump breast shield size. I also have eczema, which will often disappear for weeks and then reappear. I’ve tried coconut oil, hydrocortizone and treating it for thrush, just in case. It quite often just disappears on it’s own. Pumping takes it’s toll, it’s not gentle by any means. I get deep cracks, almost as though my nipple will be sheared clean off my breast. Pumping with a nipple shield underneath helps when it’s at it’s worst. I’ve also had mastitis, which I avoided for the first year. It’s usually caused by infection getting into the splits, rather than a blocked duct. Antibiotics get to work very quickly and pumping as much as possible while using hand massage helps relieve the engorged painful feeling.
I’m so proud of myself for sticking it out this long. I hope to continue for many months too. I’d ideally like to pump as long as M needs milk, although I do have days when I’ve had enough. It’s less time consuming now, but such a faff. Washing bottles and pump equipment (which you can never get really clean…), taking it with you everywhere, and storing milk. Finding somewhere private to pump was a challenge, it’s much more conspicuous than a baby at the breast. The buzzing and flashing doesn’t help you be discreet. It’s expensive. I’ve spent at least £400 on pumps and equipment, and then there’s nipple creams, herbal supplements, prescriptions, storage bags… When I’ve been in pain, pumping milk that looks like strawberry milkshake it’s so bloody, waking to find a freezer bag has split, I’ve wanted to call it a day. But I’ve come so far. To quit now would be ridiculous.
I’m proof that you can go from virtually no milk, squeezing out every last drop by hand, to buying freezer bags to save some for later! I would never ‘choose’ exclusive pumping, but it is a viable option for mothers that have no choice. It’s a full time job at the beginning, but it does get easier. You get braver about going out, you still save money compared with formula, and baby still gets the very best food in the world.