Ok, so I have so much to say about this topic, but first and foremost, let me share how I got to exclusively pumping with Mila.
I had every intention of breastfeeding this time around, and for the first couple of days after she was born, it felt like we were going in the right direction. She fed beautifully on day 1 (and thankfully my colostrum was in full force) and even during the day on day 2. Things changed on night two with her cluster feeding more. She would latch and then unlatch. The unlatching would make her angry and she’d be inconsolable. At that point it was impossible to even get her back on the breast.
Vishnu and I called the nurse in to help us, and she really tried her best too. We just could not get M to latch and suck. That’s when Vishnu and I decided to try a bottle (the nurse actually encouraged us to do so as well).
Side note – with Kaiden, we had what felt like zero support from the nurses at the hospital. Instead of reading the situation (re: he couldn’t latch at all and I had no idea what I was doing), they would just push him on to me as if that was going to solve the problem. And then they encouraged SNS which is one of the most stressful feeding techniques ever. Vishnu and I vowed to not go down that path with Mila.
So yeah, we ended up giving her bottles that night as well as a pacifier. We figured her health and our sanity was worth.
For the next 2+ weeks, I continued to put her on the breast first when it came time to feed. Sometimes she’d stay on for a minute or two and sometimes she’d go full on frantic on us. Needless to say, M got used to the bottle pretty quickly.
I called a lactation consultant to come and help us, and she suggested a few things that were helpful but didn’t solve our issue of why M wouldn’t latch and stay latched.
The consultant did as me an important question though that ultimately helped me be ok with exclusive pumping. She asked, “Is your goal to get your baby latch or to feed her your breastmilk?” GAME CHANGING QUESTION!
My goal is to give Mila my milk for as long as I can, however I can. Sure, I really wanted to breastfeed this time around, and sure, it felt like we were on a good path for a bit there, but I’m truly not upset about being on the EP path again.
With Kaiden, I think I made the experience miserable for myself. This time I’m doing things a little differently…
- Invest in a good quality pump – I have the Spectra S2 which is a hospital grade pump that a lot of my friends used. Personally, I love the suctioning power as well as the fact that there are less parts to clean. A great option in my opinion!
- Invest in good quality pumping bras – WIth Kaiden, I had no idea what I was doing. In the chaos of his delivery and bringing him home, I didn’t even think to buy real pumping bras. Instead, I made my own. And while it was a great idea, if I do say so myself, it was very cheap and silly of me. This time around, I got these bras, and LOVE them. Perfect for the exclusive pumper and a breastfeeder/pumper.
- Length of pumping sessions – With Kaiden, I thought my pumping sessions had to be 30-45 minutes long to be the most effective. The lactation consultant I saw ensured me that 20-25 minutes was plenty if I’m also massaging my breasts while pumping. Hallelujah!
- Missed/shorter sessions – As a mom of two, I’m here to tell you your pumping schedule may not always go to plan. Mine hasn’t…not once! But I’m not going to stress about it. I’m going to do the best I can with the time and resources I have. And you should too!
- Power pumping – I was hoping I wouldn’t have to power pump this time around, but lo and behold, I’m still doing it! PP is a great thing to do when baby is going through a growth spurt – 2 weeks, 4 weeks, 6 weeks, 8 weeks, etc. Basically, it looks like this – pump for 20, 10 minute break, pump for 10, 10 minute break, pump for 10. Yes, it’s an hour, but I try to do these sessions when the kiddos are asleep – late at night or in the wee hours of the morning. And I’ll admit that PP does help increase supply overall, so I guess it’s worth it!
- Water, oats, and fenugreek – These are the things I used last time to help with my supply and they’re doing their thing this time too. Also, I had a friend tell me extra protein helped her supply. Also, it’s important to put aside any weight loss goals at this time. You have to eat and eat regularly. Pumping burns about 20 calories an ounce so let’s say you pump an average of 30 ounces a day, that’s 600 calories you’re burning through. Think of it this way – your body needs fuel to make fuel.
- Pump time = YOU time! – I wasn’t very good about making the most of my pumping time with K. I would just sit there and think about how much it sucked that I had to pump while someone else got to feed my baby. This time around, I’m taking full advantage of all the 20 minute blocks of time I have. I’m reading, listening to podcast, connecting with Kaiden, calling friends and family members, blogging, etc. I wouldn’t exactly call it self-care, but this time around, I’m realizing my attitude about pumping is what will make or break it for me. And because I want to do this for at least six months, I need to have a good attitude.
- Mindset – Going along with the above, your mindset is everything. You’re not going to be pumping for the rest of your life or even for years to come. I basically tell myself to make it through the day…and rinse and repeat. No need to look months into the future and lament on how you have to pump so much. One day at a time…nothing lasts forever.
- Communication – For me, exclusive pumping wouldn’t work without Vishnu’s support. So my biggest suggestion here is to have an open and honest conversation with your partner about what you’ll need to make this a success for your family. Vishnu really wants Mila to have my breastmilk for as long as she can, so he’s fully on board to help me. He does the two middle of the night feedings so I can pump. And on weekends, he’s game to watch both kids so I can get my sessions in. This is really about teamwork!
- FED IS BEST – I have and always believe this. Breastfeeding, pumping, formula – ALL good options to feed a baby. If you have to pump and supplement at some point, do it! Formula is not the devil. Remember that the goal is to have a healthy baby…whatever that takes. With Kaiden, we transitioned to formula after six months of EP because my mental health was in question and I couldn’t do it anymore. And guess what…he’s THRIVING! A healthy baby is important but so is a healthy mama. Do what is best or your family and ignore the noise!
If you are also pumping or debating on EP, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Happy to help in whatever way I can!