Thursday, December 2, 2010

Breastfeeding and Pumping

I remember so many moments those first two blissful days before Luca got sick.  The first time she fed, she was just a few minutes old.  They put her on my chest once her nose and mouth were cleared.  She gazed into my eyes, and Ian and I couldn't take our eyes off of her.  We were taking in all her little features.  We were in awe.  Then, instantly, she rooted.

We took the blanket she had been wrapped in off of her and put her up to my bare chest.  With the help of my awesome doula (who is also a lactation consultant), Luca latched well pretty much immediately.  She fed on each side for a few minutes, then looked drunk, then fell asleep. 

The next 1.5 days went swimmingly well with feeding.  I had a couple other lactation consultants stop in to show me a better hold (the football hold) and to make sure feeding was going well.  (P.S. - for pregnant ladies out there, nobody told me ahead of time that you will get cramps like an m-f-er each time you feed or pump for about a week after delivery.  It HURTS.)

The last time I breastfed Luca was at 9:30pm on August 7th.  Then, we all know what happened.

Through all the chaos of her being transferred to the NICU, then transferred to a different hospital (and then later to yet another hospital), I didn't think about my milk supply.  When she got transferred the first time, I arrived to the hospital to find her responseless, basically lifeless, nothing in her eyes.  And then the nurses practically bombarded me with supplies for pumping.  "Start pumping."  A lactation consultant came by and asked if I had questions.  I had no idea what I was doing so she helped me.  Ian helped me.  But I was getting conflicting advise on how often to pump, wake up to pump, don't wake up to pump, pump every 2 hours, pump every 3 hours.  And every single nurse or doctor was constantly asking "how is pumping going?"  I had no idea how to answer.  I was so preoccupied with L's health that I didn't give a shit how pumping was going.  I was producing milk - and that's about as much as I thought about it. 

It felt useless.  It was the last thing on my mind when my baby was laying there.  Was she even going to make it to be able to use the milk?  And if she was going to make it, how would this ever be used considering she is protein restricted? But I pumped anyways.  And there started my world of pumping.

(Turns out, she could use some breastmilk. About 1/3 of her formula is made up of breastmilk.)
It wasn't completely smooth for me.  Within 2 weeks of pumping, my nipples were cracked and I got a case of mastitis.  It sucked.  But I kept going.  My breasts still to this day hurt from pumping.  I use triple antibiotic ointment on them every night to keep from getting cracks again.

Looking back, I wish someone had told me to pump every two hours for that first week to build my supply up to 30 ounces per day.  While she was hospitalized for that first month, I pumped at least 6 times per day. I was making about 20 ounces per day.  Then she came home, and I lost time to pump.  I only managed to pump about 4 times per day, and wasn't careful about eating and drinking enough.  Suddenly my supply was down to about 12-15 ounces per day.  I knew that I was making enough per day for what she is currently taking, but I freaked out because I know her demand will be greater when she's solely taking breastmilk. 

So now, I pump anywhere from 6-10 times per day for 15-20 minutes.  I took Fenugreek Seed capsules 3 times per day for about 4-5 days.  And now I'm making about 23 ounces per day.  I know I can increase it again when the time comes for her to take in more than that.  But for now, I'm just trying to maintain that amount.

I have been able to continue skipping a middle of the night pumping session because I must get sleep considering the stress we're under.

It's a ton of work.  The cleaning of supplies, the literal pain in my boobs from pumping.  The time it requires.  Especially when Luca requires attention and I'm in the middle of pumping.

Sometimes, I think it would be easier to just throw in the towel and stop pumping.  But there's something about it that makes me refuse to do so.  I lost a bit of connection to L when she got sick.  And her getting colds in the future (now because of her metabolic issues, post-transplant because of being immunosuppressed) is dangerous.  I am passing on antibodies through my milk for her to fight illnesses.  Anything I can do to lessen the load my baby has to bear, give it to me!

I can't feed her by bottle or breast.  It sucks.  But at least she can be getting the benefits of it and for some mental reason, it makes me feel more connected to her.

I produce more in a day than she drinks, which means my freezer supply is ready for when she can solely have breastmilk.  Between that, and the fact that I pumped for 2 whole weeks before she was able to have any, I have a rather large freezer stash.  We're talking more than 800 ounces.  We are currently using breastmilk that I pumped about 6-7 weeks ago.

People keep asking me how long I plan on pumping or breastfeeding.  When I tell them I plan on giving her breastmilk (likely only ever through me pumping) for at least her first 2 years of life, people are disgusted.  It's not because I really enjoy this whole pumping thing (umm hello, the time it takes!).  But seriously, anything I can do to help her immune system post-transplant, I am doing!  And if you had a choice to see your child less sick, or sick less often, I guarantee you'd do the same.

Here it all is:  liquid gold I tell you.

Door of fridg:

 Two top areas full:
 And yet another shelf:

I told you I had a weird obsession with showing people my breastmilk.


  1. I don't think it is weird that you plan on giving her breastmilk for the first 2 years!

    A lot of women stop breastfeeding way too soon. Apparently you're supposed to go for at least the first year of life. And I feel like I've read that it is quite common for other countries to provide breastmilk for up to 2 years.

    I just hope my body is up to the task!

  2. That is so awesome (not the pain, etc. part, but the quantity part). I would show it off too! You're a great mommy for doing this for Miss L. :)

  3. Ditto to both of the above comments!

    Do you guys have room (in a garage or something) for a stand-alone freezer? If we had a place for it, I would've gotten one for my freezer stash, which was only a fraction of your awesomeness!

  4. That is a HUGE freezer stash! Awesome! I still don't produce enough, but I pump so that my little man gets some of the liquid gold:) You really are doing a good thing for her by feeding her breastmilk to keep her as healthy as possible.

  5. Hahaha you weren't kidding!! That's incredible!

  6. OHMIGOSH!! I've never seen a supply of breast milk like that in my life! You should buy another freezer just to house all of that. If I had that much breastmilk stored I'd show it off too! I also call it liquid gold!

    On a serious note, pumping is so tough, so I give you major props for doing it so diligently. L is so blessed to have a mother who is so giving of herself and who will do anything, anything, to make her little life better.

  7. I think that's awesome and wonderful!!

  8. Ok, that was freaking awesome to read and see those pictures!
    Did you have an electric pump? Do you recommend one over another, or is it trial and error?
    With DD, who I bf for a year, I couldn't get one drop out with either a manual, non-electric pump or by manually manipulating trying to get milk out, but she was definitely feeding and grew well!


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