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Exclusively Pumping: Good Advice is Hard to Find

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

This month's breastfeeding carnival revolves around the idea of good and bad breastfeeding advice and boy, do we have a LOT of great posts for you to check out. I'll be talking about the good and bad advice that I ran across in regards to pumping exclusively and will include the links to all of our other entries at the end of the post.

Before my first daughter was born, I'd only ever heard of exclusively pumping once. Shortly after I got married I was visiting with a friend that I only see once a year. She had her six week old daughter with her and headed off once to pump. I said something to the effect of "Oh, I don't mind if you nurse" and she explained that she pumped her milk and fed her daughter with a bottle.

I never gave it a second thought until three years later.

I was sitting in my hospital room facing down the on-call pediatrician telling me that she would not release my three day old daughter unless I agreed to supplement. Nursing had been a nightmare since the second night when the nurses took her to the nursery and I ended up having to fight to get her back. There had been 26 babies born while I was in labor and despite my repeated requests we had still not seen an LC an hour before we were due to be released.

Elnora had lost 10% of her weight and was fighting fairly bad jaundice. I was putting her to the breast once an hour or more, but all we ever managed was a big scream-a-thon. Now I had this pediatrician telling me that if I wouldn't agree to give Nora a bottle, she wouldn't release her.

"Get me a pump!"

It just kind of got blurted out. A vision of my friend passed through my head and I remembered her pumping and bottle feeding.

"What?" said the Pediatrician.

"Get me a breast pump and the LC right now. I am not leaving without my baby. I'll pump and supplement with my own milk."

"Whatever," and she left.

It took about four hours, but an LC finally walked into the room carrying a Lactina Select. We talked and then she worked with me on nursing positions and offered encouragement while Nora continued to scream. She showed Greg how he could help me get her latched and gave us her number so that we could call if we needed more help. Then she showed me how to use the pump.

She then went to talk to the LC and got us cleared for release by agreeing that I would pump and then add enough formula to supplement half an ounce after each feeding. The pediatrician came to see us to let us know we were discharged. She offered her "support" by sending us home with a literal garbage bag full of RTF Enfamil.

Gee. Thanks.

Elnora got a 1/4 ounce of formula that night mixed with the breast milk I'd pumped. It was the last formula she ever had. I won't go into the nightmare that was the next day or two of trying to nurse, but let's just say that by the end of our third night home, I had abandoned nursing and had decided to exclusively pump.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

I think that was a good thing.

I spent the next few weeks double pumping for twenty minutes at a time every two hours. My milk came in like Niagara falls and by week two I had literally filled my freezer with the excess milk. In fact, I was pouring a good 8-10 ounces a day down the drain. (I know! Can you even imagine??)

I went to the web to start looking for information about how I might back off all the extra pumping and what I needed to do to make this work long-term. I was amazed at the lack of information available. All of the pumping information that I could find was aimed at working mothers who pumped while they were at work and that breastfed while they were home.

Finally, at a Baby Center discussion board, I learned that what I was doing was called exclusively pumping. I immediately began searching Google trying to find information about it. I was amazed at the vast void that stared back at me. There was a little bit of information at KellyMom and there was a site called Exclusively Pumping that had a few links to some articles. (Both of these sites now have far more information on the topic.)

In other words, I was mostly on my own. Unfortunately, I was the first person to breastfeed (because exclusively pumping is STILL breastfeeding, it just isn't nursing) in several generations on both sides of my family and I didn't know ANYONE except that long-distance friend that had ever exclusively pumped.

The LC that I'd worked with was absolutely useless beyond showing me how the pump worked. In fact, when I called in to talk to her about switching to exclusive pumping, she called me back and pretty much said "oh. good luck with that." The local LLL chapters didn't seem to know much about pumping since most of the moms there were full time at home moms that rarely even used bottles. When they talked about expressing milk, they did it by hand or with a hand pump.

Thus, my learning was mostly trial and error with a lot of luck (or as I like to call it, blessings) thrown in. I discovered the milk bank and started sending 100+ ounces a week their way while kicking myself for all the milk I'd poured down the drain. They were full of advice about pumping and I finally started to connect with some other exclusive pumpers online.

The sad thing is that 90% of my interactions with people about exclusively pumping were negative. Not because they didn't think it was a great thing for me to do, but because they were convinced that I'd never keep my supply and that I'd never make it to a year. I heard warning after warning about how many times I'd get mastitis (I got it twice in fourteen months), about how hard it would be to keep up my schedule (it was) and about how much extra work it was to pump and bottle feed (it was.) I also had moms tell me that I was shortchanging my daughter by denying her the comfort of nursing at the breast.

This is why you'll never hear me speak poorly of moms who end up formula feeding. Believe me, I GET why people give up breastfeeding.

And so, when it came time to wean from the pump I decided that I needed to give back. I'd made it two months past my goal of a year and I'd done it despite the complete and utter lack of good advice and support. When I launched the Lactivist, I wanted it to be a place where I could share some pumping advice so that other moms that found themselves in the same situation as me could get some good information. I'd learned a lot, finally found some resources and had had contact with quality LCs that really knew their stuff when it came to pumping. That information needs to be shared.

You can read some of the posts that I've put together on this subject in the Lactivist archives. Some of my favorites...

Exclusively Pumping - Why Does it Get Such a Bad Wrap?
Building a Supply Through Pumping
Differences in Nursing Verses Pumping
A Year of Exclusive Pumping Comes to a Close

Some other great resources for moms that plan (or need) to exclusively pump...

Establishing and maintaining a supply through pumping (Kellymom)
A comprehensive look at exclusively pumping (iVillage)
Exclusively Pumping Support Board (iVillage)
Exclusively Pumping Email List (Yahoo!)

My hope would be that over time, more LCs, more LLL leaders and more people in general would learn about the hows and whys of exclusively pumping. I'd hope that people in a position to help breastfeeding mothers would take the time to learn about an alternative that may well save a child's ability to receive breast milk when nursing attempts fail. I'd hope that moms that are successful breastfeeding would support pumping moms with words of encouragement without making the task out to be so difficult that the mom will end up discouraged.

And of course I'd encourage EVERYONE that works with pumping moms to learn about milk banking and to share that option with moms that have excess supply.

You can read the rest of this month's carnival entries for even more posts about breastfeeding advice and how it can make, or break, the nursing relationship.

Tanya over at the Motherwear Blog includes her list of good breastfeeding advice and bad breastfeeding advice that she's heard over her years as a lactation counselor.

Breastfeeding 1-2-3's Angela shares some tips on how to get good medical advice about breastfeeding (and especially weaning) based on her own experience with a handful of doctors that tried to get her to stop nursing.

Sinead at Breastfeeding Mums encourages mothers that have found good resources for breastfeeding advice to share them with other nursing moms.

Andi at Mama Knows Breast talks about how important frequent feedings are in those early days to help establish a good supply.

We're also joined by several guest bloggers this month. You'll find guest entries at the Black Breastfeeding Blog, Mocha Milk, Cairo Mama, The Twinkies, The Baby Gravy Train and Random Wonderings.

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  1. Blogger Monkey | 10:35 PM |  

    you are so right...the good advice is hard to find...its also hard to find people that can say it was hard without being negative...

    i ep'd for both of my boys...i *never* put them to the breast...yes, it was hard work...but it was so worth it, and worked best for me...

    thank you for this post...

    peace...

  2. Anonymous Krista W. in Delaware | 7:00 AM |  

    You are TOTALLY right - I found no information about exclusively pumping when I had to do it for my older daughter (I did it for 18 months). I am so glad it's there now, for those mothers who choose to or are forced to go down that route.

  3. Anonymous Anonymous | 7:16 AM |  

    It just seems to me that many of us measure success in whether the baby is EBF from the breast or not. I don't think many pregnant women even think of pumping as a regular and viable option at least from the start. We're either FF or BF --it's the all or nothing approach, and if we do anything other than feed from the breast in the first however days or weeks home depending on who you ask, your baby will NEVER go back to the breast and/or we'll risk our supply.

    Yes, that might be true for some babies and mothers, however I wonder how the all or nothing approach toward bf only from the breast has hurt many a bf relationship and prevented lots of babies from receiving mama's milk however it can be provided. Even smaller amounts add up to more advantages than ALL formula.

    I personally believe that we should be more supportive and educating moms on pumping and/or combo feeding to get the actual numbers of bf babies up in this country.

  4. Blogger The Fluffy Ewe | 7:41 AM |  

    I applaud EP moms. It is alot of hard work to pump and feed the baby, especially those early weeks when the baby eats about every hour it seems. I would even say it's twice the work of breastfeeding and bottle feeding because you are doign BOTH. It takes about as long to pump as it takes to breastfeed and then you still have to feed the baby the milk you pumped, which can be another 15-20 mins. So by the time you pump and feed the baby, it's about time to pump. I admire those who can do this. I had contemplated Eping at one point with this guy as he's not a great nurser but he wasn't the type that would sit while I pumped either. So I have alot of respect for EP'ers.

    I think if more LC's were educated in EP'ing, I think alot more babies would be getting breastmilk than formula. I know most mommies quit because the nipple pain in the those first few weeks is too much. I think most women feel its either boob or bottle and don't think it can be both, sorta.

    Now the LC's here at Grady are terrible. They aren't even real LC's, they are lactation councellors. I knew more than they did and baffled them with my questions/problems. I ended having to call the Elizabeth Blackwell Center to get some help. Another reason I'd like to be an LC when I grow up. :)

  5. Blogger Jennifer | 7:49 AM |  

    Fluffy Ewe! I didn't know you were a local mom!

    Where are ya?

    One of these days we're going to have a "party at the Lactivists" house. I've met at least one other Sunbury mom online and quite a few from central Ohio, but I've only ever met a few of them in person (and that was at the Delta Nurse-in.)

  6. Blogger Cairo Mama | 10:41 AM |  

    I think Americans are so competitive that even in practicing natural parenting, gentle discipline, child-led schedules, on-demand breastfeeding, etc., we as parents are not gentle with ourselves, we want to do it "the right way". Instead, I think we should educate ourselves and do what works.

    Exclusively pumping is a big commitment, but should be given as an alternative if for some reason the baby can't or won't take the milk directly from the breast, or it works better for your lifestyle.

    I agree with anonymous that the "all or nothing" approach to feeding your baby causes undue stress in a lot of mothers and results in many giving up on breastfeeding. Ideally, every breastfeeding pair would get the hang of it in a week or less, but that doesn't always happen. Giving mothers the option to pump or combo feed will not cause mothers to quit who weren't going to quit before. In fact, it is more likely that more babies will get breastmilk one way or another for a longer period of time if mothers are given options.

  7. Blogger The Fluffy Ewe | 1:53 PM |  

    Hey Jenn! You and I have conversed via email before, under my real name (gmail account). Lol I'm the one in Delaware. :)

    I would love a party! Esp because I know I wouldn't have to find an out-of-the-way spot to feed the baby. Lol

  8. Anonymous Anonymous | 9:39 AM |  

    You are so right about there not being enough info for the exclusive pumpers! My now almost 10 year old was born early. He was taken to the nicu about 10min after he was born. I was not able to feed him because his lungs were not fully developed yet. He spent the first 24 hours on oxygen and they only gave him IV fluids for the first 48hours then I was given a pump and told I could pump my milk for him. Well I was only getting a few drops but after I left the hospital I started making milk big time and brought it in for him 2 days before his release I was allowed to nurse him but he was not latching and when he did he would bite me hard! They told me often when they go that long with the bottle they will never be able to nurse and that I shouldn't even try. I was outraged and insisted but after cracked nipples and much pain I decided to pump and feed. The nurses and the pedi told me this would not last long and told me to start giving formula. Because of this bad advise by 6months I gave up resistance and got the formula. I was so upset. I had no info on pumping and feeding and all the professionals I contacted kept saying formula ... just use the formula.. it will be less trouble if you just use formula... So I did. I have regreted it especally when he got sick shortly after I stopped pumping. Had I had a better support system and more knowledge I would have been able to give him my milk longer it was a very disappointing and fustraiting experience.

  9. Anonymous Anonymous | 5:32 PM |  

    Hi All Moms,
    I was so relieved when I read this information. I exc. pumped my daughter for 6 months. I thought it was soooooooooooooooooooooo much easier than breastfeeding. My baby got thrush after 2 weeks old and my breast was always a screaming match with her. It became so negative I decided to pump. Well , let me tell you it was the best thing I ever did. I could pump a whole bottle in ten minutes and then 15 minutes to feed her. Yes it was a little time consuming but all my friends that were breastfeeding were telling me how there baby was up all night and my baby slept throught the night because I knew exactly how much she was getting. Lets stop thinking about this "bonding" issue with our breasts and start thinking about what is best for us and the whole family and the baby. Peace Karen

  10. Anonymous Anonymous | 8:14 PM |  

    My daughter is 11 months old today, and I've been EP'ing for so much longer now that I ever thought I could! I will reach my goal of 1 year shortly and it makes me really happy to read that there are so many other moms like me out there!
    It's true, it's very hard for people to really "get" what this is all about... I get a lot of "why!?" It's nice to see there is a group of people that know that it's a no brainer!!

    Thanks!

  11. Anonymous Anonymous | 9:23 AM |  

    I'm so happy to have found this blog. I've had troule nursing with both my kids (one almost 3 and now a newborn). The situation you descirbe with the jaundice and experience at the breast is identical to my own. I stuck it out for 8 weeks, wanting to give up every day, meeting with LC at least once a week and we did finally get the nursing down. Now I'm in the same situation with my second - when I can actually get her latched on right it takes up to 2 hours and she is still rooting and hardly expressed what I would guess to be .5 - 1 ounce. My nopples are cracked and every time I think about nursing, I get a visceral response of fear and resentment towards her. I decided to give EP a try - she is only 2 weeks old and I wasn't even sure if people did this, just figured I'd do the best I could for as long as I could. So I'm glad to find this support. It seems that all of my friends who are new mothers seem to have no trouble and find nursing as that cliche of beautiful bonding ease. I thought there was something wrong with me, esp when I couldn't figure it out the second time. Now I know, what I'm going through is not abnormal or wrong. I have to consider the rest of my family now - it is much more healthy for me to try this than be in tears and anger every hour in front of my toddler son and husband and feeling like a failure. I want to enjoy my family. And yes, It is time consuming, but no more than 2 hours at the breast without fulfillment. Time consuming, but productive and successful. Thanks - I'll be consulting these links.

  12. Anonymous Anonymous | 5:30 PM |  

    I have been pumping for 8+ months for my twins. I remembering the nurses in the hospital looking at me like I was crazy for saying I was going to continue pumping for them when they were released from the NICU. Breastfeeding hadn't went well since they were early and my husband and I had gotten used to knowing how much milk they were getting. I could tell the hospital staff thought I wouldn't last. There have been plenty of times I have wanted to quit, but at 8 + months I am still going strong. I still get looks from people when I tell them I pump for the twins and get enough milk. You just have to ignore the negativity and do what works for your family. I am so glad that I didn't listen to them.

  13. Anonymous Annie Neil | 6:49 PM |  

    I've been looking for ways to make pumping breast milk easier and I found several products that are only available on the internet ranging from $10.00-$65.00. So I came up with this idea that can be as cheap as you want. Take an old bra you don't use anymore or go out buy the cheapest bra you can find (Don't use a nursing bra for this). Cut slits in the front of it to slip the breast shields through and voila now you can read or eat or whatever. I suggest that you may want to put the bra on first and make a mark where your nipples are. The slits don't have to be very big. Bras are amazingly stretchy. I did discover that you do need to slip the shoulder straps on to be totaly comfortable, but other than that it was the best pumping experience ever. I didn't get undressed I just put it on over my nursing bra.

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