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, 2007This 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.
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.