Life After Birth: Kayla’s Exclusive Pumping Journey

Life After Birth: Kayla’s Exclusive Pumping Journey

As told by Kayla:

I pulled my last brick of breastmilk out of the deep freezer last night. There’s enough for 10 more bottles. I could have done my usual and prepped 4 bottles for today. That’s 3 for daycare and 1 for home. That would mean I’d only have two more bedtimes when we got to snuggle our little love and give her a bottle. I decided to not send any to daycare so I can extend our evening bottles for 10 more days. Ten sweet nights and then our nightly routine of quiet, no electronics, just us rocking would be done. I’d promised myself we would wean from the bottle when the breastmilk was gone. Now, here we were, at the end of the milk, and I’m not sure I feel ready.

 

 

Which kind of sums up my entire breastfeeding journey. I was a formula kid, as I think most kids born in the late 80s were. For a variety of reasons, including ease of going out and about, financial impact, and health benefits, I knew I wanted to breastfeed from the minute I found out I was pregnant. If I had to do formula, that was okay, because I TRULY believe that FED IS BEST and if I couldn’t breastfeed, then she would be just fine on formula.

Toward the end of my pregnancy, as I read more and more about latches and breastfeeding, I started to think I might have flat nipples. So I hired an IBCLC for a consult. She came over, confirmed that I did have flat nipples, and then we talked about how people could be successful despite anatomical challenges. I also asked for proper sizing on my pump flanges, but she had zero experience with the pump I was using and ended up not being terribly helpful in that regard.

Attempting to Direct Nurse

When Elizabeth was born, we had immediate skin to skin and an LC who came in to help us latch before I was even out of the delivery room. It didn’t really go super well, but we were hopeful it’d get easier. Throughout my hospital stay, I saw 3 different LCs, plus I had nurses helping me try to latch. I tried nipple shields. One LC even barged into our room to tell us that she heard the baby crying from the hall and that Elizabeth was starving and I needed to feed her. I tried, and tried, and tried.

Less than 48 hours after Elizabeth was born, my nipples were cracked and bleeding. But it wasn’t until the final LC came in and talked to me that I finally found the relief I needed. She was the first LC to look at Elizabeth and me and see that we couldn’t continue the way we were going. She told me to start supplementing with formula while we figured out the latch.

In the journal I was keeping at the time, I wrote,

“When I got home and tried to have her latch and my whole body tensed and I started crying from the pain, I finally gave myself permission to try something else and take care of myself. Elizabeth needs a mom, not a martyr. As long as she is fed, I’m doing my job well.”

We gave her formula. She was happy, and I wasn’t in pain. I called my best friend, who had exclusively pumped, to come over and show me how to use the pump. I cried in her arms for a bit as I overcame the feelings of failure for not being able to do “the most natural thing in the world.”

Another excerpt from my journal:

“I realized that the only times I was really holding her was when I was trying to feed her. Which was super painful and resulted in somewhat delayed bonding. I was starting to associate her with pain.  It’s been better since I got a bit more selfish and snuggled her just to snuggle her.  And also since I stopped forcing myself to breastfeed. I’m pumping and supplementing with formula, and my stress levels are so much lower. Life is good. :)”

That began my exclusive pumping journey. I did meet a few times with the IBCLC at our pediatrician, but between my flat nipples and Elizabeth’s lip tie, it just wasn’t working, and so I decided to exclusively pump.

Exclusively Pumping

When I started pumping, I was pumping 8 times per day- every 3 hours, the same as Elizabeth’s feeding schedule until she got back up to weight. I spent 4 hours every day hooked up to a machine for the first twelve weeks. I carried pump supplies with me everywhere. I didn’t leave the house with less than three bags – diaper bag, bottle bag/cooler for milk, and pump bag.

EPing was a huge learning curve. I relied heavily on my BFF, the ONLY other person I knew who had EP’d, and she introduced me to an amazing Facebook group of EPers where we could ask questions, commiserate, and get tips and tricks.

I had to learn what a let down looked like/felt like. I started timing the amount of time after my last letdown to make sure I was pumping for 5 extra minutes after the let down so I could boost my supply. I drank blue Gatorade. A wonderful friend sent lactation cookies. I drank cardamom Mother’s Milk tea. I figured out that coconut oil is an amazing salve, and that lanolin stains sheets. I learned how to sleep in 2.5 hour stretches.

The first time I figured out to cut holes in a sports bra to hold the pumps in place was a revelation. I had hands again! Pumping time became time that I could also feed Elizabeth or read on my nook, or just relax. It sounds crazy, but when you’re used to it, it becomes routine and I even fell asleep attached to the pump a few times. Thank goodness I had a Spectra and it automatically would shut off!

After 12 weeks, your supply is pretty well established, so that was when I started dropping pumps. When I went back to work, I was pumping as soon as I got up, three times at work, on my drive home, and then twice more at home in the evening. Some nights I was up until midnight to fit in the 7th pump. I dropped to 6 pretty quickly. Then, 5, and held steady there for a while. Probably around the 6 month mark, I dropped to 4 – wake up, 2 times at work, and before bed. I didn’t go below 4 pumps because I saw my supply drop. Then, 9.5 months after Elizabeth was born, I hung up my pump parts for last time. I had enough milk in the freezer to get her to 12 months. 2400 ounces. All told, I estimate that I pumped between 10,000 and 12,000 oz of breastmilk.


Pros and Cons

As with everything in life, there are pros and cons to exclusively pumping. I thought I’d list out some of my personal pros and cons.

Pros Cons
  • I got to split night feedings with my husband
  • I didn’t worry about her taking a bottle at daycare when I went back to work
  • No concerns about nipple confusion
  • Built in reason to sit down and relax or hide during family functions
  • I knew exactly how much milk she was getting
  • Any pain I had wasn’t directly associated with my daughter, so my bond with her was SO MUCH BETTER than when I was attempting to direct nurse
  • I was able to pump for 9.5 months, then stop and still give my daughter breast milk until 1 year.
  • You’re constantly worried about keeping pumped milk cold
  • You’re constantly concerned about finding an outlet in a private area to pump (until you get a cordless pump!)
  • There’s not a lot of in person local support for EPers, sometimes not even from IBCLCs
  • You’ll have (hopefully) well-intentioned people telling you that it really is better to direct nurse and that there’s a special bond that only occurs when you DN (I call bullshit).
  • SO. MANY. BAGS.
  • A lot less convenient to go places

Products I Used

These are some of the products I used that worked well for me:

Spectra S2 – my at work pump, since it needs to be plugged in and I was at a desk

Spectra S1 – my at home pump – a rechargeable battery = mobility!

Freemies – I can’t recommend these when you first start pumping because they fog and it’s hard to ensure you have the right placement, but once you have the hang of it, I think they’re great, and make it so much easier to pump in front of guests.

Lactamed Simplicity Hands Free Bra – so simple, and easily worn over your maternity bra

Palmer’s Cocoa Butter – magically healing and smells like chocolate!

Coconut Oil – lubes flanges well to prevent friction

31 Bag – stored all my crap and looked cute.

Car adapter for my Spectra

Ibuprofen – decreasing swelling to help clear clogs to prevent mastitis

Sunflower Lecithin – thins the milk to help clear clogs to prevent mastitis

Lactation Cookies

Mother’s Milk Cardamom Tea

Blue Gatorade

In Conclusion

Exclusively pumping was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I don’t regret it, and there are aspects (like the built in excuse to go binge on Netflix during family events) that I do miss as we enter this holiday season. My breastfeeding journey may not be the storybook direct nursing experience I had thought I wanted, but EPing was a curveball I ended up being thankful for.

 


 

More about the LIFE AFTER BIRTH PROJECT

More about the BIRTH STORIES PROJECT 

More weaning stories at the LAST LATCH PROJECT

Photos: Bergen Howlett

Community Birth Story: Leila Rene

Community Birth Story: Leila Rene

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As told by Kellie:

Tuesday – 8.15.2017
40 week appointment
Cervix is closed, soft and favorable. Baby is head down, and she looks great on the ultrasound. I went ahead and scheduled my induction for the following Monday at 8pm. I left the appointment somewhat discouraged.
Dan (hubby) and I decided to go take a walk even though it was super humid. Our walk ended up in stopping to get some ice cream and that night we decided to get something spicy to eat. We ordered spicy wings from BonChon and they were so spicy that I felt that my mouth was on fire. I had to have ice cubes in my mouth after every wing. I then bounced on my exercise ball for a while until we decided to go to bed.

 

Wednesday – 8.16.2017
My husband got up to go to work for 12 hours at 5am. I woke up with a slight stomach ache around 9am. Despite feeling slightly uncomfortable I decided to eat the 6 leftover spicy wings for breakfast. I was committed at this point to get the baby out because I was more than ready to meet her. I bounced on the exercise ball, walked on the treadmill and cleaned the house all day long. I talked to my mom and was reduced to tears thinking about having to be induced if she didn’t come on her own.
I decided to text Dan just to let him know that I wasn’t really feeling the best. My stomach was hurting (still thought it was from the spicy wings) and my back was also sore. I made dinner and Dan got home around 740pm. I ended up not eating and decided to take a shower since I was so uncomfortable. I felt slightly better after my shower and Dan and I just hung out listening to music and watching the baby move around like crazy. Around 1030pm I decided that I was hungry, so my husband made me some toast and eggs. After that we went to bed.

 

Thursday – 8.17.2017 (Leila’s birthday)
1:00am- I woke up to a crampy stomach and felt like I needed to go poop. I got up and tended to what I needed to in the bathroom and as I was headed back to bed I felt another cramp that lasted about 40 seconds and then went away. I decided to get on my contraction app and start timing them just in case it was actual labor. After about 15 minutes and getting two of these pains that each lasted about a minute and we’re about 8 minutes apart, I decided to wake my husband up. Poor guy had worked a 12 hour shift and here I am waking him up out of a deep sleep at 130am.
From 1:30am until 3:45am I was getting contractions every 4 to 8 minutes and they were about a minute long. Dan helped out by applying pressure on my back while I leaned over a desk in our room for stability during each contraction. He also loaded up the car and tidied up a few things around the house between my contractions. Around 2:20am we started discussing when we should of leave for the hospital since we lived about 40 minutes away. I feel like my contractions weren’t staying 5 minutes or under consistently enough to go yet, so we waited. At this point the contractions were getting pretty painful, but I was still able to breath through them and talk through them. Around 3:30am I decided to get my makeup out to do between contractions so I could get my mind off of labor and get ready for the hospital.

 
3:48am- Another contraction began and about 5 seconds into it, my water broke. It shocked me and as it was happening I said, “Water, water, water, my water is breaking!” I obviously couldn’t do anything other than stand there and wait for the gushing to stop. As I looked down most of it was absorbed into my pajama pants and underwear, but there was a small puddle that I thought looked like a funny color. As I walked to the bathroom Dan started cleaning up the floor and I asked him if it looked like a weird color. He said that it looked a little weird and as I dropped my pants to sit on the toilet I saw that my water was a green color. I immediately knew that we had to head to the hospital. Dan calmed me down after I had a small freak out moment about the fact that she had pooped already. I cleaned myself up, got a towel, put a puppy pad down on the passenger seat and we were on our way to the hospital within 5 minutes of my water breaking. I called the doctor, my mom, and Dan’s mom on the way.

 
4:45am – We arrived at the hospital and had to go through the emergency entrance since it was so early in the morning. At this point my contractions had pretty much stopped and we had to fill out some paperwork to get admitted. As we were waiting for a room, a lady came in that was 8cm dilated and they gave a room to her first. We ended up going to triage where I changed into a hospital gown and a pad since my water was still leaking. Luckily we didn’t have to wait in triage and we walked to our delivery room soon after.

 
5:00am- They started setting up the monitors and my IV and then they checked me and I was 4cm dilated. They decided to start me on pitocin since my contractions weren’t close enough together anymore and we waited.

 
7:00am- My doctor came in and when she checked me I was 5 to 6cm dilated. At this point my contractions were getting pretty painful, but I decided to wait on the epidural since I was still able to get through them. I believe my pitocin was at about a 6 at this point.

 
8:00am- I finally asked for an epidural since I was having most of the pain in my back during my contractions. They checked me again before I got my epidural and said that I was 7 to 8cm dilated. The anesthesiologist got to my room really quickly and set up the epidural before 8:30am.

 
9:00am- The epidural was in and I was feeling some relief, but I was still wincing from contractions in my lower pelvic area. The anesthesiologist came back in to give me a booster, and then I was fine. They checked me again at some point and said I was 8 to 9cm dilated. Baby girl wasn’t responding well to the higher levels of pitocin, so they kept trying to change my position.

 
10:30am- My doctor came in to check my progression. He determined that I was only at 7cm and my cervix was still very thick. Apparently after a discussion with the nurse he found out that she had stopped my pitocin entirely. They had been giving me pitocin at a 10 and then stopped it cold turkey. My doctor did not seem impressed since it stalled my labor. He had them turn it back on at half the dose to see how baby responded.

 
11:30am- Baby was doing ok with the pitocin, but not super well. We continued to keep an eye on her and when my doctor checked me I was 9cm dilated. He optimistically said that we might have a baby by 2pm.

 
11:45pm-1:15pm- Dan and I took a nap. I started feeling contractions again in my lower pelvic region. I tried to fight through them knowing that it would be better for when it came time to push. However, I couldn’t push through the pain, so I pushed the button for more epidural around 1pm.

 
1:30pm- I was dilated to 10cm and they decided to have me start practice pushing. After a few practice runs, they determined that I was too numb and that baby was still too high. They decided that I needed to labor down otherwise I would get too exhausted.

 
2pm- They decided to shut off my epidural in order to get me ready for pushing.

 
3pm- I was really starting to feel my contractions in my lower back and I was feeling quite a bit of pain. Our nurse ended up needing to be in another delivery room and we got our back up nurse. I don’t think I would have had a vaginal delivery had it not been for her. The other nurse that I had didn’t impress me very much anyway so I was glad to see her go. My new nurse decided to have me try out the peanut ball to get baby girl to move down. It was super uncomfortable since I was also gaining feeling back and feeling every contraction. My husband says the tone in the room felt like everyone was thinking her birth was going to be finished via c section, but this nurse was determined to get me the vaginal birth I had hoped to have.

 
3:55pm- They started prepping me for pushing once again. At one point my nurse was prepping things and my body needed to push, but she wasn’t there to hold my leg, and I told her I couldn’t help it and that my body was just pushing on its own. My husband was the most supportive person and I truly believe that I wouldn’t have made it through this process without him. He helped calm me down and reassured me that all my pushing was getting me closer to meeting our little girl.

 
4pm- My doctor came in and acted surprised that I had made as much progress as I had. He said, “Ok, let’s try and do this” and he got ready to deliver our baby girl. My contractions were pretty intense in my back, but my husband just continued to tell me that I was doing a great job. I pushed for about 15 minutes and…

 
4:18pm- Leila René Ganoung was born. She was 7 lbs. 7 oz., 20 ¾ inches long, and perfect in every way. It was the moment I became a mother and my husband became a father and it was the best feeling in the world. I will never forget this life changing moment and I am so grateful for my husband, the nurses, and my doctor for making it all possible.

 

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5 Ways to Survive the Holidays With Kids

5 Ways to Survive the Holidays With Kids

It’s no secret that the holiday season can be extra stressful for parents. Travel to and fro, new places and foods, so many gifts, too many treats, interrupted schedules and weighty expectations make for cranky carolers — and I’m not talking about the toddlers!  This time of year, as merry and bright as it is, can test our parenting skills and tap our reserves.  Here are 6 ways to keep yourself off the Naughty List.

1. Sleep Well. Nothing brings out everyone’s inner Grinch like lack of sleep. FOMO (fear of missing out) strikes hard this time of year but it’s perfectly okay to declare regularly scheduled bedtimes, naptimes and quiet times as sacred. If you find some holiday magic worth trading a little sleep for, see if you can make up for it later with extra rest times. Don’t forget to leave space in schedules and travel plans for downtime.

2. Eat Food. Drink Water. These are pretty basic, but sometimes in the excitement and hurry we forget. We remind our doula clients constantly, so I’m reminding you, right now – don’t forget to eat, drink and pee. And, while the adults in our lives are eagerly awaiting their favorite seasonal treats, kids can be overwhelmed by the seemingly exotic choices. If your small person rejects an entire plate of holiday delights in favor of nothing but a roll (with butter, naturally) remember that it’s only for one day. Have some tried and true snacks on hand for them and remember that calories don’t count when eating from the kids’ plates.

3. Travel Smart. Travel is hard on the whole family. Choose a departure time that maximizes naptime or bedtimes. Collect toys, treats and special activities to dole out at regular intervals during your trip. Never under estimate the power of snacks as entertainment. Don’t forget to build extra time into your schedule for potty breaks, snack breaks, leg stretching and plenty of nursing stops (because nothing kills the Holiday Spirit like a case of mastitis).

4. Choose Joy. No matter how you celebrate this season, celebrate with abundant JOY. Don’t do things because you tell yourself you should, because you really ought to, because it’s what you’ve always done before or because, well, Pinterest. Choose the activities, events and messages that bring your family meaning and happiness and let the rest go. Let it gooo, let it goooooooo (you saw that one coming, right?). You have permission to release or pause holiday traditions that don’t serve your family right now. You can always revisit an idea next year.

5. Be Quiet. Be Here. Save space in all the Doing for a little Being. Maybe spend some extra time outside to revel in the qualities of the season. There’s nothing quite like a trudge in the snow (if you have any) to bring a sense of natural reverence. I find that light, especially fire, helps us center and steep in the now-ness. This is the perfect time of year to brush up on your Silent Night by lighting some candles, plugging in the tree or tossing a log in the fireplace for some reflection as a family on the past year. It might help little ones join in with a feeling of ownership by letting them set time limits on quiet stretches. Whatever you do, do it with your whole body. See, hear, touch, taste and smell, and steep in the moment.

Everyone you meet right now is a little stressed, a little harried. There are gifts to be bought and wrapped, clothes to choose, photos to take, meals to cook (and clean), parties to attend, in-laws to host, and they don’t always go according to plan.  We can interrupt anxiety and overwhelm with gratitude and compassion both for the small people in our lives and all the big ones.