No one really prepares you for what it’s like to keep a human alive from what your body can produce for it to eat. It’s a full time, high stakes, pressure filled, anxiety ridden job let me tell ya.
For me, it all started when they threw that beautiful baby boy on my chest after squeezing him out of my J. He looked at me with love and admiration in his eyes for a solid 30 minutes before he realized that his solid stream of yum-yums directly into his tummy had been cut off by his grandmother and a scissors and he was STARVING. He then spent the next 30 minutes rooting around trying to find a giant boob with a protruding nipple filled with milk. He found the big boob, but much to his frustration and dismay, he found a first-time mom with flat nipples and no idea how to get things working.
And that’s how it starts. We tried and tried at the hospital for a couple days. I used a nipple shield with some positive results and waited for the lactation consultant who kept picking the perfect time to drop by while Clayton was off getting tested for this or snip snipped for that. By the time we finally connected, about an hour before we were supposed to get discharged, it turns out I was doing everything wrong. I was holding him wrong, putting the nipple shield on wrong, and wasn’t manually pumping to get it all going. So… my baby was starving.
She sent me home with some syringes and told me to use my electric pump to get that sweet gold colostrum out of my boob and syringe it into my baby’s mouth because he needed those calories stat. But also, I was to continue to nurse from the teat and figure that shit out too. Oh, and also, I wouldn’t start making actual milk for 3-7 days so I could pump all I want and just little droplets of gold would come out and I had to make sure the baby got those. I went home on a mission.
You know the saying, “No one ever cried over spilt milk”? Well it is 100% verifiably untrue. I can prove it by letting you know I did in fact cry several times over split milk. Because there’s nothing like having an electronic milk pumping machine milk you for 15 minutes for a half an ounce of liquid gold that your baby literally needs to survive and that you can’t duplicate or make again spill on the counter while your baby screams because it’s starving. Oh, and you also can’t go out and buy formula STAT because there’s a pandemic and the shelves are cleared out and you can’t bring a baby into a store or they will call CPS on you. So… boob milk it is!
Fast forward after 2 days at home with the nightmare of nursing, pumping, screaming, crying, (yes, me, Clayton was patient and angelic) we went to the pediatrician for the first time. She told me that the baby had lost 10% of his birth weight and I needed to start supplementing STAT and come back in 3 days to prove I could feed my kid. Well there went my pride in showering, brushing my teeth, and dressing Clayton in the cutest most gangsta going out outfit ever. I needed to run home and figure out how to feed my baby.
Good news is that I was determined and had a lady gang of mothers ready to give me all the advice and get us over this hump. First decision I made was that I was done breast feeding. Way too stressful for both of us, and it was inevitable that I was going to start to have to pump when I went back to work, so I decided then and there that I would become a milk making factory and bottle feed my baby whether I could make milk or not. They call me an Exclusive Pumper.
Best decision I’ve ever made. I got to pumping. I pumped and pumped and my milk didn’t come in at first. I was still getting little bits of colostrum, half an ounce tops. My glorious best friend Cynthia is also an exclusive pumper with a 10 month old son. She is an over producer making 50-60 ounces a day so she became Clayton’s wet nurse for a few days until my milk arrived. She handed off over a hundred ounces of her son’s extra milk that I was able to give Clayton by bottle, as his encounters with formula resulted in some hard core spit up and upset tummy. It really does take a village, and now I understand how life worked before modern technology like pumps and bottles and formula came into existence. You handed your baby off to a mommy who was a breastfeeding pro so the kid wouldn’t die while you struggled.
I went hard core into the internet and researched how to get my milk flowing and did All. The. Things. Here is my list:
- Lactation Cookies (made by my mommy!)
- Gatorade (I heard red works best but I found success with red, orange and yellow)
- Double Stuffed Oreos
- Ledgendairy Milk Supplements (I started with the Bestseller Bundle and picked my favorites from there which were the Pump Princess and Milkapalooza)
- Stout Beers (So many a day. Because… pandemic quarantine survival and also… milk production. You can also make your own 6 pack at Sendik’s so I tried a bunch of delish ones!)
- Sleep (This was the #1 thing that increased my production. I took this newborn class called Taking Cara Babies and it changed everything for us. Clayton sleeps SO well after I took this class and followed it religiously. I literally have to wake myself up to pump because he’s sleeping 9+ hours at 10 weeks old)
- Overnight Oats with Brewers Yeast and Flaxseed
- Coconut Water
- Starbucks Pink Drink (Getting this doubles as a field trip for the day which gets us out of the house!)
- Not stressing. Staying chill. As long as I don’t watch the news, this works.
- Water. All the water.
I use an app Cynthia suggested called Pump Log which allows me to track how many ounces I pump, how long I pump for, how much I stash in the freezer, and how long I have to go before I have enough milk saved up and can stop pumping! The only thing this app doesn’t have which I wish it did was a way to track when and how much he eats. I’m having to do that in the notes portion of my phone and then weekly creating an average to help Pump Log calculate my last pumping day. I started pumping one week after having Clayton and made 1.5 ounces from both boobs. Last night at 3:00 am (middle of the night is my best pump session) I made 14 ounces out of both boobs. Since March 19th I’ve been strapped to my pump for 2 days, 19 hours, and 30 minute and made 17.9 gallons of milk. $%&*@*% wild. I have saved up 950 ounces of frozen milk in the freezer so far which will stay good for 3 months. If any of my friend have space in a deep freezer, I could store it for 6 months… Anyone have room for some boob milk?
At home I have a pumping spot where I use the Medela Pump in Style Cynthia passed down to me. (She just finished pumping and has also given me her Spectra S1 pump which I’m excited to try.) My insurance covered the Ameda Mya which I LOVE for being portable. One of my proudest mom moments was pumping on a boat with the Ameda Mya. YOLO. The Medela is a work horse though. I can finish a pumping session in 10 minutes on the Medela vs 15 minutes on the Ameda Mya.
Pumping is terrible, but also a way for me to stay busy and competitive on my maternity leave slash pandemic quarentine. Some crappy things:
- Washing bottles and pump parts. I have a sweet set up and an efficient system including refrigerating my pump parts during the day so I don’t wash as much as some people probably do. Plus, these reusable Medela Steam Bags save me a shit ton of time on the sanitizing front.
- One of my nipples is a nightmare. The other is great and hasn’t changed at all, but one of them had some trauma from being pierced as a young wild youth and doesn’t quite love the normal sized flanges, so I’m thinking of trying some custom ones. It cracks, bleeds, and occasionally Clayton drinks some pink drink himself. Not as often now as in the beginning, but… it’s always sore.
- Having to find the time to pump. I’m pumping every 4 hours during the day, and it always seems to fall in the middle of something that isn’t opportune for whipping off my shirt and attaching contraptions to myself. Hence the boat pumping. Also, taking care of Clayton makes it hard. I usually only pump when he’s sleeping, but he loves to wake up at inopportune times.
- Feeding myself is near impossible. Between taking care of the baby, being strapped to an electric pump, letting the dog out, trying to shower/brush my teeth, finding time to cook/feed myself is laughably impossible. I’ve had amazing friends that set up a Meal Train and have been feeding me, which I couldn’t have lived without during the first couple of months. Now, I need to get my shit together and start eating healthy and cooking my own meals. Those stout beers really add up and I need to be taking care of this weight loss that’s supposed to come with breast feeding/pumping instead of fighting it. Started Weight Watchers a couple weeks ago. Time to get serious.
Now that I’ve overwhelmed you with information and TMI at that, I’ll stop talking about it. I literally could talk about it all day though so if you want to FaceTime and see my system and talk more about it, I would love to. Also, if you have any more tips or tricks to make life easier in this part of momming, I would love it!
Thanks for following me on my journey,