Since Felix has been giving us a good long 6-7 hour stretch of sleep at night (followed by another few hours), he’s also been getting one less feeding. Between that and the massive amount I’m able to pump when he first gets up (far more than I’d have gotten if I’d pumped twice in the night as I used to), keeping up with him has been so much easier.
I feel lucky because many of the women who exclusively pump still have to get up and pump in between while their husbands and babies sleep, because otherwise they’d get clogged ducts & mastitis for waiting so long. Granted, my boobs hurt & feel like they’re that close to exploding when he gets up, but a little rubbing and 10 extra minutes of pumping make it all ok. *knock on wood*
Pumping moms are absolutely obsessed, especially the ones who exclusively do so. Myself included. Whenever I read or write messages to the online group, I feel like we’re a bunch of crack addicts. When you pump, you’re well aware of every single ounce, every half ounce, every droplet. Since pumping isn’t as efficient as a baby, and you don’t get the same natural stimulation to keep up with growth spurts, it sometimes feels like your entire life revolves around increasing your supply.
I, for one, am not an over producer. I think, had we known what was going on from the first couple days, my supply wouldn’t have dropped and I’d be one of those moms who has a freezer stash. But since it DID drop, getting back up is a very difficult task when you’re pumping. As it stands now, I consider it a triumph when I have an extra 4 ounces stored away in the fridge.
On the online group, we trade stories and recommendations for increasing supply with the fervor of junkies. Fenugreek, Blessed Thistle, brewer’s yeast, oatmeal (the real kind, not instant), dark beer, mother’s milk tea, Gaia Lactate Support, drinking enough water. I’ve tried everything, to no avail. I notice that on days when I don’t drink as much water as usual, my supply drops and on days when I eat 3 proper meals, my supply goes up. I’m looking forward to the new house & cooking so that I DO start eating properly again and I’m betting that that’s the only thing that will absolutely boost my supply.
We all keep logs at some point – some, only in the beginning, some for the entire duration of however long you pump, some only when they think their supply is dropping. I drove myself mad when trying to get my supply back up – I would see an ounce increase per day and panic on days when it seemed to stall or drop. You obsess if you need to supplement. You think, “Ok, I’ve had to supplement 8 oz, that’s 30%, I want to get that down to 4 oz or only 20%.”
For me, again, I’m lucky in that it seems when I go LONGER in between pumps, I get more. For example, if I go 4 hours between sessions, I get far more than if I’d pumped twice in those same 4 hours. For others, they need to pump on schedule at set times or every 2 or 3 hours and it’s hard to have a life and get out when you have to do that. We can go out on weekends or deal with moving stuff and unless I know we’ll definitely be away for more than 5 hours, I don’t sweat it. Otherwise, I’ll take a hand pump with me. I am, however, fretting over possibly flying back east to see my parents & to go the midwifery conference in April. A 6 hour flight is one thing, but a 6 hour flight + the extra time to check in and time for layovers = I’ll need to pump at some point. Someone is probably going to get weirded out, sitting next to me while I shove a plastic bottle under my shirt and pump furiously while trying to balance a sleeping baby on my lap, but oh well.
If (or rather WHEN) we go to Iceland in October, Felix will be just shy of a year old. My goal is to make it to a year. Thanks to the online group, I’ve learned that this is yet another thing for pumping moms to obsess over, and I’ve learned what to do if I’m separated from Felix for a week or so. Are you ready for it?
You keep pumping. You pack it in dry ice and you ship it home. And yeah, that is exactly what I’ll do. Granted, at 11 months old he won’t be needing nearly as much, so that’ll a break, but still. I can’t wait to see how much it’ll cost to ship dry-ice packed 4-oz bottles of breast milk to the States.
Oh, that’s dedication.
I once thought there was no way I’d make it to a year, pumping. I know I’ve said this before, but it’s a huge personal triumph for me to be here now. HUGE. It’s been 3 months and I never thought I’d get this far, but here we are.
It’s also hard because people don’t always understand it. No matter how supportive the husbands want to be, they don’t entirely get it and will ultimately think you’re putting yourself through a whole lot of unnecessary trouble. During our worst days, Mr Nikki will ask me if it would really be all that horrible to just give him formula and wouldn’t it be nice if we could take turns sleeping? He means it to be helpful, but it takes all my strength not to shoot daggers at him.
Other mothers will either be in the “why can’t you just breastfeed?” camp or the “formula isn’t poison, what’s the big deal?” camp. Many mothers will insist if you just “hang in there” or “try hard enough” that you could breastfeed. If you really wanted to. Those women are the ones I’d like to punch. I worked HARD with a couple of LCs, talked to pediatricians, tried day after day after day. Felix doesn’t have a concrete problem that we can “fix.” He just never quite figured out what to do with his tongue (I’ve gotten three confirmations that he is definitely not tongue tied) and I wasn’t willing to let him starve to figure it out. And don’t tell me that I just don’t want to badly enough, because pumping is no small feat at all. No one would CHOOSE to pump over breastfeeding. And the pump does far worse things to your boobs than a baby does. Being attached to a machine throughout the day is fun, fun fun. Boy, do I sympathize with cows.
Plus, when you pump, you SEE it. You know how much is there, you know exactly how much they drink, you notice color changes & fatty content. Seriously – did you know that breast milk changes color, depending on what you ate? Some days it’s whiter than white, bluish white, other days it takes on a yellowish hue. Some days it looks like it would glow in the dark. When I put some in the fridge, I’m gleeful when I notice thickening & it sticking to the sides of the bottle, or when I see separation. That means there’s lots of “hind milk” in there, the good, fatty, high calorie stuff that they need most. (I’m sorry, is that TMI? There tends to be no such thing as “TMI” once you have kids.) And when you’re pumping, you know all about things like hind milk and foremilk.
It’s worth it, though. He more than doubled in weight within less than 2 months. He was hovering around 13 pounds for the past couple weeks, but then he had a couple days of extreme fussiness and I thought, “Hmm… 3 month growth spurt!” To test my theory, I weighed him yesterday. Yup. 14 pounds. He gained almost an entire freakin’ pound within a couple days. I should be measuring him, too, though. He’s not a fatty, he mostly long & lean. Other than that chubby little double chin & his pot belly. Even when he was born, they commented on his height/length and he had grown 5 inches within just over 2 months, also. Growin’ like a weed, that kid.