Total Basset Case: Milk Maid

Dec 15, 2016

Milk Maid

*Warning: this post is about breastfeeding/pumping and includes photos of breast milk.  This is also not a discussion for or against breast vs bottle, I just wanted to share a a little about our breastfeeding and pumping journey because it has been somewhat unique.

Even before we decided to have a baby, I have always been a huge fan and advocate of breastfeeding.  For one, its free and two, it is highly proven to be great for the baby.  But again, free. I like free.  Plus I always imagined the connection between a nursing mother and baby must be amazing (and it is).  
So when we did find out we were expecting, I was already day dreaming of that first skin to skin moment and breastfeeding in the delivery room.  As we know this is not how our journey began, but I thought I would share how our journey did begin and how it has continued.

Obviously I did not get to nurse Little Mister when he was born.  A few hours later when the nurse asked if I planned on breastfeeding him down the road.  I said yes and she informed me that in order to get my milk started it was best if I pumped within 12 hours of delivery.  (Human bodies are incredible.)  This meant I had to pump for the first time by 5am and with the whirlwind of the day we had, I don't think I actually did until midnight or so, but by golly I wasn't going to miss that opportunity.
Admittedly, (in my delirium) at first I did not fully grasp the fact that I couldn't just go down to the NICU and nurse Little Mister and be on our breastfeeding way.  As the nurses and lactation consultants explained to me, if I wanted to provide Little Mister with my milk, pumping would become my life.  I needed to start pumping and keep it up every 2 hours and he would be fed via a feeding tube with my milk, once it came in.  Once that sunk in, it became (and continues to be) to my goal to provide him with as much milk as possible.  We felt SO helpless with him in the NICU, pumping at least gave me something to do and something to feel like I was contributing to.
With him being a preemie it took even longer for my milk to come in but I kept at it while in the hospital, every 2 hours.  There were quite a few 15 minute pumping sessions that resulting in literally NOTHING coming out of my body.  Talk about feeling defeated.  
The hospital had give us syringes to collect my milk/colostrum (if any) in and transport to the NICU. For a while, I was 100% certain I would never have anything to take to the NICU.  They kept encouraging me to keep trying and keep going and that any little drop was helpful and they would add it to the milk they were giving him.
I will never forgot the session I was able to get ONE tiny drop.  I somehow was able to transfer that ONE drop into a syringe and practically ran it down to the NICU.  
It's hard to tell but there is ONE tiny drop in there.  And that's also the last time my nails were painted.

I have no idea if they were even able to use it or not but in my head they did and that was all I needed to keep going.
There were a few times I dropped the TINY amounts that I had produced and (hormone induced) tears ensued.  It was VERY hard to transfer the drops from the bottle to the syringe because there was so little. 
Talk about feeling defeated.  But I soldiered on for the sake of Little Mister's growing body.  
Slowly (very slowly) but surely I would get a little bit more each time.  I remember Mister and I rejoicing when I got 3ML and on the final morning we were there, 8ML (!!).  I could hardly believe it. 
Finally once we were home for a few days my milk FINALLY came in.  What takes normal mamas about 3-4 days took me about 6 because of the premature birth.  

The hospital provided us with 3oz bottles to collect milk in and labels for those bottles.  The process was to pump at home (or in the NICU) and then return the milk to the hospital when we visited each day.  I continued to pump and pump (every 2 hours, 3 at night) and collect what I could.  In the beginning I only had a few, barely filled bottles, to turn in.  (Each pumping session had to be collected in a separate bottle.) 
Again, I'll never forget the day that I had 7 (then 9 and 10) bottles to take down, that was the most I had ever had!
Progress was being made and I was finally feeling successful with all the pumping I was doing.
This continued on and I was getting to where I was averaging 10-12 bottles a day to take down and had to move up to a bigger cooler.  All of these, seemingly, small steps helped encourage me to keep going.  Especially when it was 2:30am and I was dog tired from getting up in the middle of the night every single night.  Knowing that I was able to provide for Little Mister was incredibly encouraging.  The more milk I took to the NICU, the more they were able to give him in his bottles.  Another progress step was the day they told me all of his feeds were 100% my milk and no added formula.  I was SO excited.  Feeling like I was contributing to his growth when we weren't able to provide for him 100% of the time made me feel very good.

And this is the pattern I continued on for quite a few weeks.  Pumped at home, pumped at the NICU and handed in all of my milk.  One day the nurse told me to stop bringing in my milk because my drawer was full with over 100 bottles!  This was awesome.  One, it was one less thing to take to the hospital and two I was able to start my freezer stash at home.  I use these bags to freeze milk at home.  Thankfully I've been able to build up quite a stash at home which makes me very happy.  We are trying not to dip into too much right now but it sure is comforting to know it's there.

I also started being able to nurse him while in the NICU for at least one feeding a day.  When he was so little and young, one was plenty as it was very exhausting to him.  It was also suggested to me to use a nipple shield when nursing him because he/preemies do not have the stamina or power to breastfeed like a term baby does.  We still use one now because it is way easier for him.  Hopefully as he continues to grow we will do away with it as his strength and stamina increase.  

Right now I am continuing to pump every day and night and use what I pump during these sessions for his daily bottles.  And on a good day, have a little extra to freeze.  Along with pumping I also try to breastfeed him a least a couple times a day before his bottle.   He still does not have the stamina to do a full feed nursing but hopefully one day!
Because of this I don't fall into the exclusively pumping club or the exclusively breastfeeding club.   But whatever we're doing, so far it's working so we will keep it up!  As of yesterday he is up to 9lbs 14oz!!
Feed me, Mama!

I am planning on doing a separate post on what foods I eat, my exact schedule and what seems to work and what doesn't for best milk production from what I've learned so far.

I won't lie, it is A LOT of work and I spend at least 2 hours of my day and night hooked to a machine.  I am constantly doing math concerning the times of the day and planning my day around my pumping schedule and his eating schedule but knowing that he is growing well is enough to keep going for as long as I can.  


Unknown said...

Way to go! That drop counts! I know when I work in the NICU I add the tiniest amounts bc it's important to the momma who made that drop. So proud of you!


The Lady Okie said...

This is pretty amazing to read. I know how hard it is to pump and pump and have nothing come out, so to continue to do so like you did is really admirable. Sounds like you had a great team of nurses encouraging you too, which is awesome!

Kait said...

Eeeek! I'm so proud of you!!

Meredith said...

Way to go! You're rocking the mom thing, no surprise! Pumping is like a full time job! I'm assuming you have lots of friends to share the must have pumping stuff like hands free bras etc! Sounds like he is thriving and y'all are doing an amazing job! Go girl! There isn't anything we won't do for our babies!

Katie said...

You are sooooo amazing! SUCH.HARD.WORK.

I'm planning on putting up my pump (weaning this week) next week and I already have a Botox appt, spa day, and Lululemon pants planned for me next month, ha :)

Chelsea E. said...

So proud of you for this! You're doing a great job. While I didn't go through the NICU aspect of this, I can empathize with pumping. I managed to get Molly to a year solely on pumped milk and only wanted to quit 4 million times. If you ever need encouragement, you know where to find me. Keep up the good work!

Lisa @ Naptime Chai said...

Wow you are doing an AWESOME job!!!!! Way to go!!!

Jill @ Bluegrass Belle said...

Keep rocking momma! You are doing awesome! Pumping is hard and I am proud of you not giving up!!! Keep growing little man!

Ashley Robyn said...

I am so thankful for honest posts like this. As I approach week 33 my mind keeps wandering to my hopes of getting to experience this in whatever way my body decides. You are amazing momma. Thank you for sharing.

Whitney @ justacountry-girl said...

Yesssssssssssssss. To all of this. Good job momma's!!!!!

Whitney @ justacountry-girl said...

Proud of you momma. Pumping is the hardest thing I have ever done. Sounds like you have it down. If you need anything I am happy to be a resource for you!!!!!! I made it ten months and I sometimes don't know how I did it. I am so so proud of you. Especially with a preemie. So much respect for you!!!!!!

Erin LFF said...

You are a rockstar!! I never really fell into the EP or EBF club either- we had many struggles just with him being 3 weeks early, so I cannot imagine the hard work you have been doing with a true preemie. You are an amazing momma!!

Unknown said...

We have such similar stories! I am exclusively pumping going on 6 months. Good job lady!