10 weeks of pumping

So I did some calendar counting and it turns out, this is my 10th week of exclusive pumping. I still can’t really believe I am doing this: if there is one thing I NEVER expected I’d commit to, it was exclusive pumping. And yet, here I am, at 5:50am, doing just that.

It continues to go well. I’ve actually cut my regimen down to three (30 minute) sessions most days. It doesn’t seem to have affected my supply negatively–I’m consistently pumping 12 ounces a session, so 36 ounces a day. This is still a good 6-9 ounces more than Monito actually eats. I freeze some of the excess, but until recently, a lot of it was just being wasted at the bottom of unfinished bottles. I know that I wouldn’t be exclusively pumping if my effort-to-yield ration weren’t so damn satisfying.

{One tip: For a while my supply did seem to be slowly dwindling. This was before I cut down to three sessions and I wasn’t quite sure what was causing the drop in output. For a while I thought maybe it was that I cut out wheat. Then I guessed it was my hormones settling around the three month mark. But finally I realized that it was the nipple cream I was using before I pumped. I thought using a bit of “lube” might make me more comfortable during pumping–and it did–but it turns out that it also made my supply drop because my nipples/areola weren’t being stimulated enough. As soon I stopped putting anything on my breasts before I pumped, my supply when right back up again. I just wanted to share that in case it helps anyone else who is having supply issues while pumping.}

Returning to work hasn’t made pumping any less manageable. The only issue is that it robs me of 30 minutes of sleep in the morning. Tuesday I tried pumping in the car on the way to work, to reclaim that 30 minutes, and it went fine. I didn’t really love having to deal with the 3 bottles of milk all day, and I doubt I’ll make a habit of pumping in the care in the early morning, but it’s nice to know that 2-3 days a week that is an option (the other 2-3 days a week I drive an 8th grade girl to school, and even I don’t feel comfortable pumping while she’s in the car).

Last month I hit my first big goal when it comes to breastfeeding by providing breast milk for the first three months of my son’s life. My next goal is six months. Of course every month in between feels important, but it’s really the six month mark that I want to hit. I exclusively breastfed my daughter until six months and I would like to do the same for my son. I’m not sure if I’ll make it that far though. At this point I’m trying to figure out what might cause the scales to tip into the this-is-just-not-worth-it-anymore place.

At this point the negatives are manageable. Really it’s just (1) losing the 30 minutes of sleep (definitely the biggest downside right now), (2) the pain of engorgement during the last 2 hours between sessions (now that I’m only pumping three times a day, with eight hours between each session, my breasts are quite uncomfortable in the final hours before I pump), and (3) the mild but constant itching/discomfort of thrush. At this point I’m not even sure if it is thrush, but the symptoms seem consistent with mild cases, and probiotics and grapefruit seed extract do seem to help, so I’m assuming it’s a minor yeast overgrowth. Even if it weren’t thrush, it’s still a constant discomfort that I can’t get rid of, so honestly I don’t really care what it is, I just want it to go away and it seems the only way it will is if I stop producing milk.

You might have noticed that I didn’t mention the wheat restriction in that paragraph. That is because I stopped eating gluten-free. It doesn’t seem to affect Monito’s rashes so I’m back to eating wheat again. I’m toying with the idea of going dairy-free for a month, because while the craddle cap on his face is much better (I switched to just shea butter, instead of the shea butter/coconut oil combo because I read that vegetable oils actually exacerbate the symptoms of craddle cap), the rest of his body is totally covered in eczema. It’s painful to look at. His stomach, arms and legs are just COVERED in red, aggravated, scaly rashes. I’ve tried everything and nothings seems to help. They were there when I was gluten-free and haven’t gotten worse since I started eating wheat again. I know dairy and soy can also cause eczema so I might cut them out. I don’t eat a ton of soy these days but I eat lots of yogurt, cheese and kefir so cutting dairy would be tough. I’m going to talk to his pediatrician at his appointment today and see what she recommends.

One thing I’ve noticed during my (relatively short) tenure of exclusive breastfeeding, is that, while everyone seems enthusiastic about supporting my choice to stop pumping and feed my son formula, no one seems all that keen on supporting my choice to continue pumping. I’m not quite sure why that is. It’s not like I complain about it much, or reach out in a way that would suggest I want to stop but can’t bring myself to do it. If I were doing those things, I would understand why everyone always tells me I should stop. It’s interesting to me that people think they are supporting me, but it only feels like they are supporting my available choice to stop pumping, and not my choice to continue. That path seems to make little sense to them, and many times I feel downright judged for keeping it up. The only person who I do feel supports my choice is Mi.Vida, and I suppose that is all that matters. But still, it’s disappointing that I feel I can never vent about the frustrations of exclusively pumping for fear that people will jump all over me about how I should just quit. That aspect has been really eye opening and is making me rethink how I provide support to people who are making choices that I don’t necessarily understand.

All in all I am very happy with my exclusive pumping situation. I’m thankful that I can provide my son breast milk, even though nursing didn’t work for us. I’m not sure how much longer I’ll continue to pump but I will consider the effort a success if I quit in two weeks or two months. Heck, I already consider it a success.

8 responses

  1. We live in a world of convenience and I think for a lot of people, pumping seems like it would be consistently inconvenient. Why bother when there are easier options (aka formula)? There’s nothing wrong with convenience but when has raising a child ever been easy or convenient? And should it be?
    Congrats on meeting your three month goal! Considering the challenges you’ve faced, you should be incredibly proud!

  2. Wow, I still can’t get over that supply! I used to pump 5x during the work day, for 7-8 ounces total. So that is awesome!!

    My boss was always super supportive of pumping, as she did it for a year with each child. Everyone else, though, seemed to act like they thought somebody was making me pump and they needed to free me of the guilt by giving me permission to stop. Many people didn’t seem to understand that it was something I really wanted to do. Although I complained about it, I also dragged my feet in stopping, because a part of me would miss it.

  3. DEFINITELY a success! I’m pumping as I type this (I try to do 2x/day right now to build up a freezer supply and have a bottle to give Harvey every night so that he’s used to bottles at daycare when I return to work in 3.5 weeks)… and I get probably 2-4oz/pumping session. I continue to be amazed with your output — what a blessing that it has made the choice to continue pumping an easier one for you (and how weird that ppl haven’t been supportive of that choice!). Good for you for sticking with it to hit your goals of EPing for Monito!

  4. Oh man I wish I had your output!! I’m lucky if I get 3-4 oz a session (that is with both boobs). I think it’s great that you are continuing to pump. Three times a day is well worth the effort- think about all of the money you are saving and the extra calories you are burning!

  5. I think it’s awesome! Why stop with such great output and a workable schedule? I think breast milk is the way to go, and if it’s working well for you, it seems like a no-brainer! Congrats on making it 10 weeks!

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