How I went from melting my tubing in the microwave, to exclusively pumping for over a year.
I guess you could say my breastfeeding journey started the day I picked out my pump. I was a first time mom standing in Nurturing Expressions, being told all about the different pumps, and I had no idea what I was doing. Did I want a backpack or a tote? Rechargeable battery or plug into wall? What did the reviews say? Which one does my insurance cover? So many questions, so many decisions. In the end I picked one I felt would work best for me, and I took it home for it to sit in the babies room for a few more months.
A few weeks before my daughter was born, my doctor told me to start pumping to induce labor. I came home from my appointment to clean and sanitize all of my pumping parts. I opened the box, everything looked really straight forward. The pump also came with a free micro steam bag, this way I could sanitize the parts without boiling on the stove top. I thought I was so slick, I’m an adult, I don’t need directions. I loaded that steam bag up! Two bottles, the breast shields, tubing, connectors, whatever those yellow things were, and the membranes. Connector, valve, and membranes all still attached mind you. I dumped 2 oz of water in the bag and tossed it in my microwave. Now, the directions said to heat anywhere from 1:30-3:00 minutes, depending on your microwave. I decided not to look at the watts on my machine, and punched in 3 minutes. So easy right??? About 2 minutes and 15 seconds in I started to smell burning, but I figured everything was just getting really clean, no biggie… when the microwave dinged I got to see my handy work. Not only did I melt the tubing, but the heat from burning the tubing melted the other parts, and melted a hole through the micro steam bag. Was not my brightest moment, but I am very lucky my insurance covered replacement parts.
When I got replacement parts, and cleaned them correctly, I started pumping to induce labor. Turning on that pump for the first time was equal parts terrifying and intriguing. Pumping was not nearly as bad as I had imagined, I just needed a bigger breast shield which I soon figured out.
My daughter was born at 41 weeks and 4 days, and I remember right away I was having issues getting her to latch. The lactation consultant, and all the nurses kept trying to get her to latch, and it just was not working out well. When she did latch, she would unlatch almost immediately. The doctors were concerned about her blood sugar levels at birth, and wanted her to eat to help stabilize them. With her not latching they suggested trying formula, I agreed because I just wanted her to be okay, we could work on latching after right?
She hated it, she would not drink the formula, so the nurses brought in a pump for me to use. Since it was the same brand I was using at home I already knew how to get everything set up. When I was pumping, I was pumping a lot of colostrum, the nurses kept commenting on how much I was making. We collected the milk and started syringe feeding her and she took it right away. Every time she was hungry we tried to latch first, when it didn’t work I would quickly set up the pump, and listen to her cry while I desperately wanted the machine to work faster.
I had a feeling something was wrong with her latching. I knew I had no experience with breastfeeding, and I could be doing things better as well, but I felt like I was learning wrong. I started googling why babies couldn’t latch and read about tongue ties. When the pediatrician came in to assess her for discharge I brought up the fact that I was having a hard time latching, and asked if she could check for a tongue tie. She said there was probably a slight tie, but that she didn’t feel the need to correct it, just keep trying to latch and we would get the hang of it eventually.
When we brought her home I did just that, every time she was hungry it was like a vicious cycle. Try to latch, fail to latch, she is crying and frustrated, I am crying and frustrated, wanting to give up, then pulling out the pump parts and pumping to feed her. All. Day. Long. I started googling(Hey, I google everything) and I found out there were other people who exclusively pumped for their babies. I thought that could be an option until we figured out how to latch. I feel like those were really dark times for me, this baby that my husband and I had tried for so long to have, wanted nothing to do with me. I would watch my husband bottle feed her while I pumped, and I was so jealous. I wanted that, I wanted to direct latch and feed her, that was my job right? I pushed her away, I know I did, I kept using the excuse that her dad would deploy one day, so they needed to bond as much as possible so they didn’t forget each other.
I had just finished trying to latch her, and was pumping while I was scrolling Facebook, and a post from Nurturing Expressions came across my timeline “Breastfeeding Support Group Thursdays 10-11:30” I thought, I need that, I need support, and I made it a mission to make it to the next group. She was 10 days old when we came to group. I brought her, my pump, my mother(thanks Ma) and I was sure that we would leave latching and I could ditch the pump. This is where I met Tracy, Tracy is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant also basically my saving grace. I told her what was happening, I spoke with her about how the doctor thought she may have a slight tongue tie, and she checked. Not only did my daughter have a pretty significant tongue tie, she also had a lip tie. No wonder latching wasn’t working! She spoke to me about a dentist in the area who has a laser, and Elizabeth gave them a call for me to set up an appointment. I was so hopeful, and excited to get this back on track.
I got into the dentist the next day, 2 days before Christmas, and she was out of my arms for less than 5 minutes. They said when she came back to me, I should try to latch, with her ties released she would have an easier time eating. She did not in fact latch, at that point any time I tried to latch her she would cry, push off of me as hard as she could, and scratch me. I was devastated, so I pulled out the pump which had started to become a staple with me. Baby, diaper bag, pump bag, everywhere I went.
I came to breast feeding support group every week, and every week she would latch beautifully in front of Tracy, and then we would come home and she wouldn’t latch. I’m not going to lie, I was heart broken. I was added into some exclusive pumping groups on Facebook and saw some moms had been exclusive pumping for 3 months! I was never going to be able to make it that far, but its what was working for us currently until I could get her to latch. Around the 4 month mark I think I finally came to terms with the fact that my daughter was not going to latch. Every time I tried she cried, screamed, clamped up her mouth, scratched me, and pushed off as hard as she could. I couldn’t take the emotional strain anymore, it wasn’t helping my mental health, and all I was doing was pushing her away.
After pumping every time she was hungry I decided to switch to a schedule. Every 3 hours while I was awake, and pumping every time she woke up at night to eat. We had a routine, baby cries and I woke up and started heating a bottle and putting together pump stuff. My husband grabbed the baby and changed her diaper. He fed her while I pumped, then I would store the milk and we would all go back to bed.
Pumping this way created an over supply quite quickly. With having an oversupply I was engorged 24/7 for what seemed like 7/8 months. I quickly ran out of room in my freezer, and I didn’t just want to throw milk away because I couldn’t store it. I ended up donating a portion of what was in my freezer to a mom who couldn’t breast feed any more. Eventually I needed to buy a deep freezer for extra milk, and I found a cheap one online. I met another mom who needed donor milk and started regularly donating my extra milk to those 2 families.
Nurturing Expressions has become such I vital part of my breastfeeding journey, between pumping supplies, pumping products, lactation support, and all the various support groups. I truly believe there is no way I could have made it this far without this store. When I was first starting out I used to use the store as a goal, just make it to Nurturing Expressions with the baby and all of the stuff and I’ll be golden. This store has allowed me to grow and flourish as the mom I know I want to be, even on the days I feel like I cannot continue pumping.
A dear friend once told me(and continues to tell me) that breastfeeding only works when it works for both of us. I hold onto her words, and I have taken that into consideration every time I feel like I cant keep going. This is about the time that I will restructure my pumping schedule, or treat myself to a new breastfeeding related item. One of those two things is normally enough to get me excited about pumping again. I’m almost 17 months into exclusive pumping, with my end goal being 2 years. I’ve changed the pump I use a couple of times since then, and I’ve gotten a few essential pumping supplies to help make things easier for myself. Hands free pumping bra, pumping lubricant, a pumping bag that doubles as a diaper bag so I can go out with just one bag, a travel pump that has a rechargeable battery, a pumping log app so I can track what’s going on, and many special water cups with different size straws for whatever I’m feeling that day.
I haven’t let exclusive pumping slow me down, I go out shopping, traveling, hiking, and I just pump where and when I need to. I’ve pumped on a ferry, on a plane, in an airport, in the car, hiking at Mount Rainier, the mall, hotels, anywhere I need to get the job done. I am so proud of how far I’ve made it, and that I’ve been able to help out other families in the mean time. Even though I feel our breastfeeding journey is coming to an end, I feel glad knowing I did what worked best for us.
Even though everyone’s breastfeeding journey is different, I’m glad we can all find support and comfort with this beautiful store.