Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Exclusively pumping: My experience

I have at least 10 "new posts" that are all half written. I hope I manage to finish and post at least this one.

My little one completed 7 months. I can't believe we are here. I still think of that first month and shudder. Not a day goes by when I don't think about those awful awful days. But it gives me all the more reason to hold my baby closer, smell her, look into her eyes and tell her how much I love her. How we almost lost her. How thankful we are to the Almighty for keeping her safe.

But I digress.

I just wanted to write this post, to give hope to the mothers out there who have a hard time breastfeeding, for whatever reasons (not latching, sick baby etc). My little one was exclusively fed "IV fluids" for the first two weeks. During that time, I was adamant that I wanted to pump breast milk (BM). The staff at the neonatal intensive care unit were extremely supportive of this. I remember the first few nights, sitting up at night, trying to squeeze out the colostrum (because I didn't have enough to use a pump), while my husband called the hospital to find out how baby girl was doing. We don't know how we got through those few days, but I continued to express whatever I could. I remember how embarrassed I was when I first gave a few ml of colostrum to the nurse to put in the freezer. But the nurses assured me that my milk would come in. As hard as it is to write, the truth is, I remember thinking once "Is there a point pumping milk, will she ever taste this milk...will she make it?". As awful as the thought was, things were so bad at that time that the thought did occur to me.

When I sat by my little girl, who was completely sedated and covered in wires and tubes, I felt absolutely helpless. And I knew that as a mother, the only way I could help her at that time, was to pump and freeze the precious breast milk, because some day she would need it, and some day I would be able to give it to her. I knew that as a sick baby recovering, she would need all the help she could get. Pumping in the hospital was difficult. I had to tear myself away from her bed side to go pump every three hours. In the pump room, I would chat with the other mothers, mostly moms of premature babies who were also trying to help their little ones any way they could.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my daughter had feeding difficulties. We literally started with 5 ml of BM by mouth and the rest by nasal tube beforeworking our way up to full feeds (which took about two months). I continued to pump after she got back from the hospital. I rented a hospital pump. I managed to give her only BM for 6 months! Since I had a stash of frozen milk from her time at the hospital, I had enough for her. After 6 months, I supplemented with formula whenever I fell short. We also started solids at 6 months.

Going on to 8 months, I am still pumping, and she gets mostly BM! My aim had been to make it to 6 months at least, but since I still have a decent supply, I figured I'll continue for as long as I can (and as long as this doesn't drive me insane). I started with 6 -7 pumps, but have now have dropped to 3 pumps a day. It is definitely inconvenient and sometimes irritating, when I have to sit and pump when the rest of the household is sleeping. But browsing or reading a book really helps with the boredom. Interestingly, there was this one time I had a bad cold and sore throat. I was so worried that baby girl would end up getting sick too, something we didn't want to happen, especially due to her weak lungs. Miraculously, she didn't get sick, and I think the antibodies in the milk may have helped her.

So I just wanted to say that exclusively pumping is definitely possible! You can do it too, if the need arises. A few things I learnt:

1. If you are exclusively pumping, it makes sense to rent a hospital pump. I found a place that rents Ameda elite pump for 38 $ a month!
2. Pump at least every 3 hrs in the beginning. Remember, pumping is not as efficient as baby nursing, so you want to pump often. After around 12 weeks, you can drop a couple of pump sessions, since your supply is now established.
3. Don't be discouraged by the few drops of colostrum in the beginning. Your milk will come in.
4. If you have supply issues, try Fenugreek. I did, and I think it worked for me - it did increase my supply by a few oz. Also, if you see a drop in supply, pump an extra session.
5. Its ok to supplement with formula. Sometimes there isn't enough milk, and there is no point blaming yourself or fretting over it. Do what's best for your little one.
6. Pump when the baby sleeps. That way you don't miss out on spending time with her.
7. Take each day as it comes. I never thought I'd make it this far.

I hope this helps. Feel free to contact me if you have questions about exclusively pumping. Its a long and sometimes boring journey, but in the end, definitely worth all the effort for your baby!


  1. So glad you were able to do this for your little girl! What a blessing :)

  2. Hi Keya, its lovely to hear an update and what a great idea to share your experiences as there will definitely be others out there that will benefit from you setting out your thoughts, feelings and tips.
    Glad little one is doing so well, she must be very precious