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Monday, 19 January 2015

Our Exclusively Pumping Journey

Fraser was born 10 weeks early.  A huge shock to the whole family and no one could tell us why, we still don't really know.  I just went into labour while at work one afternoon and about an hour later I had a baby.

Not at all what I had planned.... I was loving being pregnant this time around.  I felt healthy and more comfortable that I was in my first pregnancy.  So I mourned my pregnancy, I still sort of do.  I see pregnant moms and kind of wish I could be pregnant again.... without the end result of course!  We are done having babies!

Fraser stayed in the NICU for about 11 weeks.

In the first two weeks he wasn't able to nurse because babies who are less than 32 weeks old just don't have the coordination to suck, swallow and breath.  So he was fed my milk through a tube in his mouth, which was then moved to his nose later.  I pumped every 3 hours from the day he was born.  It was my most important job.

When he hit 32 weeks old we tried some nuzzling at the breast and he took to it right away.  He loved nursing, and I loved it too.  The first time he really got on there, the nurse weighted him before and after to see what he got.  14mls for his first time!  That was amazing and almost unbelievable. But from that point on, although he loved it and seemed to be doing well at the breast, he just never really got a whole lot.

Every time we would weight him it was disappointing, he wasn't getting better at getting the milk.  But he loved it and that seemed to be his favourite place to be.

As the days and weeks ticked along, waiting for him to get better at nursing so he could come home we started to get frustrated.  It came in waves, but we just wanted our baby to click with it and get a full feed and be able to come home.... But it just never happened.

And he was still getting tube feeds because he wouldn't take a full feed from breast or bottle.

I knew that part of the problem was that he probably wasn't all that hungry.  Because Fraser was sensitive to dairy, he was only able to have my milk and no added formula to bump up that calories, so he was getting a very large volume of milk in order for him to gain weight.

One nurse and I had a conversation with suggested that we try a week of no tube feeds and just bottles, only offering the breast once per day.  This would hopefully get him hungry enough to eat.  And because breast feeding is a lot more work for them than taking a bottle, he would burn less calories during that first few days.  He was expected to lose weight if we tried this.

We ran our plan by the doctor and she approved it.

I was to stay the night with Fraser and bottle feed him so that both he and I learned how to work together.  It was a learning process for me for sure, because I only ever breast fed Asher and bottling was quite foreign to me.

We had a good first night together, and I felt closer to him having been able to spend so much time with my little baby.

Here is Fraser after our first night of bottling together.
He was sleeping soundly while we waited for our morning
nurse to come take him back to the NICU. 

He lost weight the first day, but not as much as we had expected.  And he had taken great strides in how well he was bottling.  On the second night he had taken his first full feed!!!  I was so so excited.  And that next day he gained weight....  not much, but still!

Over the next few days his weight went up and down, and the doctors threatened to put the tube back in, but I pushed hard to keep it out.  I knew he was making huge strides with his feeding and we were doing what he needed us to do for him.

During this week I ended up not breastfeeding him much at all.  I tried once after our night together but it didn't go great because he probably wasn't all that hungry.  After that I just kept doing the bottles and telling myself that I would work on breastfeeding when we got home because we were so close.  We just needed him to gain weight and get home.

Our bottling plan worked and within a few weeks he was home where he belonged, FINALLY!

I was pumping to feed him bottles and tried to breast feed but he just didn't want anything to do with it.  He would suck for a few minutes but would then cry.  He just wanted the bottle.  Eventually I stopped trying and realized that at least he was getting my milk.  Pumping to bottle is a lot more work than Breastfeeding, I can tell you.  I breastfed Asher and it was a breeze compared to pumping every 3-4 hours with a newborn around.  Pumping while he was in the hospital was much easier.  I went and visited him and then the nurses took care of him while I pumped.

But at home, I had to wait for him to be napping or for Daddy to be home.  But I just made it work.

At 6 months pp, Fraser caught up to what I was producing for him.  So I started to try to increase my supply, I pumped every 2 hours (I had no life it seemed) for a few days.  My supply went up a bit and I got a bit more time out of it.  But it always seemed like a struggle to keep up with him, and I was stressed about how much I had all the time.

I got Fennugrek and Domperidone to help increase my supply but nothing seemed to make any huge difference for me.  I went along for another 2 months to 8 months pp, when I had finally cracked.  I was so stressed about how much I was producing and something was going on with my pump.  We ran all over town one afternoon trying to find parts for it to see if we could fix the loss of suction problem I was having which was leading to very low production.  When I realized that we had spend an entire day either pumping or worried about pumping.  An entire day.

I went and bought a can of formula.

I looked into the best types to buy.  Organic is best and then there were two brands I was comfortable with.  Still not perfect but the best on the market as far as ingredients were concerned.  I couldn't find #1 on my list so I settled for #2 which I could only find in one store.

And that night Gord gave Fraser his first bottle of formula, while I cried in the bedroom.

Hearing him suck, made my both happy and broke my heart.  I was so glad that he took it without a fuss, but so sad that he was drinking it and not my milk.

Oddly, after that I was able to fix my suction problem and get my milk back up a bit so he ended up having very little formula over the next month.  But again he increased what he was taking and I wasn't able to keep up with him, so slowly he started to have one bottle of formula per day on a more regular basis.  Some days he had none, and other days he had two, but I was starting to relax about how much I was producing because I knew I had the formula to fall back on.

I made the decision that I was not going to let pumping get in the way of life anymore.  If we were out having fun as a family, I wasn't going to worry about how long it had been since I last pumped.  I was just going to pump when it was convenient and made sense.  Whether that was after 2 hours or 4.

Last month, we went camping and I had an event to attend where I had a beachbody booth and was gone all day at that and then at an Anniversary party.  I knew this day would make it hard to pump as often as I normally do but I just embraced it.

That day I pumped every 5 hours.  And my milk supply dropped the next day.  The following day I had a hard time fitting in the pumps as well and my milk supply dropped a little more.  But I was ok with it.  I was easing into being ok with the formula and starting to be ready to be free of the pump.

Between then and now I've slowly been decreasing the number of pumps per day.  And a month later I am down to 2-3 pumps per day (down from 6-7).  I'm still giving Fraser some of my milk but I'm giving my family something better.... my time!

Yesterday I pumped in the morning, and then we took the boys for a family day in Sidney.  After which Asher and I went swimming.  Normally I would have pumped at least twice in between there, sucking up at least 30-40 minutes of my day. But I just kept rolling.

We came home from swimming, and hung out together, playing and then watching a movie and enjoying homemade pizza.  We got the kids to bed and then Gord and I did our P90x3 Yoga X.  I had a shower and then we sat down and I pumped while we watched a show together.

It was freeing not worrying about pumping all day long.  Not trying to fit it into the day.

I have more time for Asher and to play with Fraser. I don't have to choose between pumping and working out or showering when Fraser is napping.

I'm still giving him some of my milk, and I'm sad that it couldn't be exclusively breast milk or breastfeeding.  But after almost 11 months of pumping every 3-4 hours, I'm finally ready and ok with this transition.  I know it's best for my family, and with summer on the way, I'm looking forward to days at the beach, and not being stuck indoors pumping!

And you know what, Formula feeding isn't exactly easy either. You have to be super organized with bottles and formula when you go out.  Plus making sure you have enough boiled and cooled water on hand. When I was pumping to bottle I pumped and had fresh milk at the ready for up to 6 hours!  I'd just throw it in his car seat with him and away we went.  He drank it at room temperature so I never had to warm it or anything.

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