In honor of World Pumping Day on January 27th, we are recognizing some of the incredible parents who pump or express milk. Here is our first interview, between team member Georgette and interviewee Jennifer V., who pumps to donate her milk. Check out her story below!
G- What were some of your goals when you first started your breastfeeding journey? Did you plan to be an exclusive pumper? If so can you tell us what lead to that decision? If not, will you share what lead you to become an exclusive pumper?
J- My journey started off really hard to be honest. I had to start off as being an exclusive Pumper since both baby and I had major complications right after birth. She was rushed to the NICU and I was unconscious for hours due to Chorioamniosis (infection in the amniotic fluid, Pre-Eclampsia and bleeding out too fast for doctors to stitch me back up). Macy had severe trouble breathing and was diagnosed with Pulmonary Hypertension. She was sent to level 3 NICU immediately where she was put on a CPAP machine to help her breathe and given TPN via IV. After 2 blood transfusions I was allowed to go visit her but wasn’t allowed to pick her up because she was connected to so many wires and machines. The hospital I delivered at was very Pro Breastfeeding so they sent in a Lactation Consultant every day to work with me and help get me on a schedule. Every room had a Medela Symphony!
My goals are to hopefully reach 2 years since that’s what is recommended by WHO and the AAP. I’ll be happy if we make it to 18 months though.
G- What difficulties have you encountered and how have you overcome them?
J- When we got home I was still having lots of pain nursing her even though she had been checked for a tongue and lip tie so I figured it was just going to take time getting use to her latching on. After 3 weeks and multiple visits with the LC, we were nursing like champs. But sadly I just wasn’t making enough milk for her. I was still having to supplement at least 2-4 feedings with formula and she wasn’t liking that at all. I felt terrible, so I started looking into ways on how to increase my milk supply. I tried the lactation cookies and power pumping which worked a little but it wasn’t enough so my friend whose also an LC recommended me to try these particular supplements. Let me tell you those supplements work! They turned me into a cow within a few days lol. I now had a huge over supply! I could nurse my baby on demand and still pump an extra 20-40oz/day for my freezer stash! I knew I wanted to donate so I started looking into Human Milk 4 Human babies in my state. A friend from college had recently had a baby as well and introduced me to a mom who had recently adopted a baby and was looking for milk through Human Milk 4 Human Babies. I looked her up on Facebook and started a conversation. She was perfect in every way I could’ve imagined! The sweetest lady ever and was willing to drive to me to pick up milk for her son Rowan. Her goal was to have him on donor milk for the first month then she would switch to formula but I was looking into long term donation and since I had quite a bit of milk to give it was a match made in heaven.
I had major anxiety about giving away my daughter’s milk but I had to remind myself that she was always fed first no matter what. You don’t think you would be so attached to milk, but pumping is hard work and can be painful at times. After about 5 weeks my anxiety calmed down and we are the best of friends. Our babies have play dates and we get lunch when our schedules match. Rowan’s birth mom was very excited to hear that he’s still on donor milk. His adoptive mom is so thankful that I put in so much time for pumping extra milk for him. She didn’t have that special “connection” bringing him home from the hospital like she did with her 3 other kids and not being able to breastfeed made it harder to bond with Rowan. Having donor milk has allowed her to have peace of mind that her baby is getting the very best nutrition that he can have and not have to have something off the shelf ( not that there’s anything wrong with formula). Her original goal was 1 month but we are going 6 months strong now on all donated milk.
On all of my bags, I write a special note of encouragement or something quirky to get a smile on her face and mine. I label each bag if I have ever taken a medication so that we know if baby is having a reaction such as Tylenol or antibiotics even Tums! I consider him my own baby as well. I check to see how he is doing and love to hear that he is doing well when he goes to the doctor for check ups. Another difficulty I have is recurring clogged milk ducts. I get them weekly even though I nurse and pump every 3 hours like clock work. My baby has been sleeping through the night since she was 5 weeks old so I set alarms in the middle of the night to pump. But having such an oversupply has given me lots of clogged ducts, so I take a vitamin supplement to help bust those clogs. I also had a pretty bad case of Mastitis around 5 months. Antibiotics and lots of rest helped me recover.
G- What do you wish others knew about pumping?
J- Pumping is Breastfeeding too! There’s nothing wrong with giving a bottle of pumped milk so you can have some “me time”. Self love is needed and you can’t be a good mom without taking care of yourself first. Exclusively Breastfeeding means a baby’s diet is solely breastmilk and no formula. Doesn’t matter if its straight from mom, pumped or donor milk.
Being a NICU mom is hard but pumping is not impossible. Take the baby’s blanket with you so you can have their scent. A picture or video of baby crying will help you pump more milk. It may take a few days for your milk to come in. Lastly, Breastfeeding doesn’t always come natural to baby and mom and that’s ok! It may take time and that’s perfectly okay.
G- How has Milky Mommas helped you?
J- I have loved learning so many tips and tricks when it came to breast feeding. You don’t always have to pump and dump either! Infant Risk, Mommymeds and LactMed have been a life saver for me. Having a community that has the same goals as you is amazing. We live in a world where moms are told to feed the baby in the bathroom or to stop after just a few weeks and that’s not what Milky Mommas is about. They’re all about empowering women and bringing us closer together. There’s always another mom who has gone through what you’re going through and it brings great relief to be able to get the support and help you need when you need it.
G- Have you discovered any pumping tricks you want to share with others?
J- No matter what you do, water is the best thing for your supply. Even if you’re not thirsty, force yourself to drink water to keep up your supply. No supplements, cookies or brownies are ever going to help if you don’t drink enough water! Lube your flanges when pumping with a little bit of coconut oil. Pump at night since your body makes more milk at that time. Definitely invest in a good hands free pumping bra and make sure your flanges are properly sized for you. If you have to exclusively pump for your baby while in the hospital, ask your nurse to bring you syringes for you to send your milk to baby. Even if it’s a few drops. That’s drops of precious liquid gold that your baby needs.
Thank you for sharing your story with us Jennifer, and congratulations on your amazing gift and hard work! You are amazing! ❤