Pumping, then Breastfeeding, then Pumping was a huge challenge for me as a mom to preemie twins. It was a very emotional, exhausting process that caused additional stress in an already stressful time in our lives.
With my first son, I breastfed exclusively. Sure, it was hard to get started, and I had my share of latching problems, soreness, and clogged ducts, but eventually we got the hang of it. I nursed him up until he was almost two. I really enjoyed the closeness and bonding of breastfeeding, and even though I was happy to be done after two years, I missed it. I wasn’t sure how it would be to nurse twins, but I knew I would try.
Then, they came early. Really, really early. A whole trimester early, so they had plenty they had to do before we could even think about breastfeeding. They had to learn to breathe on their own, regulate their body temperatures, and gain lots of weight. They were not able to do all that PLUS learn how to breastfeed, so they were fed by tubes.
Now, as moms we are all told by doctors, other mom’s, pretty much everyone, “Breast is Best.” The nurses and doctors in the NICU where my boys lived for their first three months completely agreed with this statement. Even before I could recover from my emergency C-section, I was given a hospital breast pump, and told to start pumping every 2 to 3 hours. You could have a 5 hour stretch overnight. Gee. Thanks.
I had probably pumped for my oldest about a handful of time, but he never liked taking a bottle. I knew what pumping felt like, but had no idea it was such a huge time commitment, and so much work.
But, I wanted to do what was best for my babies, and it was really the only thing I could provide them. I couldn’t hold them, and I could hardly touch them at first. They were supposed to be in my body, so they weren’t ready to be touched or handled. It was just too much stimulation too soon.
So, I sat in my hospital bed, pumping and pumping until my milk came in. I remember being so proud of the teeny, tiny bit of colostrum that first comes out. The nurses called it “Liquid Gold.”
It became part of my daily routine. Get up. Pump. Eat, get dressed for the hospital, and go to the hospital with my containers full of breast milk. Pump at the bedside. Go home. Eat. Squeeze in a nap. Pump. Play with my then 2-year-old. Pump. Eat dinner. Pump. Watch TV. Pump. Go to bed. Get up in the middle of the night. And you guessed it, Pump.
My husband would joke that he hated the Pump and the noise it made more than I hated it.
That was simply not possible.
Not only was it uncomfortable to do, time-consuming, and exhausting, but it was a constant reminder that my babies were not with me. I remember crying a lot while pumping. And writing. That was actually when I started to use writing as therapy (with my sports bra cut to make a hands-free pump.)
Yet, I still continued until the nurse told me they were ready to breastfeed. I was so happy and excited!
They were still so little, though, so it was very hard to get them to latch. I used plastic nipple shields to help, and eventually, they both started to get the hang of it.
Then, all of a sudden, the babies were ready to come home. I bought a double breastfeeding pillow, took the rest of my frozen milk supply from the hospital, (which I thought would last months and months, but in reality lasted maybe 1 month,)and was ready to toss the breast pump.
Except I couldn’t. They still needed to gain more weight, and wanted me to fortify a couple of bottles a day with extra calorie formula.
OK. No big deal. I’d pump a little, breastfeed a little, and we’d be all set.
Only, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.
My little guy got Thrush. Thrush is basically a yeast infection in your mouth, which he got from the antibiotics he was on for his eye surgery. It is very easily transferred, so I had to be careful about my little guy passing it to my big guy and myself…which he did. Well, he only passed it to his brother because I’m sure I mixed up a nipple shield or put them on the wrong side in my sleep deprived haze.
Two babies with Thrush meant trying to get two babies to take anti-fungal medicine. Not fun.
Their mouths were sore, and they’d get frustrated trying to latch. Going back and forth between bottles and the breast was confusing for them. I would then get frustrated, and everyone would be crying. Not the breastfeeding experience I was hoping for.
So, I got back on my full-time pumping schedule, and the babies were much happier. No more confusion, just a bottle. Plus, they were still getting all the benefits of my breast milk.
But, it was HARD for me.
Now I had to fit in pumping with taking care of three children, two of which were basically newborns. I was exhausted and starving all the time. Plus, I was super stressed out.
Preparing bottles is a lot of work. Way more work for me than breastfeeding.
I had to make sure everything was sanitized…pump, parts, bottles, nipples…because I was worried about them getting sick. I was definitely paranoid, but that’s what happens when your babies are in Intensive Care for the first three months of their lives.
Still, I kept at it. I continued pumping for 6 months exclusively. I then started cutting down my pumping time, but did it at least 3 to 4 times a day until I hit the year mark.
It was at that point, I felt I had done my job. I was actually pretty proud of myself. I provided them with the nutrition and antibodies I had for a whole year. A whole year of being hooked up to a machine. I can still hear the noise of the machine in my head. Ugh.
After an experience like that, I will never judge another mother again when it comes to feeding. I felt a lot of pressure to provide breast milk, and now I really don’t think that was fair. Especially to put that kind of pressure on a mother when her babies are in the hospital fighting for their lives. Luckily, many hospitals now provide donor milk to preemies.
Of course every mother wants what’s best for their baby, but you have to do what’s best for you too. You need to be able to take care of yourself in order to care for your baby. Whether you feed your baby breast milk or formula, all that’s important is that you’re feeding your baby and giving them love.
WOW! My hat is off to you, lady! I can not imagine the level of difficulty that proved for you. I am a mom who breastfed both her children, but neither would take the bottle, so the pump was pointless. Not to say I didn’t try. I was up with that God-awful machine at all hours trying my hardest to create a supply for my husband. He wanted to lend a hand and have the chance to bond with his children. However, it was all in vain. Neither child was accepting of a bottle. As a matter of fact, my first born went an entire day and into the night at only 4 months old while I was away. My mom and sister both came over to try and help my husband. That stubborn little man would rather have starved than cave to a bottle. When I came home he nursed himself sick. He guzzled so much, he vomited. Needless to say, I never got too far from the little fella after that. We tried again with child number two, but he proved just as stubborn. At 6 months, he would take the bottle and chew the nipple. That was as close as we got with that one. But, I digress. I have nothing but appreciation for what you went through to provide your wonderful supply of breast milk to your beautiful twins. Hat is off…you are a true champion and dare I say, my hero!
Awe. Thank you so much Sherry. I really wish I could have been successful at breastfeeding, but it was just not meant to be. Babies will do what they want to do, right? Thanks for sharing your story with me, and for the support. I really appreciate it.
Wow, that’s really all I can say. I love your determination but more than that, your honesty
Thank you so much Cynthia.
Sharee T says
Thank you for writing this. I needed to read this. Helped me come to terms with my own journey.
Thank you so much Sharee. I really appreciate that.
Tina K. says
Wow, I can definitely relate. I exclusively breastfed my son, who is 3 years older than my twins, and I didn’t really think I would breastfeed the twins, but I did, and also pumped after every feeding while they were in the NICU and for a few weeks after. But, like sherrysheppard27, my girls wouldn’t take a bottle. EVER. I breastfed one twin for 1 year and the other for 18 months. No bottles. I didn’t really do much else lol. Nor did I sleep much. I’m actually relieved to read that someone else went through this too, as it takes a lot of dedication. Hats off to you, fellow twin mom!!!! 🙂
Yes, soooo much dedication. And hats off to you twin momma! 🙂 Thank you so much for reading and sharing your story with me.
My first son born early and he could never latch properly so I pumped exclusively for him and it was SO SO hard! I only made it three months.. my daughter took to breast feeding right away and it was a totally different (and enjoyable) experience! Pumping is tough!
Yes, pumping is soooo hard! And so much different than breastfeeding. Glad you had a good experience with your daughter. 🙂
Brittany Bergman says
This is so good to read! Just yesterday I started to get really worried about breastfeeding issues. I’d like to breastfeed, but since I’m planning to go back to work after the baby comes, I know this will actually mean a lot of pumping and freezing. Thanks for sharing your story!
You’re welcome! I’m glad it was helpful!
Wow! You are a tough momma. The dedication you showed is amazing. I agree with you about not judging other moms and you shouldn’t have been pressured so with everything else on your plate. I nursed and supplemented with formula with my first child and breastfed exclusively with my second. Each was what worked for my family, body, and baby at that time. I appreciate you sharing your story so much.
Thank you Traci. I appreciate you taking the time to read it, and for sharing with me.
I give you a lot of credit for sticking with it and doing what you felt was best for your babies even if it was super hard for you! I always hated pumping, I can’t imagine having to do it for that long, every day! Some day your kids can thank you for your super Mommy dedication!
Thank you! I’ll have to remind them some day 😉
Tayler Morrell says
Yes, technically, breast is best, but what really is best is doing whatever is best for your individual child’s needs. My son didn’t get a lot of milk from me when I nursed…I just didn’t produce a lot, even with extra pumping, milk-making diet and fenugreek pills…he wasn’t gaining enough weight and his fontanel was always soft. So, by 4 months, we decided to go to formula. As soon as we did, he had a big growthspurt! So, as much as it killed me personally and made me feel as a failure who couldn’t personally provide the needed nutrients to her baby, I knew it was the right thing to do because he immediately started growing like he was supposed to!
Exactly! I’m sorry you felt like a failure because you were not. You did what you needed and what was best for your baby. Good job Mom!
Dina Farmer says
Oh my gosh! Been there just not with twins! Like I said before my little guy was born at 33 weeks. So as soon as I was in recovery after my c section the handed me a pump. The epidural was just wearing off and I was getting the shakes from it all while trying to fumble around with a breast pump. Thankfully I was able to get some colostrum out during the first pumping session and I got to hold my son 2 hours later. It’s tough trying to pump and I even went back to work and pumped there so many times a day until I finally decided to stay home full time with my son and whew when I stopped pumping it was the best day of my life! I hated pumping I felt more full after I finished. It was just terrible for me, I’m not saying it is not good for someone else just for me it was awful and when we have another I’m exclusively breastfeeding……unless we end up with another preemie again.
Yes, I was very happy to finally stop pumping. It definitely is not the same as breastfeeding. Thanks for reading and sharing your experience too 🙂
Heather Serra says
Holy smokes!! I’m not a mom and breastfeeding is totally foreign to me, but I gotta say…you have amazing dedication!! The entire process sounds painful, whether they’re feeding from the nipple or you’re pumping…it’s gotta be a total labor of love. Thanks for sharing. This was really insightful!
I hope I didn’t scare you! But, it is a labor of love, and if/when you are a mom, you will do what you need to do too. Thanks for reading and for the support.
Grace Mountain Diaries says
Wow. You are an amazing mom. My first was in the nicu for just under a week. It was so hard pumping and making time to see him. I breastfed but worked with my first and I can still hear my breastpump “talking” to me. And I remember my sister not being able to. We all do what we can and in the end, all that matters is how we loved. Thank you for sharing your story.
Thank you so much…and thank you for reading!
You are so impressive. What a great mom to do everything possible to do what’s best for your babies. I think that it’s amazing that you made it all the way through the first year!
Thank you so much Shelah!
I can’t even imagine. Breastfeeding is hard. Pumping is a lot of work. Hats off to you! The boys are totally worth it and it’s so impressive.
Thank you so much Nikki!
You’re a good mama! I can’t even imagine the stress you went through. But in the end I agree, feeding choices don’t really matter as long as a mother feeds her baby. And you manage to pump through the whole year! That’s impressive. Not every woman could withstand such a pressure.
You are truly amazing, incredibly written post.
Thank you so much Tanja!
Ugh, this sounds so stressful and exhausting. I love your last line, though—you have to do what’s best for yourself, too!
And Possibly Dinosaurs
You are so amazing mama!! My oldest went on a nursing strike at 2 months old. So I pumped for the first year of her life. Every 2-3 hours, with a 5 hour break to sleep. That “woa woa woa” sound is etched in my brain too. Cheers to exclusive pumpers! I remember how emotional it was many times too. It’s rough with a newborn (in your case, two!!), and adding the stress of pumping all the time…ugh! Yay for being done with the pump!
Awe, thank you. And yes, Hooray for no more pumping!!!!
I totally get what you’re saying. I wasn’t able to breastfeed either of my kids. With my son I didn’t produce enough, despite trying a million ways to make it be enough. People were terrible about it, but not nearly as bad as they were with my daughter. Since she was a micro-preemie like your guys, it was important that she have it, and I did my best. I considered myself proud that she got a month of it. I was so sick, and ended up allergic to the medication that was supposed to increase my milk for her. I kept taking it for 2 weeks – covered in a head to toe rash from it – before my doctor and her pediatrician put their feet down and MADE me stop. They said I had done what I could and I was going to do permanent damage. People still gave me crap about it.
That’s really terrible. They shouldn’t have put so much pressure on you. You tried your hardest, and you don’t want to compromise your own health or you can’t be the best for your baby. I’m sorry you went through this.