I exclusively pumped for my son for 12 months for several reasons (which people may or may not understand or agree with). My son had a moderate tongue-tie; I was in excruciating pain breastfeeding because no one caught the tongue-tie for a while. The nurses and lactation consultants all said that pain was normal. In the end, we saw 2 pediatric ENTs, 2 pediatricians, and 3 lactation consultants. No one could definitively tell us whether clipping his frenulum would correct his latch (I've since heard from more than a few moms that their children had this procedure done at least twice to no avail). The pediatric ENT at our hospital and my OB-GYN recommended couldn't do it until 5 days after his birth so my husband and I decided we would make an appointment to have it done. Unfortunately, the day after we were discharged from his delivery, my son had to go back into the hospital for jaundice and more than 10% weight loss. During that stay, I pumped what I could and gave him formula to flush out the bilirubin.
Once we were back home, I encountered another problem I hadn't anticipated: my daughter. She was 22 months old when my son was born, but had been adopted and brought home 367 days earlier. Because of the immense amount of time I was devoting to trying to nurse the baby, my daughter became extremely jealous. I became worried that essentially ignoring her to attempt to nurse my son was very negatively impacting my relationship with her. I wasn't worried about not bonding with my son if I didn't breastfeed because I knew from experience with my daughter that even the act of bottle-feeding can be very nurturing.
I tried to salvage the whole breastfeeding idea with one last desperate and expensive home visit from an LC from a very well-regarded breastfeeding center in my metro area. We tried all the tricks and nothing helped. The LC lifted a burden off my shoulders when she told me that when woman complained of sore nipples, they had nothing on my tongue-tied-wracked nipples. Suddenly the idea came to me that I could pump for my son and provide breast milk for him that way. I knew nothing about EPing or even that it had a name; if I had known more, I might not have ventured down that road!
All I knew was that I needed to keep ahead of my son, so in the beginning, I pumped like crazy, using a rented Ameda Elite. That concept of "sleep while your baby sleeps" didn't happen for me. I needed to pump while my son slept. I pumped around the clock- at midnight and then at 5am, all the while doing the feedings and diaper changes too (my husband and I decided that he would sleep instead because he was working and mostly taking care of our daughter all by himself). In the early stages, I pumped over 8 times a day. I soon learned little tricks, like that it was ok to leave milk out at room temp for 5 hours, and to refrigerate pump parts in between pumping sessions to avoid unnecessary washing.
Fortunately, I had a wonderful supply, as I believe my body really acclimated to the pump since it was the only thing it knew. Eventually I was able to decrease my number of pump sessions to 4 times a day, which luckily coincided with my return to work. At 4 pumps, I was able to produce 36-40 oz. a day and could freeze a good portion of that. We eventually bought two deep freezers to store 1800oz. I dropped my middle of the night pump, but did make my 1st pump of the day at 4:30am (I have to get up at 5am for work). I started the slow weaning process at 9 months and pumped my last pump just before my son turned one. With my frozen stash, I was able to give him breast milk until he turned 14 months.
I believe there needs to be much more education and research regarding exclusive pumping. From other EPers I’ve met, I’ve learned that it seems many LCs and pediatricians are not supportive or informed about EPing as an option. In the breastfeeding class I attended, EPing was never mentioned as a choice. Many of the “absolutes” written in regards to breastfeeding don’t seem to apply to breast milk via bottle-fed babies. I remember I was really worried when I read on KellyMom.com that a breastfed baby would never drink more than 5 oz. at a time, since my son routinely drank 8 oz. or more, and even on one occasion, drank 12 oz. I’ve since talked to other moms who felt the same. Many women who pump are absolutely able to maintain or build supply through pumping only and it is demoralizing to hear statements of “A baby is always more efficient than a pump” or “A woman will never be able to maintain a supply through pumping only.” There are many, many women who have amazing supplies of 60 oz. or more each day!
While some women choose to EP as a first option, most do not. It’s important to remember that a great majority of these women have feelings of guilt, shame, failure, and disappointment that they were unable to breastfeed. Sometimes, women are told that they didn’t try hard enough or they are challenged when they say they were unable to breastfeed. People don’t really believe them when they say they couldn’t. Remember that these women are going above and beyond the call of duty when they go down the road of exclusive pumping. We all believe breast milk is optimal and strive to provide it the best we can even if we are unable to nurse directly.
And lastly, I wanted to recognize the importance of having a support system for EPing. I was fortunate that I was able to afford renting a hospital pump for 9 months, AND buy a Medela Freestyle and Harmony (as back up for work). I was fortunate that we could buy two deep freezers, countless bottles, milk bags, lanolin, organic breast pads, hands-free bras, and assorted other accessories, and that my job had a dedicated lactation room. Without all this stuff to help me, I can say with 100% certainty that I would not have lasted for 12 months.