When I started out pumping for my daughter over 3 years ago, I had no idea that exclusive pumping was an actual “thing”, I had no idea what was considered the norm in terms of pumping sessions and yeild. So I chose to follow my newborns normal feeding patterns which consisted of pumping at every feeding session, which made sense to me.
Looking back however I can now say convincingly that I was a low supply mom, the one thing that made this hard to tell at the time was the fact that my daughter was a poor feeder, such a poor feeder in fact that we frequently found ourselves in hospital due to poor feeding and often dehydration as a result of the poor feeding.
As poor a feeder as my little girl was (is), I was always only a bottle ahead of her needs, if that, so I had to pump every time she “fed”, which worked out to every 2 hours for approximately the first 6 months of her life.
Every 2 hours, day and night, I would pump my yeild which averaged around 125mls a session in the beginning and slowly grew to 200mls a session by the 6 month mark, MOST of that went down the drain to lack of knowledge and experience in correct breastmilk handling.
Pumping around the clock was tiring, but by 5 weeks I had a system that seemed to work for me, I would feed the bottle I had in the fridge from the session before, burp, change and settle my daughter and then while singing or bouncing on the bed next to my daughter I would start my session, luckily I had invested in an amazing little hand pump whose suction is comparable to leading hospital grade electrics, so pumping sessions were 20 to 25 minutes max, I would do a quick wash of my pump, stick it in the steriliser and hop into bed next to my newborn for a blissful few minutes of sleep and start again. There were days however where supply was lower than normal and I would pump what I could, feed her and pump again 30 minutes later. I could never supplement with formula as my daughter suffered from an allergy to cows milk protein and formula made her incredibly ill.
In retrospect I am glad I did not know of the many EP support groups out there available to me in the beginning, I feel that if I had actually known I was a low supply mom back then, I would have been discouraged and perhaps ended my journey a long time ago. Support is vital in a journey like exclusive pumping, but personally I am a very sensitive person by nature and can often overthink and over analize situations to my own detriment, that being said, if you feel you NEED support, then reach out and find it!
At around 6,5 months I was put on a medication called Eglynol, which is an anti-physcotic which was subscribed for 2 purposes, I had started suffering with PND and as a side effect of this drug, it increases breast milk supply. It helped tremendously to boost my supply (and quieted my mind) and I was able to have 2 or 3 feeds available in the fridge at any given time, but by then I also knew a lot more on how milk production works and so I knew that skipping sessions could harm my supply. So I stuck to my schedules and started to slowly drop from 11 pumps per day down to 9.
By the time my daughter was mobile I was still on a demanding schedule for pumping, being alone for most of the day I made use of plenty of colourful books, noisy toys and lots of pillows. Again, I am thankful for having found such an amazing little hand pump so although I was tied down to my pumping sessions, I wasn’t tied down to specific place, I could move around freely and interact with my daughter and still pump.
At around 23 months I officially started my first freezer stash, I was able to freeze about 100mls a day, which I happily donated to SABR as my daughter was not particularly fond of frozen stash milk. Ironically I was also at my lowest number of pumps per day, which was 2 to 3 sessions a day. My daughter had gone from drinking 125mls 4 times a day to drinking 2 bottles of 150mls each.
At 38 months I decided to wean from the Eglynol and as expected my supply took a hit, from producing up to 200mls a session (400mls a day), I went down to pumping on average 80mls a session, which just barely covered my daughters bedtime bottle, so begrudgingly I added in a power pump session 3 days a week. Thankfully my supply started averaging at 120 – 150mls a session which worked out to 250 – 300mls a day so I was again able to freeze some milk every day.
Having a low supply meant that I had to work a little harder than most and I absolutely HAD to stick to frequent pumping sessions for a lot longer in my journey than other EPers, supplementary feeding was not an option and so my only choice was to persevere and do what had to be done.
I do not feel that I missed out on any time with my baby or lacked bonding time, we are extremely close and I believe that the benefits of being able to feed my daughter breastmilk far outweighs any hardship I had to endure to get her to where she is today.
Pump On Mumma