When Breastfeeding Becomes Pumping… #GrowLilahGrow

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If we just take the time to watch and listen closely it’s truly amazing the life lessons our children can teach us.  Even though Lilah is only two months old she has taught me one very valuable lesson. That I am not and can not always be in control of every situation.  After having three children that breastfed with ease from birth there wasn’t a single doubt in my mind that Lilah would be any different.  After all when she was born weighing 6 pounds 5 ounces there didn’t seem to be any visible signs that we would have a problem.  She would latch on and nurse for fifteen to twenty minutes at a time.  She was having lots of dirty and wet diapers that were the correct color and consistency for a breastfed baby.  After dropping a bit in weight to 5 pounds 10 ounces while at the hospital at her one week check up she was beginning to gain again and was now at 5 pounds 14 ounces.  Things were great.

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And then as that first month went by I began to notice that her little cheeks weren’t very full anymore.  Her skin seemed to be lacking that healthy glow.  Something was wrong.

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I realized she wasn’t filling out her newborn clothing anymore than she did the day we brought her home from the hospital.  I decided to stop by The Breastfeeding Center to weigh her a few days before her one month well check-up and when I placed her on the scale my heart sank.  She was still 5 pounds 14 ounces.  I stood looking at the scale in disbelief.  How could she still weigh the exact same as she did at her one week check-up?  She nursed all the time.  She was still having plenty of wet and dirty diapers that were yellow and seedy looking.  I was dreading going to her one month check-up.  And so over that weekend I nursed her like crazy. If she was awake then she was eating.  We stopped back by The Breastfeeding Center to weigh her again and she had gone up 2 ounces putting her at a total of 6 pounds, but still 5 ounces away from her birth weight. 

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I headed to her one month well check-up feeling defeated.  Besides the very low weight gain Lilah looked like a healthy baby, but her pediatrician made it very clear to me that if I was a first time mom he would be very concerned.  I didn’t want to admit it but I was very concerned regardless of the fact that I had three other children at home.  Alleigh, Kaelyn, and Willow had all nursed like pros and chunked up very fast.  I was doing the exact same thing I had done with them and not getting the same results.  I didn’t know what to do but I had to figure it out fast as her pediatrician gave me a goal.  Lilah would need to make it to 7 pounds by her 2 month well check-up on January 8th or we would need to discuss other ways to get her weight up.  He never said it, but I had a feeling this meant some sort of high calorie formula and that just wasn’t going to fly with me.  I had never given any of my girls even a drop of formula and I wasn’t about to start now. 

I headed back to The Breastfeeding Center where I had a heart to heart with the owner, Betsy, who is a lactation consultant.  We weighed Lilah, I nursed her, and we weighed her again.  This is how we discovered the problem.  Even though I had plenty of milk Lilah was having difficulty transferring it and was only getting about 1/2 to 1 ounce during a 20-30 minute nursing session.  She was basically burning the calories as she was taking them in causing her to sustain the weight she had, but not grow and thrive.  Betsy talked with me about pumping and bottle feeding Lilah until she was big enough to have the energy to nurse on her own.  Honestly I didn’t want to hear this.  Why couldn’t we just nurse at the breast?  Why wasn’t this working?  I didn’t want to give my baby bottles.  I didn’t even own a single bottle.  After nursing Willow for 23 months and never using a single bottle I had tossed them all in the trash.  But I also knew I had to do what was best for my baby and if that meant pumping and bottles then that is what I would do.  I purchased an Adiri NxGen Nurser and headed home.

As soon as I got home I got out my electric breast pump that I’ve had for a few years but had basically just sat in it’s carrying case and managed to get three ounces of milk.  I put it in the Adiri bottle and Lilah – though slowly – drank the entire thing.  I’ll admit that it was a bittersweet moment.  I was so happy she was getting my milk, but also sad that it was from a bottle.  Since she was so little at this point I was also limiting the amount of time I would let her nurse at the breast or suck on a pacifier.  And so after she finished her bottle I would put her to the breast for about 10 minutes and only used the pacifier while driving in the car which helped to conserve her energy and allow her to gain faster.

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From that moment I began pumping around the clock every two to three hours.  Each time I would get about three ounces of milk and Lilah was drinking 2 ounces every three hours.  At first it was slow going taking anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour to finish a bottle so it seemed like all I was doing was pumping or bottle feeding.  But the more I pumped the more milk I began getting.  I also used our insurance to get an awesome Medela double electric breast pump which worked so much better.

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About a week or so later we went back to The Breastfeeding Center for a weigh in to see how Lilah was doing.  Every time I put her on the scale I literally stood there holding my breath until the number appeared.  When I saw 6 pounds 10 ounces and realized we had finally made it over birth weight the biggest smile spread across my face and I was so excited to show Betsy.  That moment was when I realized that giving Lilah my milk in bottles wasn’t so bad.  Maybe it wasn’t from the breast, but it was still MY milk and she was growing.  All of those hours spent pumping was paying off.

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I went into that next week more optimistic about everything.  I kept pumping and giving Lilah her bottles.  She was now taking about 2.5 ounces and getting a lot more effective at finishing her bottles at about fifteen to twenty minutes.  I was still limiting the amount of time she spent at the breast and sucking on her pacifier since she hadn’t reached the 7 pound goal yet.  Exactly one week later we stopped back in for another weight check and I almost couldn’t believe my eyes.  My little miss Lilah Rose was now at 7 pounds 4 ounces.  We had exceeded our weight goal nearly two weeks early.

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I again increased her bottles to 3 ounces and knew I needed to do something to amp up my milk supply in addition to pumping around the clock.  I decided to give the Motherlove More Milk Plus supplement a try and was shocked to see my milk output literally double after just a few doses.  I was finally getting a few bottles ahead of what Lilah needed and so if we were out running errands I wouldn’t be so stressed about getting to the pump immediately though I still pumped frequently.  Just as I saw my milk increasing I could see Lilah’s cheeks filling back out and her tummy plumping up.  I was so happy.  I no longer was worried about conserving her energy and so after every bottle I would allow her to nurse as long as she wanted.  She also stayed latched on most of the night too. 

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By this point I was getting a bit tired of sitting holding a pump against me for 20 minutes every few hours.  That on top of all the bottles, night time feeds, and time spent at the breast was running me down.  I picked up a Pump Ease Hands Free Pumping Bra and it has been a life saver!

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After another week went by we stopped by The Breastfeeding Center for another weigh in…  Lilah was now over 8 pounds.  Looking back at how tiny she was just two weeks prior I was amazed at how far we had come.  She didn’t even look like the same baby anymore.  Her face was now plump and full of color.  Those little chicken legs and tiny arms were filling out.  And just check out that tummy!

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Lilah is continuing to do great taking her bottles and is now at 3 to 4 ounces every two to three hours through out the day.  At night she takes 4 to 5 ounces before bed and sleeps for a little longer before waking.  She still latches on and nurses after her bottles as well as between bottles if she is still acting hungry or rooting around.  She is still only transferring about 1.5 – 2 ounces when she nurses at the breast which is not nearly enough to discontinue bottles.  Our next course of action is to try an SNS (supplemental nursing system) to encourage her to be more effective at the breast.  The goal is to get her almost entirely back to the breast and only use bottles when I need to be gone for any length of time, which doesn’t happen often.  I have hope that we can transition back, but in the mean time I am happy to pump and bottle feed for as long as she needs.  As long as she is getting my milk and growing that is all that matters to me.  And growing she is as I weighed her this evening and she was at 8 pounds 15 ounces.  I’m so proud of both of us.

To celebrate how well Lilah is doing I have a few ideas up my sleeve… soon I will be doing a post about pumping mom must haves. There will also be a review and potentially giveaways for Bravado Nursing Bras and a beautiful breastmilk necklace.  Can’t wait to share those with you and keep everyone updated on how Lilah is growing and her transition back to the breast.  Be sure to follow our journey on Instagram @HarperHousehold with hashtag #GrowLilahGrow.

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3 Responses to When Breastfeeding Becomes Pumping… #GrowLilahGrow

  1. Awww – way to grow Lilah! She’s making me so baby hungry. I know the pumping game all too well since I went back to work at 3 months postpartum. 🙂

  2. Tamara says:

    I’m so glad to hear how well she’s doing and how you’re totally rocking this! Reading your triumphs made me smile. <3 What did the ped have to say at her 2 mo appointment?

  3. Meryl says:

    Kudos to you for pumping for your baby! That’s a lucky little baby there. My kids always breastfed at home but I had to pump at work for the first year and man it’s hard work. Good for you for doing it 24/7! Thats amazing!

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