My son was born at 40+2 gestation and he was perfect. My birth was a disaster-he had huge decelerations from 132 baseline down to 60 with my contractions. I'd had 3 days of prodromal labour before things got started for real and I was exhausted. I labored for as long as I could, and made no progress! Cue the first of many interventions-breaking my water. My water was broken manually, I had an epidural, an IV because I was GBS positive, constant fetal monitoring, we tried replacing my amniotic fluid to stop the decelerations which didn't work, 4 catheters, Pitocin (which made the decelerations worse)... Finally I hit 10 cm and we started pushing. 42 minutes later my son was born, all 7 lbs 12.8 oz of him! He was immediately taken over to the corner to examine. He looked blue. He was breathing because he cried, but everyone was concerned. He was insanely bruised up and had shoulder dystocia-he got wedged under my pelvis. I had a third degree tear that took an hour and a half to stitch up. He was quickly placed on my chest over my gown, but I was so out of it and being stitched up so it didn't last.
We finally tried to latch about 2 hours after he was born. I was convinced I had nothing but there it was-colostrum. I had no idea what I was doing. I couldn't feel anything when he tried to latch and I knew he didn't get anything, but we were quickly shuttled off to maternity from L&D. The first nurse took one look at our attempts to latch, tried to get him on properly for 20 minutes and then taught me how to hand express. I hand expressed my colostrum and the nurse syringe fed him-my legs still weren't working from my epidural (it pooled in my torso). We continued to try to latch and nothing happened.
The next morning I was expecting to go home. When the docs came by for rounds they told me I was not going home, but didn't say why-I learned from our nurse it was because of our nursing troubles. I had already requested a lactation consult and she came shortly after. She was distracted and assured me he would latch-he was just struggling because of his fast delivery. We didn't manage a latch during her visit. The rest of the day was also unsuccessful.
Our evening nurse brought me a Medela Symphony and showed me how to set it up and instructed me to pump. Our overnight nurse had the most successful shot at latching-I could feel him sucking but he wasn't latched properly. We couldn't figure it out. I kept pumping. I set alarms for every 2.5 hours, so we could try to latch, I could pump and we could feed him. We saw the LC again the next morning, who found a posterior tongue tie that was corrected by a physician's assistant. It didn't help. We left the hospital that afternoon with a rental Symphony in tow. We got home and settled in for the night. I kept pumping, Jack kept refusing to latch. My parents came, and my mom tried to help. She successfully nursed two sets of twins for a year so I thought we were golden. No luck. We saw LCs, docs and NPs and nobody had answers. After 3 weeks of pumping and trying to latch I had a meltdown. I stopped trying to latch him at every feed. We stopped seeing LCs after we exhausted all our options. Nipple shields, supplemental nursing systems, syringe feeding, finger feeding, laid back nursing, letting him come to the breast... Nobody could tell me why my son wouldn't latch. At 12 weeks, I found a lip tie. We got a referral to a breastfeeding clinic and were told there was no point correcting it because he had never nursed, so it wouldn't help anyways. We also found out he had a high palate, which explained why he couldn't latch as he couldn't feel my nipple in his mouth, and a short tongue so he would struggle to move milk. At that point we were so far into our pumping journey I just let it go.
As of August 1, we are 6 months in and going strong! We were told that we wouldn't make it past 12 weeks, there was no way to maintain a supply without nursing at all or even latching, that I couldn't build enough of a supply to feed my son even if I could get milk. My son has had exclusively breastmilk his entire life. We've been blessed to be able to donate everything we freeze-I've lost count of how much we've donated! We've donated to local moms, a milk bank, moms in my parents' city... At this point I'm fortunate to freeze more than my son eats in a day and it has all gone to mamas and babes in need!
At 6 months in, the pump life is wearing on me-I'm considering saving all I can so I can wean. Being an exclusively pumping mom is hard. I get a lot of questions from people about why I don't "just nurse" if I make so much milk. I can't tell you how many times I've been told to not give my son bottles, "when he's hungry he'll do it!" I wish I had been more persistent in the beginning about getting Jack on the breast, but this experience has taught me so much, and I learn more new things every day! At this point I have no long-term goal in mind. My ultimate goal was 6 months, and now that we're here I'll pump for as long as I feel like continuing!
I want all mamas in the same situation to know that you don't have to give up if you don't want to. It is possible to maintain supply exclusively pumping! It's hard work but it's worth it. I've never nursed my son, but he is exclusively breastfed and that makes me proud!
You can follow along with my pumping journey at exclusivelypumpingerin on Instagram! I try to always be available for questions, and I share tips and tricks and talk about things that work for me and supplements!