Monday, February 6, 2012

One mother's journey, Exclusively pumping breastmilk for her three children.

Kelly H. from the Twin Cities made the decision to exclusively pump her breast milk for all three of her children, Jonathon (9 yrs), Jeremiah (7 yrs), and her daughter, Joelle (4 yrs). Kelly is married to Erin who is an electrical engineer. Kelly is a stay at home mom.

Kelly had made the decision to nurse her babies for two reasons – her husband’s asthma and her childhood food allergies would be less likely to be a problem for her children and she didn’t think that her family would be able to afford formula.

Breastfeeding her firstborn son, Jonathon, did not go as she had expected. While Kelly was in the hospital after Jonathon’s birth, the nurse had given her a pump and a cup so that Kelly could feed him. Jonathon was not latching on and the hospital staff had no idea why. After visiting a lactation consultant multiple times, Kelly learned that she was very efficient at producing milk, so her supply was not the problem. Jonathon also had jaundice so to help him gain weight Kelly pumped and Jonathon was bottle-fed.

Even though Jonathon was bottle-fed the feedings could take what felt like forever. After a long week of little to no success, Kelly’s mother discovered the reason why Jonathon was having a difficult time feeding (it could sometimes take up to an hour for Jonathon to drink one ounce). Kelly’s mother noticed that Jonathon was sucking on his tongue which was inhibiting the amount of milk he took in and the length of time it took to do that. After holding his tongue down while he drank he was able to finish the bottle in no time at all. Kelly’s mom told her about this discovery the next morning and Kelly felt like a failure. She was a new mom and had no experience breastfeeding. She didn’t want to give up but she had no idea how she would force Jonathon to be able to suck on her soft nipple when he needed some harder. Her nipple shield was not working either.

After feeling exhausted and like a failure, Kelly decided she had to come up with a new plan. Kelly said her new plan was, “…even if I couldn't nurse like normal I would give my son as much of my own milk as I could.” After making this decision, Kelly discussed it with Jonathon’s pediatrician and he agreed that pumping breastmilk and bottle-feeding was probably the only way Jonathon would be able to eat.

After the birth of her second child, Jeremiah, Kelly again experienced difficulties breastfeeding. This time Kelly’s problem was that one side was not producing as much milk and it was also very painful to feed Jeremiah. She tried for two weeks with no success and returned to what she knew best, exclusively pumping.

With her third and last child, Joelle, Kelly experienced something she hadn’t anticipated. A lactation consultant visited her hospital room and explained to her that she had already had damage to her breasts. If she were to breastfeed successfully with Joelle, Kelly would need to surround herself with several pillows propping her up. That conversation left Kelly feeling like pumping and bottle feeding would be less inconvenient than surrounding her with a wall of pillows.

The only research Kelly did to help her exclusively pump was information on how long the milk could be left out, how to store it and tips on how she should warm up the milk.

While both of Kelly’s sons, Jonathon and Jeremiah, did receive some formula, Joelle, got the most breast milk. Kelly pumped until Joelle was five months old and then she weaned off of pumping. She had month’s worth of milk in her freezer so Joelle still benefitted from her hard work. Kelly’s favorite accessories that helped her successfully pump was an electric pump (Kelly used a Medela Pump in Style), freezer breast milk bags and plenty of bottles. Kelly first started out with a manual pump but after using that for two months she sprung for an electric pump and was very happy with her decision. Kelly also really liked thick flannel burp cloths to have close to her while she was pumping.

Here’s what Kelly said were the pros and cons of exclusively pumping:

1. It made me feel good to see how much milk I could produce.  Especially at the first few weeks of my babies’ lives, when they weren't eating as much, I could pump almost the whole days worth of milk first thing in the morning and store what I pumped the rest of the day.

2. I would pump for 30 min. first thing in the morning and 20 min. 4-5 other times during the day.  Then pour what I needed in a bottle and either spend a few minutes feeding the baby or hand them to someone else.  A lot of times I would feed them and then just sit and rest with them. I'm pretty sure that the pumping and feeding time was less time than 20 min. per breast each feeding.

3.  I liked that Erin, my husband, got bonding time during the before bed feeding.  We also tag teamed in the middle of the night.

4. My kids were getting the benefits of my milk; I got the convenience of the bottle.  I could go away even over night and it was okay.  I didn't have to worry about the feeding in public thing. Being a bigger chested girl and feeling uncoordinated, that was a big concern for me.

5. I heard that one of the benefits of breastfeeding is that it makes you sit and rest, yet I hear of people who can walk around and do it.  Pumping really does make you sit and rest, several times a day.

1. You feel like you have to defend yourself every time you pull out a bottle in public.  Breast milk advocates can really make you feel like less of a mom for using a bottle.

2.  Continually having to clean the equipment.  I got so that I would put the pumps in a baggie in the refrigerator between pump times so I didn't have to clean them 6 times a day.

3. You can be somewhat flexible with when you pump but when visiting out of town family it is inconvenient to have to go to a back room to pump instead of enjoying the company.  It is also inconvenient to have to take the extra equipment and make room for it at their house...but I managed.

For more information on exclusively pumping check out (no relation to the Kelly in our story). There is a wealth of information on that site that is helpful and encouraging if you have to make the same decision Kelly did.

Elizabeth (aka Bert) Anderson married her college sweetheart in 2005, and started her journey into motherhood in 2008 with the birth of her son.  She started blogging in 2009 as a way to keep track of her thoughts on being a first time mom, especially her struggle with postpartum depression, and as a way of reaching out to other moms who are struggling with the same things.  This June, Bert had another first in her motherhood travels - a little girl!  Even though she's newly a mother of two, Bert maintains that no matter how many children you have you will always be a "first time mom" because there's a first time for everything!  Visit her blog, at FTM. Bert is a contributor for She Thinks Media.


  1. My son is 4 months old. Because of latch issues at his birth, I developed severe anxiety issues about breastfeeding and I've been exclusively pumping all his life. I'm lucky to have a strong supply, so we don't have to supplement with formula at all. I stopped trying to physically breastfeed within a week because of my anxiety, so I can't compare as to how much work it is...but it's definitely worth it to give my baby the very best I can.

  2. Been pumping for almost 3 years. My child was born at only 23 weeks. The milk, I truly believe saved my child from initial dying to becoming an intelligent and very healthy toddler! It is driving me crazy, but worth, we escaped many health/cognitive issues that would have been seen as inevitable! Never sick either... knock on wood!

    1. Hi Anon, I am Eping for my 17 month old but my supply as halved in the last six months, demand for milk is still strong though and I cannot keep up with it. Do u have any tips/ideas for me? Can u post them here?

  3. This is a very good initiative.
    I really appreciate it. thank you so much for sharing it.