Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Exclusively Expressing

I always wondered what happened to people when they had a baby (yes, I am referring to the Dads as well) as they would often discuss things I considered to be private matters. Poo being a fairly popular topic.

However, since having a baby I have noticed I am doing the same thing. I have no problems at all now discussing the state of my nipples, for example. So, if you don't want to know me in THAT much detail I suggest you stop reading now.

For those of you that have had a baby you know what it's like. You have people pearing in to check your most intimate areas, people manhandling you (by the way, by 'people' I do mean qualified doctors and nurses, not just any old random....), asking you questions - and they don't really care who else is with you. So you get a bit de-sensitised to it all.

When Evie was born, she was given to me straight away for our skin-on-skin contact, and we tried breastfeeding where she did have a bit of a go. However that was all we managed. We tried frequently in the hospital, but when she hadn't eaten after about 24 hours I was told to try hand expressing my breastmilk to give her what she needed. The first breastmilk you get (called colostrun) is very thick and yellowy. You don't get much of it (by that I do mean mililitres), but it is very good for baby. So I expressed and had to collect it in a little syringe to feed to Evie.

Throughout the first 24 hours I must have had 4 or 5 different nurses come and go, all wanting to see my breastfeeding technique, offering advice and demonstrations. They don't have time to faff about and I learned it's just easier to get your boobs out and get on with the job at hand. It's amazing how quickly you realise just how much you would do for this little bundle of joy.

To cut a long story short (and get to the point of this post) we tried breastfeeding but Evie just couldn't seem to latch on which left her hungry and us both frustrated and upset. I then began expressing to encourage my milk supply and to give her the benefits of breastmilk by feeding her with a little cup so that she wouldn't get used to a bottle. At this point we were measuring her feeds by 5 or 10ml, and as she hadn't had anything for so long, this felt like a huge step forward. I promised to keep expressing and trying to breastfeed and we were discharged.

However, as she wasn't eating much we were re-admitted to hospital 2 days later as Evie had lost over 10% of her birth weight. Here we were told that she should be taking around 30ml every 2 hours to flush out her jaundice. So what she had been taking in a day was what she was meant to have at every feed! Feeding her this much with a cup would take forever, so we decided to use a bottle to make sure she was having enough - and she took to it straight away. Then she needed phototherapy to treat the jaundice and so the doctors recommended feeding her via a tube up her nose to ensure she was getting enough. As much as I hated it, it was obviously for the best, and I was expressing throughout to ensure she had my breastmilk although did need to supplement with formula.

Anyway, the treatment worked & her jaundice levels came down & we were once more allowed home. I had been given more advice on breastfeeding and was still trying, while expressing as much as I could. It was here that I was told that maybe my nipples were too soft or too flat for Evie to latch onto. So I tried nipple shields, which I didn't get on with at all.

While we do still have a go at breastfeeding every now and then, I am now Exclusively Expressing. We do need to top up with formula as I don't manage to get enough to meet Little Miss' needs, but I am pleased she is getting mainly breastmilk.

The one thing I have noticed is that no-one really talks about expressing as a valid means of feeding your baby. You get told about breastfeeding (BF) and formula feeding (FF) but not expressing or pumping. The booklets don't cover it, very few books cover it and the nurses, midwives and health visitors don't seem to have the information you want to know about how to manage it.

It is time consuming - feeding takes twice as long as you need to feed baby then pump. It gives you the same issues as BF - sore nipples, risk of mastitis, engorged breasts. And the same as bottle feeding - sterilising bottles, storing milk. But it does mean feeding your baby your breastmilk.

I have been expressing for 3 and a half weeks so far. It does take up your day. Between expressing, feeding and looking after Evie, sleeping and looking after yourself, you have very little time for anything else. But the most difficult thing I have encountered is getting some answers to all the questions. How often should I pump? How much milk should I be getting? How much does she need? How long can I leave breastmilk out? How does it need to be stored? How long should I pump for? The best information source I have found is the Pumping Mummies group on BabyCentre. There is a post with links to loads of information and the administrator is great at getting back to you and answering your questions.

I guess the point of this post is so you know there are others doing it. :) So if you are an Exclusively Expressing or Pumping Mum, please say hi.

I don't know how long I will keep pumping. I'd like to think I'll continue for as long as I can, but I don't want to put an end date on it in case I can't carry on. I'll post more on this topic over the coming weeks - I think this is long enough for one post, don't you?

1 comment:

Rhian Drinkwater said...

I think they do it more in America as their maternity leave is so short there – could be worth looking for some American forums?

Lots of respect for doing this – it took a week or so for my son to latch on, and that seemed bad enough. I expressed when I went back to work as well, and even those few feeds felt like so much work, so you're doing amazingly!