May 02, 2013

Held Hostage

I have been held hostage for the last 8 months and 22 days by this machine:
While I was pregnant with the quads I had this grand idea that I would alternate nursing the babies and giving them bottles. I had tandem fed the twins for 14 months and so I knew I could do that part of it. What I never took into account was the fact that I would be nursing preemies AND have three older kids plus 2 other babies while I sat and tandem fed two!

I will start at the beginning to give everyone a better understanding of why I have been held hostage for so long. When I had the twins I was not a nicu nurse but 100% felt that breast milk was the best thing for my babies. I did not want the twins to have any formula and I even found a pediatrician who would support me in my desire to breast feed. A week after the twins were born I ended up back in the hospital in the ICU because I started hemorrhaging. Even while receiving a blood transfusion I would not give the babies formula. Hind sight is always 20/20 and now looking back I know I was not very smart at this point because I was loosing so much blood that there was no way my babies were getting much milk but luckily they and I survived! That night when I was too weak to even lift my own legs I finally surcummed and allowed Paul to give the babies each a bottle of formula but I made the nursing staff get me a breast pump because if I was too weak again to nurse they were going to get pumped milk. Yes I was a bit crazy and some of the nicu nurses I work with now love to give me a hard time! When the twins were 3 weeks of age I had to give them one bottle of formula in the evening for three weeks because my milk production could not keep up. I cried every night when the babies had this formula. After they were 6 weeks of age they never received another drop of formula and they nursed until they were 14 months old. 

Then when we got pregnant with our singleton I was so thrilled to experience nursing one baby but that excitement was short lived when we found out about his cleft. Some babies with clefts can not nurse and have to use specialized bottles. From 20 weeks until he was born I was so concerned that he would not be able to nurse. I knew that I would pump for him if needed which would allow him to still benefit from the antibodies and all the other good stuff found in breast milk but I was so sad that I would not get the bonding experience that comes when a baby nurses. I was overjoyed when he was less than 10 minutes old and he was already nursing like he had done it a million times. We ended up having to battle with him to take a bottle when I returned to work but that is a whole other topic! I nursed Drew til he was also 14 months old and Paul nicely told me that "he is too big to still be nursing." I did think it was funny that he never had a problem with me nursing the girls as long as I did but with his boy he was ready for me to be done.

With the quad pregnancy I quickly had to get over my dislike for formula because I knew I would never make enough milk for four babies. With my original plan I also wasn't planning on pumping except for when I was at work because I was just going to nurse two babies on a rotating schedule which would mean I didn't have to pump. I had a dislike with pumping almost as much as my dislike for formula. I started pumping about four hours after the babies were born and stayed on a very strict 3 hour schedule until they babies started coming home. And let me tell you that I would spend 4 hours a day just pumping. At night I would fall asleep while I was pumping and wake up an hour after I had finished. Thank goodness for a hands free pumping bra! Once the babies came home I continued to pump every three hours during the day and then would pump when the babies woke at night to eat. I would start pumping while Paul started on diapers and then I would feed two babies all while I continued to pump. I got very good at multitasking. My plans to tandem feed the quads never got executed. I quickly realized that with preemies they had no clue how to nurse like my full term kids did. It took time and time and more time to get them to latch and then they didn't have the endurance to take a full feed at the breast so then I needed to supplement with a bottle. I just did not have this time. And how was I going to bottle feed two kids and nurse the other two when I was home alone. What if one of the kids that woke first was suppose to nurse and the other that was awake was to bottle feed. The logistics of it was just too much for me. So I knew that I was going to be pumping for the long haul.

Slowly over time I have decreased my pumps from 8 to 5 pumps per day as the babies started sleeping through the night. The older kids have gotten so use to their mom pumping that when they tell people that they learned to pump they also include 'not their boobs, on the swing'. Me having to pump is part of their day and sometimes they have really hated it because sometimes we have had to come home because of it. Pumping has taken up a ton of my time. It is exhausting. And finding 30 minutes to pump 5-8 times a day has not always been easy. 

But no mater how hard it was I would not have traded being able to provide breast milk to my babies. I remember when the babies were 3 months old I told myself that I just needed to get to 6 months and then I could call it quits. I thought 6 months would never get here. When I got there I decided to continue to rent the hospital grade pump because have you priced out a can of formula? One can of the formula we were using is $17. When the babies were 6 months old we were going through just shy of 3/4 of a can per day. I was providing about a third of the babies milk with what I was able to pump. If I quit pumping it was going to cost us at least $25 per day just to feed them. So I rented the pump and told myself I just needed to keep going. Each month I have made a new goal but now the time has come that I need to be done. I want that time back with my big kids during the day. The babies are napping less so trying to fit in a pump session while they are asleep some days is nearly impossible. Over the last month my supply has slowly been decreasing even though I am pumping the same amount of time. I have made the decision to go til the babies are 9 months which is coming up on the 9th of May. I have to be okay with them getting all formula for 3 months. It makes me sad that I am not going to be able to provide the kids with breast milk til they are a year but as my supply and time have decreased I have found that pumping has been causing me a lot of stress. I do not enjoy pumping so the pumping I will not miss! 

I am saddened that I never got to breast feed the quads. Nursing the twins was work. I realized this after I got to nurse just one baby. Nursing Drew was a wonderful experience. I will occasionally put the quads to breast. Tate loves it and snuggles right in. He would have made an awesome nurser if I would have been able to figure out how to make it work and still get the other three kids fed. Isabella and Rylan scream bloody murder every time I try. It makes me sad that still at 8 months they have no clue how to nurse. I am sure if I worked on it every day they would get it but I don't have time for it. And Kenzie I haven't even tried for the longest time because she never requires more than her bottles so the opportunity never really presents itself.

The last week I have gone down to 4 pumps per day; watched my supply decrease and I am working through the fact that I am almost done. I know that once I am done it will take away a lot of stress but weaning is so hard. My pump has to be returned May 14th but I do have a Medela pump at home that I can use if I decide I am just not done yet! My days of being held hostage to the Medela Symphony are almost done and I can tell you 'Symphony' is the wrong name for this thing!!


  1. Bless your heart! You deserve a trophy!!

  2. I cannot believe you pumped this long! I too had grandiose thoughts of teaching babies to tandem feed and rotating them so they all got to nurse. It was defeating when I realized that I didn't have the time for each one to learn how to nurse because they all needed to be fed, changed, and gosh I needed to sleep sometime. I pumped the entire time they were in the NICU, but when they came home it was overwhelming to me so I had to stop. It was nice to be freed from slavery.

  3. You are an amazing mom for giving all your time and milk to your babies. Well done. Had/have you considered using donor breast milk? I've never faced a supply issue (nor had quads!) but if I did I'd look into finding a milk donor. I think a lot of people don't know about it or think twice. Just wondering if you ever considered.

  4. You are a saint !!!!

  5. Please be so kind to yourself when you do finally stop - the hormones coming down from regular nursing/pumping do a lot to help moms keep that shred of sanity. Don't be surprised if you experience some depression, and warn your hubby to expect it so he can help you through. *hug*

  6. You and your family are amazing! I have two year old triplets and I had very similar feelings about breast feeding and pumping. I too felt like I was being held hostage by my Medela Symphony at the end. My pump actually died when my kids were 8 1/2 months old and I thought that was my cue to give it up :) Love your blog!


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