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Blogger Hanna: The Last of the Breast Milk

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Touch of Gray

so i am down to my last week of breastmilk in the freezer. i knew this time would come, but i didn't realize i would be so sad. i guess part of me wonders "will i ever get to do this again?" and "are these my last babies?" and "can i handle not having anymore?" and "can i handle having anymore?" and "we can barely afford the ones we have, how could we ever afford more?" and "what if that 4th one would be a girl!" and "what if its twin boys again!?" there's a ton of tug of war everyday as i question all those things. in so many ways i feel really robbed. i ended up with 3 healthy kids and for that, i am VERY grateful, don't get me wrong. i know thats nothing short of a miracle and i don't take that lightly. but in 3 kids, i had one "normal" pregnancy. some people love the idea of the 2 for 1 thing with twins, but i actually really enjoy being pregnant and all the suspense that builds with it. everything was so perfect and fun with simms. i'll never forget the feeling of getting to tell the family that my water had broke and i was in labor. everyone came with cake, balloons, presents, food, etc and i got to be with all my favorite people all day as we all waited and wondered what simms would look like and how much he would weigh. with the twins, i found out i was pregnant at 12 weeks and delivered at 32, so i only knew i was pregnant for FIVE months (and technically you're pregnant 10 months because its 40 weeks)... so i got half a pregnancy, i got a horrible c section (birth story here), i left the hospital without any babies after spending eight weeks there, and then the twins spent 9 and 10 more weeks there in the NICU.

while the twins were in the NICU, i began pumping because only one twin would latch and it just made the most sense in our situation. i breastfed simms and pumped here and there with him, but wasn't an exclusive pumper for simms. i nursed simms for 10 months and then they made me stop because it could give me uterine contractions with the twins. after i stopped, we did coconut/almond milk with a small splash of formula (to appease the doctors) until i gave birth and then he was back on breastmilk with the twins until he was two. originally i had dreaded the idea of being chained to a pump 8-10 times a day....but then i began to lose weight...like a ton of it...i'm talking i was down to high school eating disorder days. so it was completely me being vain, but i began to LOVE it. i mean who can't love sitting on your ass and burning 1200 calories a day!?!? this was the best "work out" i had ever done! haha!

but of course that's not the only reason i pumped. i truly believe that breastfed is best. God made our milk perfect for our babies, just like he made cow's milk perfect for baby cows! i think its actually really simple when you think about it. God gave us exactly what we needed. so in the NICU, the babies weren't gaining weight very well and some days would even lose weight...the nurses and doctors told us they were going to have to increase the calories in the milk with "human milk fortifier." call me crazy, but i felt like if thats what it was called, then it must be made with human milk. its no secret that we don't use cow's milk at our house when cooking or anything at home. we use all plant based milks and i openly talk about that often. but after they began fortifying bottles, the babies started having horrible reactions. you could tell they were miserable with reflux and gas. ellis even had blood in his stool on two different occasions. the doctors encouraged me to change MY diet. i was really frustrated. i begged them to stop fortifying bottles but at the same time i trusted the doctors wanted what was best for my babies and knew more than i did.

but i was recently introduced to a company i would've given ANYTHING to know about back then that uses donor breast milk to make fortifier for preemies called Prolacta Bioscience (which sponsored this post). unfortunately, despite the name "human milk fortifier,” most HMFs are made from cow milk! for every 10% of cow milk in a preemie's diet, the risk of several severe complications increases (NEC in particular according to a recent report)...which also happens to be a leading cause of death in preemies. Prolacta is the alternative! they make HMF from 100% human milk, which is clinically proven to improve the health outcomes (study 1, study 2, study 3) of preemies in the NICU. in fact no other intervention has been shown to be as effective against NEC based on research here. my story is very similar to this mom's story, except i didn't know about Prolacta to ask for it. we're very fortunate that our twins never developed NEC, but i firmly believe that their NICU stay could have been cut in half had we had a fortifier made with HUMAN milk instead of cow milk. our twins sat week after week on room air, in open air cribs, without any bradys, but couldn't leave because of issues with feedings. that was THEIR ONLY issue. i will never get that time back with them and that breaks my heart. i hope this blog can inform as many moms as possible. please know that cow milk fortifier in the NICU isn't your only option! you can ask your doctors for a fortifier made from 100% donor human milk from Prolacta.

and if the problem is that you think you can't exclusive pump, i am here to encourage you!!! if i could do it with 3 kids 13 months and under, you can too!! i wanted to throw in some tips for how to be an exclusive pumper with success and this seemed like the perfect blog to do it in! i don't have a lot of confidence in many things, but i am an EXPERT in pumping....so, here's answers to some questions i get asked often:

(please keep in mind the following are pumping tips for feeding your OWN baby. if you’re planning to donate any of your excess milk to a milk bank, they have different requirements, so please keep that in mind.)

what pump do i get?

i might sound a little crazy here but you need 2 if you don't want to constantly be carrying around a pump. first off, YOU MUST have a hospital grade pump. most insurance will cover one (i used the medela symphony) and it was covered but if your insurance won't cover it, i recommend the spectra. another option is to rent the medela symphony from the hospital for about $50 a month. the second pump is to keep in the car, use it when you have to but not often. i almost always got a clog when i used it, BUT it's better than not pumping. i used the medela PISA.

how often and how long!?

ok. this is the first place that i see people can set themselves up for failure. in the first 15 weeks i pumped 8-9 times a day (no days off, no less than 8 ever) i pumped every 2 hours with one 4-5 hour break for sleep at night. after 15 weeks i did either 7 or 8 pumps a day...NO LESS! this is an average of every 3 hours. as far time goes i pumped about 17-19 minutes...until i felt completely empty. another important thing is massaging while you pump. with the twins i had mastitis once a month the first 2 months, MISERY! i always hear people say they have too much milk the first 3 months and yes, this is when your body is learning how much to make, i say teach it to make tons. i promise you want a good supply. always better to have too much. i was making around 100 ounces a day the first 3 months and then it dropped down to about 80 ounces a day.

ok how the hell is that possible to pump that many times a day with kids?!

so i would wake up and pump around 9am (1), give the kids bottles and take a shower. while drying my hair i would pump (2) and then get the kids ready for the day. i would pump either during lunch or on the way to lunch (3). then another pump during the kids afternoon naps (4) and once after dinner while cal gave the kids a bath (5). then after the kids go to bed i would pump around 8 (6) and then one more time right before i went to bed (7) ... i got my 8th and 9th pumps in during the early months in the middle of the night and early morning.

so! my biggest tips for getting your pumps in is to have an extra pump for the car (i used the medela PISA) and pump whenever you go anywhere, even if it hasn't been long since your last pump. even if it had only been an hour i would do this, because then the next time i might be able to go longer in between pumps. other tip is to pump while your kids are eating..bottles or highchairs..they're contained and happy so get that pump in!

did you take any supplements?

after getting mastitis i began taking 4800 mg of lecithin a day. lecithin helps you empty faster and more completely. i highly suggest it!  if you plan to donate your excess milk, just be sure to inform the milk bank of all medications and supplements you’re taking.

i really don't want to wash pumping bottles all day! what's another option?

if you’re just pumping for your own baby, YOU DON'T HAVE TO!!!!! so some people store them in between pumps in the fridge (without rinsing)... i simply rinsed with really hot water and then left them on the counter. i sterilized them once a day. for breastmilk donation, the cleaning and sanitization requirements are higher, so be sure to check with the milk bank. 

doesn't that suck having to go put milk up after you pump in the middle of the night?

i wouldn't know because i didn't do it. i kept a mini cooler beside the bed and stored the milk in a nalgene in it during the night. i honestly probably could've just left it out all night but didn't. you'd be surprised how long it will last at room temp... i'm talking like 6+ hours. just smell it and you will know. trust me. the mini cooler is a life saver though. nalgene for the win! but again, if you’re donating your excess breastmilk, all pumped milk must be put in the refrigerator immediately and then into the freezer. check with your milk bank for full instructions.

did you have a favorite support group?

YES YES YES. the women in this facebook group are the absolute best!

if you guys have more questions, please send them my way! i would love to help mom's just like others did for me! it takes a village!

xoxo-hannah