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EPING

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This entry will cover my thoughts on breast feeding. Put all judgmental nipples away, please!

Just when I thought my days of annoying baby-related abbreviations were done (TTC, EWCM, AF, blah blah blah…) I have been confronted with a new abbreviation in the Mommy world that has been annoying the shit out of me the last couple of weeks. The term is: EBF. Or, “Exclusively Breast Fed”. Said with the subtle undertone of,  “I’m better than you because I exclusively breast feed my baby.” Yes, I know that not everyone feels this smug satisfaction when they say that they EBF their babies, but there are quite a few people who do, and unfortunately I had some run ins with them when I was in a very vulnerable place.

To start from the beginning, Shira and I had a very VERY difficult time from the get go with breast feeding. It is my worst memory of being in the hospital. I was in pain, bleeding, swollen, completely sleep deprived, and unable to satiate my daughter or know what was wrong, or why I couldn’t feed her. I would not wish ANYONE to go through that fear of seeing your child shaking with frustration and hunger.  I belong to an LA Mommy group on Facebook, and when I posted there when I was in the thick of things for helpful advice on milk supply, and supplementing, all I got were a bunch of psychos telling me  that “breast is best” and I just had to “hang in there”. I was also told by one person that because I had to use fertility meds to conceive Shira, my low supply was evolution’s way of indicating that I wouldn’t be able to breast feed because I couldn’t conceive naturally.  Sorry. But fuck that. And fuck the term EBF if it’s used to be smug and judgmental of people who would “dare” give their children formula AKA “baby poison”.

There was no lactation consultant on call at the hospital on the weekends, and Shira was born on a Saturday. So aside from 5 or 10 minutes here and there from different nurses who each taught me a completely different way to feed her, I basically was left to my own completely non sensical devices on how to feed her from my boobs all while operating on about 2 hours of sleep in 48 hours.  To make matters even more difficult, I have very small, flat nipples, and she wasn’t able to latch properly. No one thought to recommend a nipple shield, and every attempt for her to suck at my breast was met with screams and crying so frustrated that she would be shaking and inconsolable for 5 to 10 minutes after every attempt. She would maybe nurse for 5 minutes before getting completely inconsolable. It got to a point where she would start screaming and crying as soon as I started to position her to feed, based on her memory of the previous feeding traumas. By the end of the day on Sunday, she had lost almost 10% of her body weight, was not calming down, and was seriously dehydrated to a point where her mouth was dry. I broke down sobbing, and got extremely pissed at some of the nursing staff who were each telling me a different way to breast feed. Shira’s head was flopping everywhere, and I didn’t even know how to hold her. Some of the nursing staff took pity on me and milked my breasts for colostrum for 30 minutes and produced maybe a teaspoon full which they finger fed to Shira, but that didn’t help calm her down. I eventually succumbed to (collective judgemental EBF Mom gasp) a one ounce formula feed which instantly quieted my little girl, and helped her sleep. Seeing her go from frantic and beet faced to calm and relaxed  when she got food broke my heart. I felt like I had been torturing her for two days.

Look, I know that there are plenty of moms out there who exclusively breast feed, and maybe all breast feeding is met initially with resistance from the baby, but I could not shake the memories of those two or three days when I couldn’t feed my baby. On Monday, the lactation consultant showed up at the hospital, but the damage had already been done. Shira preferred the formula nipple that would satiate her hunger instantly, over my boob that was  barely producing a slow drip of colostrum for her. When I got home, I immediately rented a Medela Symphony pump to try and at least make sure I was getting Shira some colostrum even if it was fed to her with a bottle. A lactation consultant came to the house that night and tried to help me, and my doula kindly spent some time with me the following morning showing me how to use a nipple sheild. Although the shield helped, my milk flow was still very very slow, and Shira had a hard time sucking. So I would inevitably have to supplement after every feed or Shira would start wailing again.

I attempted to breast feed her at every feed for a week, but her screams became too much, and she would get worked up at every feeding. I found I was dreading feeding her, and becoming more and more anxious. This is absolutely NOT healthy. I hit a point where I decided that I would rather lovingly and calmly feed Shira a bottle than be stressed out all of the time.

After much Googling, I stumbled across another term on the internet called “EPING” or, “Exclusively Pumping”. Although I’m not quite pumping enough milk yet for Shira to be exclusively bottle fed breast milk, I’m getting close! I pump every 2-3 hours, and get about 2-3ounces a pump which has been enough for about 70% of her feeds.

Here’s what I LOVE about bottle feeding:

  • Our feedings are relaxed now!
  • I get to look into my baby’s eyes while I feed her, and I don’t cry because my nipples hurt so bad
  • Hubs has taken over one to two night shift feedings, and I get 4-6 hours of straight sleep per night!
  • Shira is gaining weight and is satiated–a feeling I never got when trying to breast feed her
  • I have an easier time tracking how much she’s eating, and it makes me feel more comfortable (yes, I’m a control freak)

The point is…I guess we all try and do our best as moms. I wanted to experience the joys of breast feeding Shira, but it wasn’t meant to be, and I’m actually surprised at how little I mourn the loss…maybe if I’d had a more positive experience from the get go, I would have been more sad to say goodbye to breast feeding. For now, I’m aiming to have a 100% EPING day as soon as my milk supply catches up with Shira’s appetite.

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About Sunny

I'm a happily married, 31 year old gal who is just starting her journey to conceive. I also have ovaries that may need a jump start. This blog is an attempt to channel my obsessive research on my Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome into something positive....like a pregnancy test. That would be awesome. I also hope that other women with this condition will find support in this blog. There are a lot of us out here! Happy reading, whatever your journey may be.

31 responses »

  1. Good for you! You’re doing exactly what you and little Shira needed to do. I’m not sold on the breast is best in every situation thing. The mental health of the mother and the baby is vital for a lasting, healthy relationship. If BFing is interfering with that then screw the boob! It’s not for everyone and it seems like you’ve found the right thing for you. Good for you, mama!

    Reply
  2. First of all, I also belong to that LA Mommies FB group. The women are crazy. Absolutely crazy. Oh my god. Half the time I read the stuff out loud and my husband freaks out and gets scared I will turn into one of them. No chance.

    So disregard their advice.

    Secondly, you do what you need to do. My mom was a complete all-natural hippie when she had me, but I was born early and was extremely colicky and so she had to switch to goat’s milk (yep, hippie mom) and she says she doesn’t regret it. The most important thing is keeping your baby happy and healthy. It makes me mad that there is so much pressure put on us to do things in a certain way. The best you can do is what’s best for you and baby. And I call tell you, it’s probably way easier to bond when you aren’t stressed out of your mind!

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    • That group is seriously filled with such judgmental people who dole out advice they’re not even qualified to give. Grrr! Makes the mama bear in me mad.

      Reply
    • I have to come back here and comment again. I am about to write my own “breast feeding is killing me” post. And I remembered yours. Holy hell! After labor, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done! We broke down today and gave a breast milk bottle for two feedings in a row. It felt amazing to have a break. But now here I am, feeling guilty for how amazing it felt. Sigh. I’m going to try to go back to the breast for the next feeding, but my nipples are already cringing in terror. Sooo I guess what I’m saying is, I get it. So much more than I did before.

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  3. Wow! I impressed with people who are EPing (an acronym I’ve never seen before but okay!). I hated pumping with a PASSION. I was breastfeeding and pumping at the beginning and eventually I just stopped pumping. I would rather have my supply go down (which it did, because breastfeeding was hard) than continue pumping, that is how much I hated pumping. You are amazing and doing amazing stuff. Once I stopped breastfeeding altogether and only did bottles, the feedings became so much easier and less stressful. I’m glad you are really enjoying the benefits of the bottle, including easier feeds and getting more sleep. Also, bottle-fed babies in general sleep through the night earlier than breastfed, at least according to my anecdotal evidence in my mommy group. (I also hate the term “EBF”, even when I was aiming for it, because it does have a certain feeling to it, at least to the people who aren’t able to “EBF”)

    Reply
    • I’m absolutely floored and impressed that you were trying to do BOTH. With TWINS. I remember reading some of your entries from that time and not fully comprehending how hard what you were trying to do was. Absolutely amazing!

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  4. Oh man. I can’t imagine what we would have done if the lactation consultant hadn’t been available to us several times those first couple days. I’m so sorry you were on your own! Breastfeeding may be natural but it is not easy, and is extremely painful at the beginning. We are nursing and pumping now, and supplementing with a little bit of formula when I’m at work. As long as baby is being fed and happy, and you are happy, you’re doing a wonderful job!

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  5. Mama, you are doing great! EPing is hard. Harder than breastfeeding in some ways. But don’t give up on BFing completely if you don’t want to. There are many babies who come back to the breast after bottle feeding for some period of time. Are you working with a lactation consultant (IBCLC)? It is 100% possible if it’s something you are interested in, especially since she is still so wee. There are also other ways to offer the supplements that will make it easier to get back to breast (finger/syringe feeding and supplemental nursing system to name a couple). And if not, then do whatever works for you. I wrote a long comment on your birth story post, but I don’t see it now- maybe it is my phone. Anyway, the gist was that you did so awesome and I’m so happy for you that you got the birth you wanted. I also got chills reading your birth story because it was so eerily similar to my first. Being super far along upon arrival at hospital, breaking water late in the game after a bit of a stall, pushing being crazy overwhelming and kind of long, bleeding complications after birth (although mine was the cord tearing, not hemorrhaging). And now the Breastfeeding complications. I felt like the biggest failure when I had to supplement Penny. Getting through the first couple months of breastfeeding her was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I don’t say that lightly. It can be so devastating to not have that experience go the way you had hoped, and I too got discouraging remarks from people who didn’t understand what I was going through. I believe there is a big difference between offering support and offering uninformed opinion. I have been there and I truly understand how difficult this can be. If you want the support/advice from someone who has gone through this and is also extremely well-read on breastfeeding issues, please reach out to me. I am in training to become a breastfeeding counselor and IBCLC and am more than happy to help. Cottonbottommama gmail.

    Reply
    • Thanks you so much for this encouragement. I’m not working with an LC right now, but I suppose I could…I have tried recently to put her back on the boob and she seriously spits it out like there’s arsenic on it. Crazy! And thank you for the kind words on my birth. It all went so fast I didn’t even feel like I had time to beg for an epidural! So weird that your birth was so similar to mine! Including the bleeding at the end. I will absolutely reach out to you if I’m in need of some Cotton Bottom advice 🙂

      Reply
      • Time really is of the essence on this, and I can’t stress enough how helpful it can be to work with an IBCLC. Ask your doula who she recommends. It will make your life so much easier if you can get her back to the breast. The next few weeks might be harder, but that is what maternity leave is for, and then the rest of your year will be eons easier. Nursing is hands down the best baby calming tool out there, and since you are already doing the hard work of pumping, it is only fair that you should get to reap the other benefits of nursing. It is about way more than just milk. Right now Shira is comfortable with and used to the bottle, so of course she will reject the breast- that is why you need a professional. There also might be a tongue tie or lip tie that is making it harder for her. An IBCLC can help you make a plan. Or even just getting to a nursing moms support group would be a good start. Is there a Breastfeeding USA chapter near you? It would also get you out to relieve some of that boredom.

  6. I’m just glad I’m not alone in my feelings about this! For me, I do not have the time, energy, or patience to pump frequently enough to help my supply provide enough for my twins for all meals. I don’t know what I did wrong at first but my supply is low. That said, both babies get an appetizer of breast milk at every feed. Then they have formula. I have guilt about this. A lot. But not enough to do anything different. So thank you for bringing this topic up. I think I need to do a post on it myself! You’re doing a great job.

    Reply
    • You did NOTHING wrong. Sometimes, our supply doesn’t meet the demand! It’s totally normal, and anyone who says otherwise can shove it. Had we been in cave days, we would have had someone else in our clan help feed our babies, but thank god for formula now. You are doing the best for your babies you can–who WOULDN”t want a breast milk appetizer? YUM!

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  7. I could have written your post about 4 years ago. Seriously, pretty much the same experience, including the frustation with the lactation consultants at the hospital who never agreed with each other or with the nurses, with the exception that I could never produce enough breastmilk pumping to really work (only about 1 oz. or some from one breast and none from the other, and yes, i did try fenugreek, mother’s tea, etc., didn’t help much if at all). I had a very fussy baby and I just couldn’t handle the pumping every 2 hours on top of trying to keep her from crying 24/7 and the extreme sleep deprivation I was experiencing. I noticed that she actually fussed less with formula than with pumped breastmilk, and did an experiment where I exclusively fed her formula for a few days, then exclusively fed her pumped breastmilk for a few days, and she clearly tolerated the formula better. I believe it may have been the dairy in my diet, as I later discovered she had a milk milk protein intolerance. If she had been successfully breastfeeding at that point, I would have changed my diet, but it was just too much to deal with, so I stopped the madness and exclusively formula fed her from 3 weeks on and never looked back. Today she is a very healthy and smart nearly 4-year-old.

    I wish very much that I had been able to breastfeed her – actually more for the experience than for health reasons, since clearly being formula fed has not adversely affected her health, although I do understand that in some cases where the baby’s health is at risk breastmilk may be better. But I have zero regrets and feel that life was so much better for both of us when the breastfeeding/pumping frustration was no longer an issue. I may have felt guilt for a week or two, but once I saw how much better things were once we were off the boob, any last traces of guilt disappeared.

    I hate that there seems to be this huge divide between the breastfeeding and formula feeding moms (not all moms, just the most vocal ones). I don’t understand why people can’t just accept that breastfeeding isn’t *always* the best choice. There are many factors at play, and a happy, more relaxed mom is likely to be a better one than one who is stressed out and full of guilt.

    I still say I am pro-breastfeeding, because I think if you can make it work (and yes, in many cases it does take a lot of work), you should – but I also hate the fact that some people make formula feeders feel guilty, even going so far as to say that formula is poison. Unless you’re in an underdeveloped country with a tainted water supply, it most definitely is not poison. It is a perfectly viable alternative for those who need it or even want it.

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  8. Whatever works best for mom and baby is what is best. I’m thankful that I live in a time and place that HOW you feed your baby is a choice (imagine a world without formula and bottles, how scary is that?) I’m glad you to are doing what is right for you and Shira, it means you are a good mom. Heck you can even use this as an example of how you resisted peer-pressure when she’s 14 😉 Tell those militant BFing mama’s to jump off a bridge, you are doing what is best for you and your child. 🙂

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  9. To each his own, every mama feeds her baby her own way, and what works for some doesn’t work for others. You guys do whatever you need to do! That being said I’m sorry breastfeeding didn’t work out the way you wanted it to and maybe when your milk catches up you guys can give it a whirl again, only if you want to of course, EPing is obviously a fine choice as well.

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    • Thanks Jes. Don’t think breast feeding will be in the cards for us until I can get over some of the residual hospital PTSD. It was a serious nightmare.

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  10. I commend you for feeding your baby. seriously there are wackos out there who would rather let the baby suffer and pride themselves in breastfeeding. ridiculous. I amso happy you are both doing well now. and pumping takes serious woman power. its not fun. you rock. just keep doing whatever you need… forget the crazies (holy cow they sound like they have mad cow disease…)

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  11. Eww, I hate the ebf thing too. It does sound so judgemental and rude. I never use that term and never plan to. I’m glad you got it figured out and figured out something that works and makes you happy, because I can not imagine the torment of trying to feed your baby without success. Talk about tearing up a new mom. I’m sorry you had to deal with that. And holy cow good on your for planning to pump full time – pumping is no joke, and exclusively pumping takes a whole lot more commitment than breast feeding – I’m not sure I could have done that.

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    • It’s funny–I don’t really know anything different from pumping, and after what I went through trying to breast feed, it feels like a dream! I can totally see how if breast feeding wasn’t a bad experience, or even tolerable, pumping would suck. Right now I’m super excited to be pumping about 3 ounces and feeding her milk one way or another!

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      • Well 3 ounces is fantastic!!! The absolute most I have ever pumped was 6 oz. and that was once when she had pretty much skipped the last feeding. If you are able to keep pumping at that rate you will have no issues exclusively pumping.

  12. I commend you on the EPing. Breast feeding is so so hard. My daughter was born five weeks early and I still feel like I have some trauma lingering, both from birthing and the whole breast feeding experience. I was lucky to have an excellent lactation consultant visit me multiple times a day every day I was in the hospital. But my daughter was born without a fully developing sucking reflex, I have huge flat nipples, and she was literally off the growth charts because she was so small. I ended up EPing and it was nightmare. My daughter had to go the Children’s Hospital every day for a week after she was discharged and, of course, it would always take 3-4 hours to get through it and I was so engorged that I was in tears. I’m glad you are into it so easily, because I wasn’t. I was devastated. Even when EPing, my daughter would scream and scream afterwards because of my diet. It got so bad that I sobbed every time I pumped and had to feed her. Yeah. PPD set in For Real. Even after all that shit, I had (and have) people give me weird looks and my damn hippie family says disgusting things about me feeding her that baby poison. But i am now heavily medicated for PPD and my anxiety disorder, so I CANT BF or pump! ALL of that novel to say, you are awesome no matter how you choose to feed your baby. If pumping works for you, do it. If formula works for you, do it. Don’t let those assholes bring you down, even if they say shit like, “I have flat nips, went through 15 rounds of mastitis and thrush, bleeding, cracked nipples. If I can EBF, you can too if you’re not a selfish bitch. Suck it up!” Those people need to be punched in the face.

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    • Thank you. THANK YOU for this comment. I’m glad I’m not alone…it’s hard to describe the trauma of being unable to feed your child until you’ve gone through it. And however you’re able to get nourishment to your little one is THE BEST WAY. Fuck anyone who tells you otherwise. “I have flat nips, went through 15 rounds of mastitis and thrush, bleeding, cracked nipples. If I can EBF, you can too if you’re not a selfish bitch. Suck it up!” Haha–it’s so true!! You will get people like this all of the time who think that just because they have put themselves through excrutiating pain in the name of “breast is best” they should get a medal. Crazy.

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  13. Screw all the judgmental “breast is best” crazies. What is best is that your baby is fed and thriving and you are both relaxed and happy. There are so many reasons women don’t or can’t breastfeed and we shouldn’t be judging anyone for how they feed their baby. It sounds like you are doing an awesome job.
    Maybe it’s the pessimist in me, but I fully am expecting to have trouble breastfeeding and/or producing enough milk for twins. I would also like some help in feeding 2 babies so I can maybe get a tiny bit of sleep. So we have already decided to do a combo of formula and breastmilk. We’ll have bottles and boobs. Hopefully. I am actually trying not to get attached to any plan because I see far too often how it can get screwed up.

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    • The sleep factor has been HUGE for me and bottle feeding. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to be the sole person responsible for feeding one infant, let alone two! I think your plan sounds great, and of course, go easy on yourself if the plan changes.

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    • The sleep factor has been HUGE for me and bottle feeding. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to be the sole person responsible for feeding one infant, let alone two! I think your plan sounds great, and of course, go easy on yourself if the plan changes.

      Reply
    • The sleep factor has been HUGE for me and bottle feeding. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to be the sole person responsible for feeding one infant, let alone two! I think your plan sounds great, and of course, go easy on yourself if the plan changes.

      Reply
  14. Haven’t read all the comments but I feel bad that it’s been so rough for you. With my first, I would attempt to breastfeed him, he’d fall asleep, then he’d get formula, then I’d pump. It almost killed me, mentally and physically. With my second, I pumped so so often and then would feed him a tiny bit of that to calm him down, then we’d try latching, then top him off with more pumped milk. He was a preemie and they didn’t want him expending that much energy just trying to eat. That might be an approach for you in the future. He eventually got better at feeding and would eat enough at the breast to be satisfied but I saw the lactation consultant three times, went to a breastfeeding support group every week and was basically very very stubborn. (I ended in tears at the support group because I thought he was eating great during it and it turned out he only ate maybe 2 ounces, so we had to continue the pre and post feeding bottles.) EPing is very hard and I applaud you for sticking with that.

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  15. Man, it really grinds my gears when moms are so horrible to one another! Especially during a time when you’re CLEARLY trying to do what’s right for you and the babe. It sounds like this is a perfect solution — and even if the pumping wasn’t working, you could always do a bit of formula here and maybe use a milk bank for supplementation or whatever. Basically, there are so many options that are just FINE for the baby, the last thing you need to contend with at this point is judgment.

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  16. Thank you for sharing your story. Mine is pretty much the same traumatic tale. I too started EPing after a week and it helped my mental health dramatically! I do find when people say “you’re BFing right?” And you respond that your pumping the give you a glare. So annoying! Baby is getting the same food! I just made the choice not to torture everyone and it works for us!

    Reply

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