Escaping Exclusive Pumping Through a "Love In" by Shannon Norris
Updated: Mar 20
As a consultant, it's delicate to try to express why I advocate for continuing to try to get back to nursing when a client family is happy with exclusive pumping. I always center the client's priorities and timeline, but I offer at least a description of what the plan of care would look like if we were to try to establish nursing. It is an honor to help a dyad get back in sync, and I recognize that it can feel like an unattainable goal.
Shannon's Story: Feeling a bit under the weather, I stayed home with my baby today. We snuggled and nursed on and off, so I could get some much needed rest. There were no bottles to be made, no pumping equipment to wash, no interrupting the cuddles so I could get in my pumping sessions. Whereas just a few months ago, I was exclusively pumping.
I literally felt like I had won the lottery. I could now leave the house for as long as I wanted only needing to whip out a boob to feed her whenever she wanted.
My baby Selah had a recessed chin and several oral ties. She could not even latch onto my nipple. Being a mom to 4, nurse, and lactation consultant myself; I was determined to get things back on track. I made all the appointments to get her oral tie revisions done, see a physical therapist to help regain her tongue strength, get bodywork to release tension, and have Carly Marks help me with all things breastfeeding. Yet this baby would not latch.
I was willing to do whatever it took to keep giving her my milk. The pump literally felt like shackles that I could only go so far from and so long from. My life was ruled by my pump. I hated pumping on the go so I would only leave my house for so long. I never changed out of my pumping bra because it just made one less thing to do when I sat down for my every 3 hour chore. And even with my hack of putting my pumping supplies in the fridge to save on some washing, I was still washing SO many things. It was all getting in the way of being able to just be and enjoy this sweet newborn season. I added up how much time it took for pumping, cleaning, attempting to breastfeed and it was at least 3 hours of extra time per day. That’s on top of changing diapers, witching hour, attempting to make food for the family, taking care of other kids, and trying to get my own basic personal needs met (i.e. brushing my teeth- nothing fancy here!).
Then one day at my 6 week postpartum appointment, the inevitable happened and I had forgotten her bottle. I had a mental checklist I went over every time I left the house, and yet here I was several miles from my house with no bottle. I even asked the office if they had an extra one as I had a bag of breastmilk in my diaper bag. No luck. That feeling of being up a creek without a paddle was felt deep in my bones. Thankfully, we made it back home after only a few tears…from both of us. At this point I had been losing some hope that she would ever start breastfeeding. This wish felt like a ship on the water getting fainter and fainter with time.
With my boobs dripping with milk, my belly full, and an AirPod in one ear to help drown out a little bit of the gentle crying- I gave it my best try…and to my surprise and astonishment…she went for it.
I decided to double down and do whatever it took even if it did not end up working. As recommended by Carly, I took baths with Selah to mimic being “reborn” to see if she would at least do skin to skin with me. I would try and see if she would allow my nipple near her face without arching away. I figured out that late at night while swaddled and swaying she would just barely hold my nipple in her mouth without fighting. We were making some progress, but what felt like tippy toe steps. In the middle of the night during one of my pumping sessions I deep dove into some YouTube videos of what people did to get their baby to breastfeed. I learned a bit more about a “love in”. This is where you spend dedicated time in your bed, skin to skin, no pumping or bottles, and lovingly coerce them to breastfeed. I talked it out with Carly who helped me make logistical plans. She encouraged me and helped me with a framework for the day. I bought some fun snacks/drinks, gave myself a pep talk, and my husband and I had it on our calendar for a Saturday. I was already dreading the rejection I would encounter, but we had to at least try.
Saturday came and I had a lineup of movies I’d been wanting to stream online. My husband brought me coffee and food, and took care of the rest of the kids downstairs. With my boobs dripping with milk, my belly full, and an AirPod in one ear to help drown out a little bit of the gentle crying- I gave it my best try…and to my surprise and astonishment…she went for it. She fought it some, but then finally gave in as the milk flowed so fast and easily. We worked on it ALL day. I could not and still cannot believe it worked. She was hellbent on not breastfeeding for weeks, and then fast forward to now she absolutely loves it. I’m so glad Carly was available to coach me and encourage me along the way. It meant so much to have her as a cheerleader.
I cannot tell you the relief and freedom I felt with just being able to breastfeed. I literally felt like I had won the lottery. I could now leave the house for as long as I wanted only needing to whip out a boob to feed her whenever she wanted. I could wear a more normal bra and clothes that I felt cute in while still being nursing friendly. I gained hours back in my day and was able to have uninterrupted cuddle sessions with my baby girl. My evenings were freed up from cleaning parts and prepping for the night. It has been a complete game changer.
All of my breastfeeding journeys have looked different for all 4 of my children. One lasted 5 days and then almost 2 years for another child. They have included formula at times, pumping, and also just breastfeeding. So to be able to freely breastfeed and have the option to supplement with bottle feeding my last baby is something I’m incredibly grateful for. I think about that everyday as I’m looking down at that sweet face who’s happily nursing away. I’m hoping you find the journey that works best for you, and I’m hoping you have amazing resources like Carly who can help you along the way. The success we had is in huge part to her walking that journey alongside me and helping direct me when it felt overwhelming. Thank you, Carly!!!
Physical Therapy Rise
Oral Ties Revision Team Tongue Tie