EP to EBF: Success

This is a post I put up on BabyCenter’s ‘Breastfeeding Multiples’ board, to offer support and a few tips to anybody who decided to try the transition from exclusively pumping to direct breastfeeding as late as I did. Cross-posting it here for further reach and later Googlers!

Hi everyone! I just wanted to post my success story, because when I was going through my process I found that there weren’t a lot of mamas doing the same thing quite so late as I did. So my usual ‘find-everything-on-the-internet’ strategy of self-support was rough!

My twins were born at 36+5, blessedly free of pretty much all complications except that they couldn’t seem to latch. We had the help of great LCs and lots of L&D nurses, but my girl, especially, as the smaller twin, just couldn’t do it. She had some suck/swallow delays, and my hubby syringe fed her while I worked on nursing our boy for the first two days. Once she learned how to eat at all, both of them took all the milk I could pump and a bit of formula to help them gain weight while in the hospital.

Thankfully, my milk came in before we even left the hospital, so once we were home we started the laborious process so many of you are familiar with – work on “practicing” nursing, feed expressed milk from bottles, then pump. The entire cycle took over two hours – once we were done, it was time to start over again. Something had to give, and the mutual frustration and tears (me and them) of nursing was what went. We switched to exclusive pumping; I was lucky enough to be able to provide all the milk they needed and more by pumping. Whenever it got rough, I forced myself to point out that since I COULD, I should! But it was hard, hard, hard. I took the advice I’d seen here and gave myself mini-milestone goals: one month. Six weeks. Two months.

By three months, we had a routine that worked as efficiently as it could, but I hated it. I rarely got to just sit and cuddle my babies after I fed them, because I always had to go pump. I started asking about solid foods, just because I was so eager to get away from the pump. By this point, my little girl – the non-latcher! – would occasionally comfort-nurse when she was upset, but we were still so anxious about tracking how much milk they were getting that we were hesitant to try moving away from bottles.

Finally, I was desperate. I decided that I was going to try direct breastfeeding for just one feeding a day – the one feeding that I had to handle alone, after my husband left for work and before my MIL came over to help for the afternoon (bless her!). So one day, I tried it. And, to my shock, they both latched, and ate for about twenty minutes. Afterwards, my breasts felt just as drained as when I pumped, so clearly they were getting enough food! It worked! I was delighted. At first, I pumped after the feeding just to be sure, but when I got almost nothing – barely an ounce – I knew it was working as intended. So for the next week or so, I nursed them for that feeding, and we continued our routine the rest of the time.

Then I added another feeding. I picked one of the afternoon feedings, and left a pumping/bottle feeding in between the two nursing feedings because I was still nervous about drainage. It worked again, and I was so gleeful about it that I went virtually cold turkey after two days and switched all but the very first morning feeding to direct breastfeeding. It WORKED. And the religious pumping schedule I’d established when I was exclusively pumping meant that I had plenty of supply.

So my transition from EPing to EBFing didn’t happen until my babies were four months old – but it happened, and it’s doable! Don’t give up hope!

A final note: it took us until seven months to switch the very first morning feeding from bottle to breast, because I had an overnight oversupply – engorged breasts in the morning, lots of foremilk. Eventually I was able to manage it and we’ve just transitioned to nursing in the morning, too. They seem to like it. And it makes the morning routine much simpler – I get to sleep a little extra, and they get to play a little more actively since I’m not attached to the pump trying to wrangle them!

I do still pump right before I go to bed for about ten minutes – I call it a ‘system flush’ – I think that making sure everything is drained once a day regardless of how well they’ve nursed all day is helpful in preventing clogs and other issues.

I’m glad I EPed as long as I did; in a lot of ways it made the first couple of months easier – we even got to go out on a couple of date nights, because other people could feed the babies! And I’m glad our babies know how to take a bottle! We’re still able to get away once in a while. But I’m so glad that they finally learned how to nurse!

Sorry this has turned into a novel-length dissertation, but I wanted to let anyone who is wondering if the transition is possible know that it totally is. And for those who are starting out EPing – it’s totally doable, for as long as you want to do it! Happy to talk about my pumping routine and tips if anyone needs it. Also happy to answer any questions about my transition process!

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