If you have been following Heather Grace at The Pumping Mommy like I have, you may be in for a surprise… Heather divulged some closely guarded secrets in our exclusive interview.
If you haven’t discovered The Pumping Mommy yet, you’re in for a treat. I’ve been enjoying Heather Grace’s wealth of experience so neatly delivered on her lovely site for a while and finally plucked up the courage to ask her for an interview. Am so glad I did… Heather is as beautiful in person as she appears on her website.
Heather shared from the heart and also kindly offered some quick tips on pumping breast milk. On with the interview…
Why was it so important to YOU to breastfeed?
There really wasn’t any other option to me, I guess. I just knew that I wanted to breastfeed and I never really considered not breastfeeding. I honestly didn’t know going into it that there were moms who had so many issues. I was really naïve when I first started out. I had no idea that it was something people struggled with. If I had known, I might have approached with caution.
Where did you learn that breastfeeding was the way to go? Were you encouraged by anyone?
I think it was largely modeled behavior because I’m the second oldest of 4 kids and my Mom breastfed all of us. I never remember even seeing bottle feeding in my house until much later when cows milk was introduced. Of course, I’ve had friends and family members who did and do formula feed and that’s great for them. But for me, breastfeeding was just something that was very natural to do.
That’s so unusual to hear. Good for your Mom. Well done Mom.
Did you have any challenges?
With my first baby, I suffered from a major oversupply. Some people may not see that as an issue but for me it became a big issue. It started out almost the day he was born. I was told I needed to pump right away. People kept telling me you won’t have any milk, you have to pump a lot, and I ended up with this massive over-supply. So as a result, my baby spit up uncontrollably because there was so much and it was so forceful. He spit up like you wouldn’t believe, it was like geysers. It was so bad that his doctor actually ordered an ultrasound to be done because they thought he had a condition where the top of his stomach muscle needed to be corrected, when actually all it was, was just an oversupply issue. And I got Mastitis and clogged milk ducts and all these other issues that came with that. Lesson learned!
My second baby was a whole other host of issues. He had silent reflux really bad, to the point where, after he was born and we were still in the hospital, he would choke uncontrollably and not be able to breathe and we’d have to suction him. For the first year of his life, he never slept more than 45 minutes because it hurt him all the time. We had to make a decision to put him on medication because he wasn’t gaining weight. And part of it was because with severe reflux babies they start to associate when they eat with the pain. So I thought that he was nursing fine but he wasn’t really taking in a lot because it caused him a lot of pain. So as a result, my supply plummeted and he ended up not even being on the growth charts. He was tiny, less than one percentile, he was so so tiny.
So that was a whole other host of issues that stemmed from a medical condition that he had and as a nursing Mom, especially when you’re nursing your second, you think, “aah, I’ve got all this figured out” but even with that experience I couldn’t understand why my supply was dropping. It took working with a Lactation Consultant to realize that he was not actually eating. He was at the breast but he was not taking in much. So there was some working through those issues and getting him on the proper medication so we could fix it.
What was the proper medication?
We started him on Zantac which is an antacid but that wasn’t doing much for him and it was causing other issues. He was really constipated and just when it seemed to ease some of the symptoms he would grow out of the dosage amount and we would be at square one. He ended up having to go on Prevacid, which is actually an acid blocker, not just an antacid. So the stronger medication seemed to help but it didn’t get rid of the reflux completely and to this day, he’s 3 now, he still has some traces of acid reflux. It’s insane.
That’s so hard to deal with as a Mom. Thank Goodness it wasn’t your first child…
Yeah, if he was my first I don’t think I would have been able to survive nursing him. I wouldn’t have known what to do, how to fix it. I wouldn’t have had the confidence, knowing that my body knows what it’s supposed to do, and how supply and demand works. I think I would have just given up and given him formula of some sort.
And that would have been even more tricky I would assume, considering what he was dealing with, his tummy was already struggling…
So what made you push through the challenges & continue?
I think at the end of the day I knew it was better for me to breastfeed him especially if he was having some sort of stomach issue. There can be nothing gentler than breast milk on the stomach. And I thought that no matter what, we had to figure this out. I even cut out dairy and other types of things that were maybe causing irritation, at the direction of the Lactation Consultant. But I knew that giving him formula, we’d probably end up with something like soy and I didn’t like the idea of soy formula with all the hormones in soy. So I knew breast milk would be better for him, even though he was still struggling. I knew he was probably going to be worse on formula.
I think I would agree there…
Yeah, it had nothing to do with what was in the breast milk, it had everything to do with what was going on with the stomach, so why add another catalyst? You know, that’s not natural. So that was really the motivation for me, to try to give him the best I could to try keep him healthy. I didn’t think formula was the right route.
That’s amazing because I think many people would move to formula and I know many have moved to formula in a similar situation because they think it is the breast milk.
Yeah, and I think that’s where people may be misinformed. I can’t imagine that there would be anything in breast milk, and science doesn’t support it, that would be harmful when you’re comparing it to formula. By doing the elimination diet, I had taken out most anything that could crossover into my breast milk so it was as free of irritants as it could be. There were family members who tried to convince me maybe my breast milk is bad and I just said to them, “You’re crazy”.
What do you love most about breastfeeding?
Well you know, I am now nursing my third one, she’s 4 months old. So I get to do this all over again. She has been the easiest to breastfeed because I’m wiser this time. I know kind of what I’m doing. It has been so smooth this time around so I get to reflect on this question a lot.
I think what I love about nursing is the bond you have. Especially now at this age, being 4 months, as they’re nursing they’re kinda holding onto you and looking at you since they are becoming more aware of everything. The bond that is there. You can feel it. This tiny, perfect human depends on you and it’s amazing. The other thing that breastfeeding has over bottle feeding – I don’t have to wash bottles. I’m all for not having to do more dishes!
Can you describe any joys of nursing… any beautiful moments you’ve experienced?
Gosh…There’s always a lot. The one thing I had just recently with my third baby… I love when she is nursing and you know how when they pull off and look at you and smile? I love that – it just melts me every time. It’s the best.
What do you feel is the single most important benefit of breastfeeding?
The single best, well – look at all the health benefits of it. Knowing you’re giving your child exactly what they need biologically. Because it’s not just that it’s perfectly made for them but it’s incredible how your breast milk changes when they’re sick and they need antibodies. As they’re growing giving them the proper ratios of the vitamins, the proteins, the fat, all of those things they need. You can’t get that from anything but breast milk.
Do you believe in extended breastfeeding? How long do you like to continue nursing?
I have let both of my boys self-wean and I will do the same with my daughter.
My first weaned self-weaned closer to 2, he was almost 2 and I was so sad, because I wasn’t ready. Just one day he refused it and that was it for us, our journey ended and it was really sad.
Then I got pregnant with my second and I was thrilled because I was going to breastfeed again. My second self-weaned at a year and a half. I’m hoping to go over 2 years with my little girl.
Well you never know, my boy’s been nursing for 3 and half years and he’s only recently started weaning. At 2 years he was still voracious.
You are so lucky. I wish mine had let me nurse longer. That would be great.
Let’s talk about you as The Pumping Mommy because none of these questions so far have been about pumping…
If we had to choose one article on your website for me to direct people to, which article would it be?
In terms of breastfeeding, I have a page that is dedicated to how to increase your breast milk supply and it can be through pumping or breastfeeding directly, and I get the most feedback on that article from Moms who are just looking for help. It can be so hard to know what to do, I know with my second one it was such a struggle, you can try so many different things and you can spend a ton of money on all kinds of herbs and mixes and all of these things that are supposed increase your supply. So that article has been the most beneficial, specifically from a breastfeeding point.
Well, I frequent a lot of community boards and see what Moms are talking about and what questions they’re asking about pumping… A popular topic, especially for working Moms is how long maternity leave is. I don’t know how it is where you live but here in the States, the Maternity laws are horrible. You can’t be a working Mom and breastfeed without pumping, you have to, because we go back to work so early. Some people don’t even have Maternity leave coverage at all. It really is a big, big struggle and a big topic for Moms here in the States.
And before the Affordable Care Act, we didn’t have covered breast pumps from insurance, so people who couldn’t afford a pump had to either stop breastfeeding or supplement with formula or stop altogether. That was another thing that brought me to create my site and to cover the angle I did, because I worked with my first and pumping through that and I never gave him a drop of formula and it was HARD. I was able to work 60 hours a week and breastfeed him full time. It was a big struggle, but yeah, I’d definitely love to share something like that with your readers.
I have an entire section on my site dedicated to “The Pumping Mom” who works. I cover tips for making pumping and breastfeeding work, a sample pumping schedule (by far my most popular post and most pinned on Pinterest), tips on how to discuss pumping at work with your employer, how to build a freezer stash of breast milk, and much more.
That would be lovely, wonderful. I’d love a guest post from you.
I’m actually borrowing a pump tomorrow and pumping for the very first time in my life. I’m 3 and a half years down the track so I don’t know how much milk I’m going to get out, but I only have to eke out 2 teaspoons, because I’ve ordered a milk drop pendant from Precious Mammaries.
Oh, I’ve been wanting to do that…
I was excited about the timing of this interview because I need a few pumping tips from you. Some of my friends have asked, “why don’t you just hand express” but there’s so little milk left. He only feeds when he goes down to bed and night and when he first wakes up in the morning. I can’t imagine I’d get any milk out hand expressing, let alone learning how to do it – I’m hoping the pump is going to do it all for me. Will it?
Yeah, it should… what I would do is pump in the morning. Pump one side, while he’s nursing on the other. Typically that stimulates a stronger milk let-down and you should be able to get something that way.
The other way would be to pump before he feeds, because he’s stronger at pulling the milk down than the pump ever will be. There’ll still be milk there but at least you’ll be able to squeeze some out. It might take you a few sessions if you’re not getting too much. I know when my son was nursing when he was 2, it seemed like there was hardly anything left.
I know, it’s very late to be doing it, but that’s why I want to do it. He’s at the stage where he’s starting to wean and I really want to have a memento, I want to commemorate this very special time we’ve had because I’m probably not going to have another baby. I’m 44 and my husband is 52 and he said “no way”. I would have another one at the drop of a hat.
That would be so neat. I’ve been looking into the jewelry and I really want to do it. I just haven’t picked out what piece yet. We didn’t think we’d be able to have another child. I’ve had several stillbirths so I never really thought I would be able to have a third, so now that she’s here and I’m getting to have this special time with her – I’m definitely doing something, a pendant or something, I don’t know what yet.
But let’s go back a step. You had stillbirths, did you carry to term?
I got to late in the second trimester with both of them and then they were still born. It was not something I ever thought would happen because both my boys were fine. But when we went to have our third baby, their hearts would stop, just for no reason. We didn’t really know what it was. It’s suspected they were blood clots that were happening. So with her pregnancy, oh my goodness, I was on blood thinners, which was a shot in my stomach twice a day, and was closely monitored and at the doctor all the time. It was just insane, I was at the Doctor 3 times a week. Yes, but she got here safe and sound and she’s happy and we are very thankful.
That must have been scary at the end though because if you’re on blood thinners before you give birth, labor could be dangerous, you could hemorrhage.
Yeah, what they do is they switch the type of blood thinner when you close to your due date. They one that works out of your system faster and, just in case, they have drugs that can counteract it. So if something did happen, you’re hemorrhaging, they have something that can help stop it. But you can’t have an epidural with blood thinners in your system. It was certainly something I asked a lot of questions about.
Were you hoping to have an epidural?
My first one I did, my second son was born in less than 2 hours from the first contractions, I almost had him in the car, so I didn’t have time.
I kind of thought that with this one I wouldn’t have time and my active labor with her was literally less than 20 minutes, though I was at the hospital because I was induced early due to my previous history and the fact I was on blood thinners. She was born so quickly after my body went into labor, so I ended up not getting one with her.
If I had time I think I would have gotten one like I did with my first. I thought it was heavenly – I would have totally done it.
Funny, I was against having an epidural because my antenatal teacher taught that a drug-free birth gives you the best chance of successful breastfeeding. Having said that, I was really adamant that I was going to have a drug-free birth and it was in my birth plan, but you know how births never really go as planned. I landed up being induced and therefore having drugs in the system. It is what it is. I still refused painkillers and an epidural so it was hell.
I wasn’t really afraid of the birth itself, I was more afraid of tearing. It just sounded horrible. I had an anxiety about it. My epidural birth was fantastic, I smiled through the whole thing, it was lovely. My anesthesiologist, I could have kissed him. It was really, really, really amazing. I asked him, “How long does this usually take to kick in?” And he said, “Oh, usually 20-30mins”. But then I started feeling it taking effect, “I said, well that’s weird, it’s already starting to get numb”. And he said, “well, in my profession I’ve learned that you don’t tell Moms it’s going to happen right away, in case it doesn’t because they might rip your head off”. (We both laughed). But breastfeeding went great and I never had any issues with my baby being alert or my body not doing what it needed to.
Well, I’m really happy to hear about your third child. I thought I did my research and I thought I knew everything I needed to know about you before your interview, but that was a big surprise.
Yeah, I didn’t blog about her, even during my pregnancy. I freelance for a Doctor, she’s a Psychiatrist and she’s always saying, “let’s talk about why you don’t want to blog about your baby”. (Laughing) Let’s talk about all my insecurities.
That’s understandable though when you’ve lost babies.
Yeah, and now that she’s here…
Yeah, but the first 4 months are still hectic. You’re still breastfeeding full time and you have two toddlers to look after as well. It’s amazing you got around to this interview. 😉
Yeah, luckily she’s such a wonderful baby. I’m really lucky. I have just been so in love and enjoying her.
Yeah, especially when you have two energetic boys. We’re only given as much as we can handle.
That is so true, but we’re surviving.
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