Stumped At The Pump: When Breast-Feeding Doesn't Go As Planned : The Baby Project Loriani Eckerle laments not being able to breast-feed her newborn after a difficult delivery and a lack of milk production.
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Stumped At The Pump: When Breast-Feeding Doesn't Go As Planned

Loriani and Matt's daughter, Valentina, came home from the NICU last Tuesday. Loriani sent this update about her frustrating attempt at breast-feeding.

Valentina Eckerle was fed formula while in the NICU because her mom, Loriani, wasn't able to produce enough milk. Despite an initial disappointment, "I am too busy being elated at being alive with a healthy baby," Loriani says. Courtesy of Loriani Eckerle hide caption

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Courtesy of Loriani Eckerle

Valentina Eckerle was fed formula while in the NICU because her mom, Loriani, wasn't able to produce enough milk. Despite an initial disappointment, "I am too busy being elated at being alive with a healthy baby," Loriani says.

Courtesy of Loriani Eckerle

I still have my first bra. It is this tiny, AAA lacy thing from Sears. My mom took me to buy it in fifth grade. By seventh grade, I was a B cup and beginning to understand that my girls carried some power. They may have not always attracted the right kind of boys, but overall I led a pretty good dating life. Sure it wasn't just my boobs, at least I hope not, but come on, they helped.

I never really thought about their real or rather primary purpose: lactation. Once I became pregnant, I never even considered bottle-feeding. Along with cloth diapering and recycling, breast-feeding to me was a no-brainer. Keep in mind, I live in the Bay Area where these things are, at least to the middle- and upper classes, the norm. Of course I never could have foreseen that the pregnancy would attack my body in such a way that milk just wasn't high on its priority list.

My time in the ICU is pretty much a blur, but I do remember that they had put a breast pump in my room. Since I couldn't breast-feed my premature baby, it was imperative that I start pumping every two to three hours right away. The fact that a lactation consultant had come into my room and equipped us with both the pump and this information is comical. I was still receiving blood transfusions and had not even registered that I was a mother. I've seen video of the first time I met my daughter — I am so drugged out that I probably would have worn the breast pump as a hat before ever putting it on my breast.

Valentina Eckerle was released from the NICU last Tuesday, and is now home with her parents, Loriani and Matt. Courtesy of Loriani Eckerle hide caption

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Courtesy of Loriani Eckerle

Valentina Eckerle was released from the NICU last Tuesday, and is now home with her parents, Loriani and Matt.

Courtesy of Loriani Eckerle

So by the time I got to the wonderful world of postpartum recovery and away from the ICU, I had missed four days of pumping. My competitive spirit kicked in, and I started going for a breast-pumping title. I also pumped myself full of lactation supplements whose side effects include, I kid you not, maple-scented sweat. Sweet sweat, it turns out, is not really sweet at all. As I watched little droplets of gold fall into the container, I felt hopeful I would soon be able to fill up the entire thing.

But days passed and my milk supply only increased in tiny amounts. On one good day I had enough for two feedings. Most days I barely had enough for one. I felt inadequate as a mother. And I felt cheated. I had already been robbed of the natural delivery I planned and desperately wanted, robbed of the first days of my daughter's life, robbed of anything that is normal about a delivery, and almost robbed of my life. And now breast-feeding?! All those years my breasts had served me so well, only to fail me when I really needed them. I couldn't feed my baby, and that fact spiraled me into depression.

About Loriani

Loriani Eckerle, 31, from Oakland, Calif., is a first-time mom with her husband, Matt. Their daughter was initially diagnosed with Mosaic Trisomy 16, but was born healthy after a dramatic delivery.

My husband would find me crying as I pumped, and begged me to just stop trying. But then I would go see my daughter in the NICU, and either a nurse or the lactation consultant would urge me to keep going. One even told me of a woman who miraculously spewed out gallons of the stuff after months of failing to produce anything at all. I thought, "What if I quit and it turns out I was just one day away from such a miracle?"

I waited until I brought my daughter home from the NICU last week to finally stop pumping. I thought I would let her try instead of the pump and see how that worked. But she had come to expect the bottle at that point and became frustrated with the small amount I could provide. I don't blame her.

I've come to accept the fact that I don't get to breast-feed. I'm not going to lie and say it doesn't hurt, but I'm no longer depressed over it. I'm too busy being elated at being alive with a healthy baby. Many of my friends have struggled with breast-feeding in some way or another. Some had to stop, others persevered despite infected nipples and underweight babies. I think we are all surprised at how difficult it can be. The one thing we all have in common is that we tried hard for our little ones, surely a sign that we are all great moms. And hey, it's not so bad that I get to have wine with my dinner. Cheers to that.

Read Baby Project mom Christy Lilly's story about breast-feeding here.

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