As I type this (in between feedings, playtime, naps, and diaper changes), I'm starting to realize that it's turning into a long post. But that's just how it's been with breastfeeding and pumping--I feel like we're figuring it out as we go...and it's not always a quick solution.
Thank you so much for your words of wisdom in regards to my plea for support, guidance, and reassurance when it comes to pumping. I've changed some things around and have seen some improvements. I share these changes in case they can be helpful to anyone else.
As per some of your suggestions, I got some new shields for the pump (at least that's what I think that they are called). Some suggested that the size might not be right, and if anything, I think that I need a smaller size (I've never been large anywhere in this area). I must be unique--because the baby supply store didn't have them in small, though they did come in XXL (no offense if you fit an XXL...it just seemed that if they had one extreme, they would also carry the other). So instead, I went with the "softfit", and have definitely felt the difference! I found it interesting (and disappointing) that the softfit only comes in medium...strange. I also ordered the small regular shields online, but I admit that I have felt comfortable (enough) with the softfit, so I haven't even tried the smalls yet.
Also, based on multiple comments about only pumping in the morning, I've essentially given myself permission to only pump when it's convenient. I agree that my supply is greatest in the morning, so I try to get a session in each morning after Ella has had her fill. Throughout the rest of the day, I'll pump here and there as time allows. But I guess I don't feel as "tied" to my pump anymore. In fact, I still think that it tells me to "wrap it up, wrap it up, wrap it up", but sometime it may be telling me "let's go, let's go, let's go"--almost as if it's now encouraging me that yes, we can do this! I'm still averaging about 1.5 ounces per pumping session--sometimes more, sometimes less. I've even gotten really good at multi-tasking while I pump (I pulled it into the bathroom the other day and did my make-up while hooked up...it may not have been a pretty sight, but I hit two birds with one stone).
Although we plan to do so soon, we still haven't introduced Ella to a bottle yet...which means that my breastmilk is slowly but surely taking over the freezer. I recently learned a little trick to maximize our freezer space (perhaps others already do this, but it was new to me). We are using the little storage bags, and I initially just lined them up vertically. But this made for a wide base and a nearly empty top, so I couldn't fit as many pouches in the storage container. Then I read that you can lie the bags flat to freeze them--thus spreading the milk out evenly through the bag. Once frozen, I then line them up vertically, but they take up much less space without the wide base.
As for breastfeeding, I'm very proud of myself for figuring out a bit of a mystery when it came to Ella and her feeding. Around two to three weeks of age, I noticed that she wasn't stooling a lot. The pediatrician said it was totally fine, and that he's seen babies go up to 19 days without stooling. I figured that her little body must just be using up every little ounce of nutrients she was getting in order to grow (and she was growing normally, according to the pediatrician). This is what led me to start pumping in the first place--thinking that perhaps I didn't have enough supply for her. As my supply increased, so did her stools. But then I noticed that her stools were not quite the "seedy mustard-yellow" that they should be. Rather, her stools were on the greenish side, and they were watery and foamy (I know, because Ella has developed a new fondness of peeing and pooping in that half-second between when I take the old diaper off and put the new diaper on). So I did a quick search for "watery, foamy diapers" and found this information which led me to believe that it was perhaps a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance. All along, I had been nursing on 15-20 minutes on each side because it seemed like the thing to do--according to the nurses, my mom, On Becoming Babywise, etc.--and Ella seemed to be growing just fine. But the initial absence of stools, and then the foamy consistency, had me rethinking everything. So I began to ignore the clock, and started to let Ella completely drain the breast to ensure that she gets adequate hindmilk. Sure enough--it did the trick, and her stools seem to be back to normal (for the most part, at least).
So in the midst of my research, I put in a call to the Lactation Consultant at my hospital to confirm my suspicion, and unfortunately, had a less-than-ideal conversation with her. It wasn't "bad", per se, but when I mentioned Babywise, she completely shut down and nearly attacked me. I recognize and appreciate her expertise, but I think I'm going to take her feedback with a grain of salt (in the exact same way that I take the input in Babywise and from friends and family).
The conversation just left me with a bad feeling, and when I mentioned this to my mom, she offered the assistance of a woman in their church who is also a lactation consultant, so I sent her an email...and felt so much better with her response! She also isn't necessarily a fan of Babywise, but rather feeling "attacked", I felt supported and encouraged in how she recommended some suggestions that I should try. In fact, she started her email with "You are so smart! I love a mom who researches!". I felt like I was familiar with most of what she shared, but it's always nice to have the reassurance that I'm doing things correctly and to have a thoughtful suggestion on how I can improve the breastfeeding (and pumping) experience for both myself and Ella. She is a wonderful resource--and she said that I can continue to contact her by email, phone, text--whatever works best for me. In fact, she is still accumulating hours for her accreditation, and when I mentioned that I have friends who have newborns or are expecting soon, she was more than happy for me to pass on her name and contact information to anyone else who might need her as well. So if you have any questions or concerns about all that is involved with breastfeeding, please let me know your email address, and I'll send her contact information on to you.
Yesterday's blessing was a really nice conversation with my brother. Unfortunately, he's going through a bit of a rough spot--mainly due to a recent break-up--but he really opened up to me, and it was nice to be able to be a good, supportive big sister for him. He's coming out with my parents for Thanksgiving, so it will be wonderful to see him. And something tells me that he's going to be such a fun uncle!