Breastfeeding is probably the one thing I was most looking forward to being able to do for my son. Anyone could rock him and cuddle him and give him a bath, but feeding him? That was going to be my thing. The one thing he would need me for that no one else could do. I know it sounds selfish when put that way, but I really wanted to be able to do that for him. I did my research, I went into it knowing I could have cracked nipples and clogged ducts and mastitis. While I was hoping to avoid those things, I also knew it would be worth it if I could give my baby that incomparable “liquid gold.” I didn’t expect the breastfeeding journey to be easy, but I did expect it to work. I guess that’s why I was so broken-hearted when it didn’t.
My son was born 3 weeks early. By the time he was 36 hours old, he had dropped 7 ounces below his birth weight. I wasn’t all that worried. I knew he was getting milk when he nursed, and I knew it was pretty typical for babies to lose some weight. The lactation consultant, however, wasn’t thrilled with that, so our baby was given a bottle before we were even discharged from the hospital. We had a mostly great birth experience, but all of my dealings with the lactation consultant just left me bleeding and in tears. I literally felt like a cow when she was hand expressing for me and was squeezing and twisting so hard it made my nipple bleed. So, thanks to her, I was blindly thrown into the world of exclusively pumping. I didn’t have any idea what I was getting myself into when she came in with a pump, plugged it in, showed me how the pieces went together, and walked back out of my room—never to be seen again. I was left with the instructions to pump every 2 hours for 15 minutes, and was then sent home.
Thankfully, I am a researcher. When I have something I need to know more about, I don’t leave a link un-clicked that Google summons for me. In my 7 weeks of exclusively pumping, I’ve learned A LOT. Mainly, I’ve learned there isn’t much awareness that it’s possible to exclusively pump—let alone to do it long enough to provide your baby with breast milk for a year (my personal goal) or more. Thankfully, I got a decent pump for free through insurance, and while I hadn’t planned on having to buy milk bags and bottles, it’s still less expensive than formula. At first, I had a lot of trouble accepting that this was going to be my “nursing” experience, and I almost got to the point of calling my midwife and asking to be evaluated for postpartum depression because I despised my pump and all the time I spent attached to it. After some prayer, however, I’ve accepted that I’m still doing what’s best for my baby, and I’m using some of my pumping time for extra devotion time. That alone helped change my mindset so much. I also began a reading plan for reading the Bible in a year. If I finish it, I’ve reached my goal of providing my son breast milk for his first year. My Bible app puts check marks in for each day completed, and for me, they serve double duty: a day’s reading done and another day down of pumping. Additionally, I found a great Facebook page from Bottle Nursing Boutique and love the little badges they put up for moms to use to mark both the big milestones and the small ones. They also have great products for pumping and nursing moms. I was so excited the day I could post my 1 month badge, and now it’s almost time to post my 2 month! Exclusively pumping definitely wasn’t my first choice, but I am thankful that (so far) I’ve been able to completely provide for my son without having to supplement with formula. I spend 25-30 minutes, 7-9 times a day (every 2.5-3 hours on a good day) attached to the pump. Right now, I’m producing about twice as much as what he’s eating—which means I pump about a half a gallon of milk a day. Everyone says the first 12 weeks are the hardest, and I’m halfway done with that! My freezer is filling up with milk that I’ll most likely end up being able to donate, my baby is happy and healthy and turning into quite the butterball, and I am so thankful for the support I’ve received from my husband and others who are close to me. Exclusively pumping isn’t for the faint of heart, and I’m looking forward to the day I can smash my pump to pieces (not really…Medela has a great recycling program for their used pumps), but for the next year or so, I’ll be attached to my new BFF—doing what I need to for my baby.