Happy World Breastfeeding Week!
I'm fortunate enough to have an artform by which I can explore and share my life, coupled with a platform to share with others. Usually, I blog about the beautiful people who come into my life through my business.
This post isn't about clients for once- it's about me.
Well, me and my son. Have you met Tucker?
This brown-haired, blue eyed little monster is the love of my life. But we had a little problem. You see, breastfeeding for us is a little different.
When Tucker was born, he latched right away. This surprised all of us since he was born via emergency c-section, and sometimes there are breastfeeding problems that accompany deliveries like that. But Tucker nursed wonderfully throughout our whole hospital stay and in the first few hours we were home.
Then suddenly, something changed. He shrieked with hunger and anger at my breast. I tried and cried for hours.
I admitted defeat- my son needed his belly filled and I couldn't do it. Off went my husband to get formula as I tried to comfort Tuck.
He sucked down the bottle. A few hours later we tried the breast again. Same deal. Down went the bottle.
The next morning, we had a visit with the pediatrician. A self-proclaimed breastfeeding expert (NOT an IBCLC or LC), she set us up with a nipple shield and supplemental nursing system.
Basically, a plastic nipple to go over my own, and a little tube connected to a milk-filled syringe. I was instructed to pump and use the SNS/Shield until Tucker was comfortable nursing again.
That didn't go well. Ryan had to go back to work and our families had to leave. So I had to arrange pumping time, set up the SNS, finagle Tucker on to it...it was not working, it was stressing me out, and everyone was unhappy.
I had a great breast milk supply, so I started searching the internet. I learned about exclusive pumping. When I told the pediatrician the next week that I was thinking of doing that, she laughed and told me not to bother, as I would dry up completely. This confused me and didn't sound right- I'd read story after story of women pumping for more than a year or two for their littles. So I persevered. I told her he breastfed at home and bottle fed pumped milk out & about. I lied-ish to my son's doctor.
We've since switched providers, and our new doctor is VERY supportive of the way we decided to breast feed.
Exclusive pumping is an adventure, an exercise in patience, and a labor of love.
This is a look at my life as an exclusive pumper:
Direct nursing isn't the only time "gymnurstics" comes into play. Oh yeah, the bottle-fed babes like to move around the second they figure out how to do that.
Tied to the pump and tied to the app that reminds me it's time to pump. For fellow moms- the Pump Log (iOS only) app is amazing.
I keep the electric at work so I can pump at my desk and avoid having to lug it about.
Speaking of work- this is how I pump! I use the Freemie Collection Cups, which sit in your bra cups and are sort of boob shaped. It's not totally discreet, but I can pump with my shirt on. My workplace is super supportive of my breastfeeding journey, but I don't like disappearing all the time.
At home, I usually use my manual pump- an Avent Comfort. I love this pump, and it empties me just as well (sometimes better) as an electric. I like being able to move around, set it down quickly, and not have to sit straight up to pump. Tucker obviously likes its chewable qualities
There is always milk on my coffee table. ALWAYS.
Being a mom on the go is tough, especially with my crazy schedule. Pop into my home and you'll probably find my pumping bag- a spare diaper bag I in which I stuff all my pumping accessories, snacks, water bottles and medication.
One of the "perks" of pumping is that I don't have to sit around waiting for Tucker to finish nursing. Though if I'm being honest, I would rather him nurse.
But this is the worst part. I pump on a schedule most days, so I can be sure to make enough milk for Tucker. I'm not, currently. I'm coming up a few ounces short each day, which means we dip into the freezer stash I built up. I know the stash is exactly for this- when I'm no longer pumping enough to feed him. But every bag taken out before I wean stings a little bit.
Pumping can be extremely lonely. My awesome husband gets up with the baby since I get up to make food. But it is sometimes 4:45, I'm the only soul awake in the house, and the only companion is my phone.
Pumping is exhausting. It is very physically demanding. It makes moms feel like they're not spending enough time with their baby. Toss in the pain of feeling incapable of taking care of your baby "the way nature intended". Sprinkle in nursing attempts that end with tears or literal physical pain (Tucker bit me a few weeks ago so bad I bled. No more nursing attempts here).
We're doing it well, though. Tucker is 9 months old, was exclusively fed breast milk until he started solids. He continues to receive his primary nutrition from my breast milk. I had stashed 1,000 ounces in our freezer. Because of how well exclusively pumping works for us, I was able to donate a few hundred ounces to one baby and generous sample cans of formula to two other babies.
Directly nursed, bottle-fed pumped milk, formula fed or any combination of the three our babies are getting fed. We're all just doing the best we can, right?
At the end of the day, this is all that matters.
Breastfeeding moms who need to use a pump- here are some of my favorite resources:
Obviously the Le Leche League. LLL is an international organization with tons of help for breastfeeding mothers.
Amanda Glenn's Exclusive Pumping website is a favorite of mine in our situation. Sample pumping schedules, recommendations on boosting supply, tips and items to make your life easier, and stories to inspire you to keep going!
Likewise, the facebook group Exclusively Pumping Mamas - where EPers gather to talk about these issues and share in the joys and struggles of our unorthodox breastfeeding experience. I also love Exclusive Pumping Mamas - Exclusive Group.
If you're looking to get off the pump and establish/return to nursing, Back to the Breast on Facebook is a great community.