Pumping rules everything around me.
I will explain myself to you, as I feel compelled to explain myself to everyone who asks me about breastfeeding (which is actually an alarming amount of people that I encounter). Call me old fashioned, but talking about my breasts generally makes me uncomfortable. The judgement makes it even worse.
After Blake was born, we were visited by 2 lactation consultants that told me his latch looked perfect. I was wheeled out of the hospital feeling confident about breastfeeding. Boy was I wrong.
When Blake was 3 days old, we went for our routine visit with his pediatrician and were told that he had lost weight to the point where we needed to go to the lab to have his blood tested for high bilirubin levels. His doctor told us to start supplementing with formula immediately and that if we didn’t get his weight up quickly, he would be hospitalized. We were obviously scared and started feeding the poor guy around the clock by both breast and formula from bottles. After 2 additional days of blood testing (getting a vial of blood from a newborn is BRUTAL), he was back to his birth weight and we were given the all clear.
Mark and I were both traumatized by the experience and we continued to feed Blake around the clock. He was falling asleep at the breast after about 3 minutes of feeding, so he was getting a majority of his feeds from formula. After meeting with several lactation consultants and having one visit us at our house, I found that Blake was only getting about an ounce of milk every time he breastfed. To make matters worse, he had developed a strong preference for bottles. We also found out that he had a “tongue tie” which was causing him to fall asleep at the breast because he had to work so hard to eat, even though he had a perfect latch. We scheduled a frenectomy which would later take place when he was 4 weeks to release the tongue tie and hopefully help to make breastfeeding more productive and also help with his constant spitting up, since he wouldn’t be taking in so much air during feeds.
In the meantime, I started a crazy schedule of pumping 10 times a day for at least 15 minutes each session to make sure that I didn’t lose supply. I would fight with Blake all day long to try to get him to take my breast. I would do the feed with a bottle and switch to boob trick, try every position in the book, and do skin to skin all day long. I literally spent hours each day having him scream and kick as I desperately tried to shove my nipples in his face and you know what? I hated it. He hated it. On the rare occasion when he would breastfeed, I would immediately have to set him down to pump after. It was no way to live so you know what? I did what was best for BOTH of us and it was not the breast.
Pumping 10 times a day was not a sustainable lifestyle for me. I was frazzled, unhappy, and stressed. Now I pump when I can, on average 6 times a day. I breastfeed when we both feel like it. I offer and if he is in the mood, we do it, if he doesn’t feel like it, we don’t. As a result, he is drinking about half breast milk, half formula. If he falls asleep on me, I let myself hold him instead of rushing to put him down and pump. If I want to go out of the house and don’t feel like pumping, oh well.
I understand the benefits of exclusively breastfeeding, but having my baby scream and cry all day while I push my boob in his face is far from the best thing for us. I wish things were different because I despise pumping and cleaning bottles, not to mention how much easier my life would be if I didn’t have to heat up formula in the middle of the night. But these are the cards that I have been dealt and I’m doing my best to have a winning hand for Blake.
Mark says that it’s all in my head, but when anyone (let’s be honest, it feels like literally everyone) asks me about breastfeeding, I feel like I need to explain our story and I inevitably feel so much judgment. Society is all rah rah normalize breastfeeding, but I don’t feel like we pumping moms get much love. Today our pediatrician told me that I was doing an amazing job by sticking with it. My husband tells me that I am wonderful and supports me the best he can while I’m doing my full-time pumping job. My son is happy and thriving. That’s really all the support I need.
I salute you, pumping mamas. Because it sucks, literally. Here’s to the breastfeeding mamas, because that shit is not easy. Cheers to the exclusive formula mamas because you figured out what was best for you and your kid. Fed is best. I can’t wait to throw both of my pumps out the window when my little man is 6 months.