As I write this, I am pumping at work while on my lunch. It’s not the most fun way to spend your lunch break or any break for that matter. The sacrifices we make as a breastfeeding mother are boundless. Not all of us are lucky enough to be a stay at home mom or a work at home mom. I think it takes a lot of courage to be a full time working mom and still provide breastmilk. Not all workplaces are friendly to the idea; judgment, time, and location are all factors to a mother’s comfort in doing such a personal and yet disconnected way of expressing milk. So many moms can relate. With that said, I am not your typical pumping mother.
When I gave birth to my second son, Jameson, I was beyond determined to breastfeed. I was a complete breastfeeding failure with my first son whom I tried and tried to make it work. My determination was like a fire brewing over the course of 2.5 years. I anticipated the jaundice, the pain, the tears, the fight to make it work... because unfortunately the natural practice didn’t come natural for me. What I did not anticipate was the fact I couldn’t get him to gain weight. Despite the hours and hours of nursing, skin to skin contact, and all the loving a mother can give to a child… he simply didn’t gain weight. He lost nearly a pound in the hospital and from there we got no where. Especially with a 2 year old ruling the house to nurse for an hour, pump and nurse again left me feeling as though I had abandon my first born. Slowly, our nursing sessions became newborn screaming, mother crying sessions. What’s a mother to do? How do you make a baby eat? Did I fail once more? Am I not cut out for this? What more can I do to make him gain something? I felt so defeated and defective; again.
Based on how I started this entry, you obviously know that I did find a way. After a lot of research, reading, searching, and googling I found one website with an amazing community of mom’s in my shoes -Exclusive Pumpers. It’s definitely not how I pictured my breastfeeding relationship with my son, but it does provide him the one thing I wanted for him. I can honestly say I didn’t know what I was really getting into when I started. In the first 9 weeks I pumped 9 times a day including 3 times at night while my baby slept all night. That equates to hooking myself up to the horns 63 times a week, 252 times a month… you can about imagine the disdain I had for my pump. I would have loved to take a bat to it “Office Space” style. However, the complete joy, self-appreciation, and satisfaction I gained at seeing bottle after bottle of breastmilk gave me the confidence to keep going. His weight began to increase slowly, he wasn’t as fussy in between feedings, nor as hungry and he was sleeping like an angel… all of which were more reasons to keep pushing myself.
Those first 12 weeks were definitely the hardest. There are rules to follow as an exclusive pumper that a nursing mother doesn’t. Finding time to pump a strict schedule of 15-30min every 2-3 hours (just as you would nurse) is only the beginning. Along with feeding, changing, playing, comforting your newborn you must also entertain, parent, love, and keep your two year old occupied simultaneously. Forget about a shower and remembering to eat. On top of that, you start to count ounces you’ve pumped. Nothing will send an exclusive pumper into a state of paranoia faster than coming up short on ounces. It’s been a rocky, stressful, and yet rewarding journey. As time has passed, it has gotten easier and more manageable as my supply has leveled out and I am able to drop some pump times.
Of course, there will always be the skeptics. To prove just how determined I was to nurse I did keep offering him the breast as the weeks and months passed. I was able to get him to comfort nurse around 5 months old… in fact it was the only way he would go to sleep many nights. However, it is definitely not a sustainable way for him to eat since it was solely for comfort.
I chose not to take the easy way out, but you can bet I thought about it. If it weren’t for my completely awesome husband I wouldn’t be so dedicated. More importantly, if it weren’t for my research, my deep rooted determination, the group of exclusively pumping moms I met, and the wealth of KNOWLEDGE I learned, I wouldn’t have been able to provide. I had no idea that using a pump at all times could be an option for breastfeeding!! Again, it’s not what I wanted, but it was the next best option. There are so many moms with high hopes of breastfeeding who were/are faced with breastfeeding obstacles. Issues can range from poor latches, lazy nursers, or biters to babies that are tongue tied, have a cleft palette, preemies and NICU babies who really had to make the best of their situations.
For all of this, I am so incredibly thankful for the ‘K’nowledge I obtained to make breastfeeding possible. At 5 pumps a day, my now 6.5 month old is happy and healthy. It may not be my nipple in his mouth, but it is my milk.
By Teresa Plautz