When I was pregnant with my second child, two women I knew well had already given birth to their second children within the last six months or so. Both of these moms had successfully nursed their oldest but were finding the experience to be more challenging the second time around for various reasons.
I was a cocky pregnant lady. Maybe it was the hormones. I knew there would not be any problems nursing my second child because I had experienced great success my first time breastfeeding. This new breastfeeding experience would be even easier because now I knew what I was doing. My oldest child had nursed really well with only minor issues at the very beginning. We used a nipple shield due to my flat nipples. The shield was given to me in the hospital, and once she was able to connect with the shield, she nursed successfully for nine months.
When it was getting close to the arrival of my second child, I was still confident that nursing would be easy. I packed brand new nipple shields and prepared to conquer the minor hiccup that I was anticipating with my flat nipples. In the hospital, my son latched and nursed, but the sessions were super brief. I brushed this off as not a problem reminding myself of the small size of a newborn’s stomach.
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When we got home, my son struggled to latch. He didn’t act hungry. He didn’t wake wanting to eat. He wanted to sleep. Maybe this was because he was born two weeks early. I had heard that it takes babies a bit to “wake up,” so again, I started to brush this off as a non-issue. My husband and I were struggling to get him to stay awake for feeding sessions. We would strip him naked, rub him, and even put cold washcloths on him. We would work at keeping him awake for sometimes 45 minutes where he still barely latched or ate.
He wasn’t really interested in being awake or eating; he was definitely not interested or rooting for my breast. My boobs ached. My nipples bled from a poor latch. He was not emptying my breasts. I used heating pads to help with the pain and milk flow and lanolin to help with the cracked nipples. I began to pump my milk to relieve pressure and to encourage milk production.
At my son’s two-week pediatrician appointment, we learned that he had not gained back his birth weight. I was crushed and felt as if I was failing my child. I wasn’t feeding him enough. This was not entirely a breast milk issue. I was not breastfed, and I turned out just fine. I wasn’t getting him enough to eat. My pediatrician told me that I needed to start considering “alternative options.” I asked if she meant that I needed to switch to formula. She said not necessarily but explained that my son was sleeping so much because he wasn’t getting enough to eat.
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I stopped pumping. ❤️ 4 weeks ago I Left my pump at home. It wasn’t planned, it was a last minute decision. I couldn’t bring myself to say “ok on October so and so is my last and final pumping session.” I felt like “planning it” was like taking something away ❤️ Up until then I still took my pump to work...but I didn’t pump; it was a security blanket I needed to have it. For 15 months I hauled my pump to work and I planned my entire days around it. It was the meaning to all of my days away from Dom. ❤️ My breastfeeding journey is slowly coming to an end and I need to take baby steps. Breastfeeding did NOT come easy or natural for me. I’ve talked about my challenges many times so I won’t go into that but I will say that it is one of the greatest accomplishments I have ever made. Nursing, pumping, working full time (12+ hour shifts) and add a 2 hour commute to that made this a sport and I am SO DANG proud of myself. I did it for my baby. ❤️ I can’t help but think about how dang lucky I am to have a boss and colleagues who supported me, lifted me up and covered for me as much as I needed. I am lucky to have had @babybuddha pump, which made it possible for me to accomplish what I did and I can’t thank all of you mamas who have helped me in one way or another in this journey of pumping. ❤️ I have one bag of frozen milk left in the freezer and I can’t bring myself to thaw it. Baby steps. What’s your pumping story? I want to know, because if you did it - you’re automatically a rockstar in my book. BUT EVEN if you never even looked at a pump you’re still a rockstar (disclaimer) 😘
Over the next week, there were multiple lactation consultant appointments. In any situation, it always took three hands in order to get my son to latch. I, obviously, only have two hands. I was home alone during the day with a 2-year-old plus an infant. There was no scenario where I could hope for a third hand to help him get and keep him latched.
At one point, after a pumping session following a failed nursing session, I told my mom to feed him a bottle. I wasn’t ready for him to associate me with bottle feedings, but I desperately wanted him to eat. He quickly chugged a four-ounce bottle of pumped breast milk. I felt relieved. And crushed. And confused. And disappointed. I wanted to have a special connection with him. I wanted to nurse him. These selfish thoughts fell away as I realized what a difference that bottle made for him. He was more alert and more awake. I felt a weight lift from my shoulders.
I know a woman who had a premature baby who had exclusively pumped breast milk for her infant with great success. I knew that “exclusively pumping” was a thing. I began to search for Facebook groups to follow and found them in abundance.
I began exclusively pumping for my son. I would bottle feed him and pump every single one of his meals. I was following multiple Facebook groups, reading posts, commenting, and trying suggestions. These groups offered me a sense of pride and confidence to know that I could still offer my son breast milk and avoid the enormous expense of formula. I got into a comfortable rhythm of prepping bottles and washing pump parts. I even pumped in a Culver’s parking lot in December. I was able to make more milk than he was eating and was saving it away in the deep freezer counting and logging every precious ounce with an ap on my phone. For a time, I felt like I could continue with my new rhythm endlessly.
Exclusively pumping was not without its challenges. I was managing two children who are two years and nine days apart in age. I am not super coordinated. I never figured out how to simultaneously pump and feed my son at the same time. Generally, when I pumped, he was in a bouncy seat at my feet while my daughter was at my side with books.
As soon as I was done pumping, it was time to put someone to sleep or feed my oldest or be productive in some other way. At my son’s two-month pediatrician appointment, the pediatrician told me that he was showing some signs of physical delays. Through the structured pumping day, he wasn’t getting enough tummy time. For a month, we continued to try to find ways to get him more tummy time as I pumped, even if that meant he was laying on his tummy on the kitchen floor while I did dishes. Tummy time was harder this time around because I also had a two-year-old in the house who was still learning to be gentle.
My dad came to visit more frequently to help create more tummy time opportunities. We began physical therapy in a private facility and with Early Intervention in our home, and eventually, I chose to cut back on my pumps. Two pumps a day felt super sustainable and so much more relaxed. I loved this option because I was still getting the same milk output and yet didn’t feel attached to a machine while the kids were awake. Alas, this didn’t last, and my supply tanked within a couple of weeks.
He began drinking milk that I had managed to stockpile, which lasted a couple of months. I have my Facebook support groups to thank for my wonderful freezer stockpile. And you know what, even after switching to formula, my son is thriving. There were no serious physical delays once we convinced him tummy time was fun. He is now two years old. He weighs more than my four-year-old. He is less than two inches shorter than my four-year-old. My bond with this child could not possibly be any stronger.
Exclusively pumping gave me so many options. I felt like I was in control of my breastfeeding journey because of the option to exclusively pump. Although my pumping journey ended a bit prematurely, I am immensely happy that I found and followed several support groups on Facebook. I felt proud of what I was able to accomplish, and the encouragement that I received from strangers made it possible for me to get through a very challenging experience that my husband and my mother were not able to fully understand.