I have made it 1 year of pumping breast milk for my daughter and I am proud of myself. And yes, I am going to blog about it. Why? Well because I think it’s important for people to know what it’s been like. Breastfeeding in any capacity isn’t easy, but exclusive pumping….it’s different.
During my pregnancy I knew that I would want to breastfeed my baby when she was born. I had done a lot of research and I knew that breast milk was the best thing, has all the nutrition a baby requires. I wanted to be a part of that group of women who are trying to normalize breastfeeding in our society. Somehow we (general population in US) think nothing of breasts selling everything on TV from cologne to cars but a breastfeeding mother at a restaurant(or anywhere) is deplorable or gross. So I wanted to help change that. I was told by a friend and my mom that breastfeeding isn’t always easy but I had no idea.
When Kierra was born and I attempted breastfeeding the first time, she was sleepy and didn’t really nurse well but her sugar was low so we gave some formula at the advice of the nurse. I knew nothing about Kierra’s condition at this point and the nurses kept telling me it was normal for her to still be a little sleepy. When we did find out about Kierra’s condition the next day, no one mentioned anything about how it might affect breastfeeding, probably because no one knew. Once we transferred to another NICU, we(Chris and I) began this terrible routine of forcing Kierra to try to wake up every 3 hours and attempt breastfeeding, when that didn’t work, give formula, then I pumped. We saw lactation consultants, occupational therapists, pediatricians, everyone we could to try to help with our breastfeeding relationship. Kierra has something called micrognathia (small jaw/mouth) and low muscle tone (Thank you marfan syndrome) which probably contributed to the fact that she never nursed well. So for the first 8 weeks of Kierra’s life, we woke her up every 3 hours and fed her. I was able to stop using formula around 4 weeks and she got just breastmilk from then until 6 months when we started solids. I remember in the first few days/week, pumping my colostrum out and giving it to her with a syringe, trying to get every little drop because I knew that was the important stuff!
Ok so back to exclusive pumping. For 12, yes TWELVE weeks, I pumped every 3 hours. EVERY 3 HOURS! I look back now and wonder how I managed it. I remember one time around the 7 week mark, I accidentally slept over my alarm (obviously exhaustion kicked in) and I did a 4 hour interval instead of 3. I was terrified that I wouldn’t pump right or would lose my milk. I didn’t know any better. I thought I absolutely had to pump every 3 hours no matter what.
I cried almost every time I attempted nursing Kierra. I wanted breastfeeding to work so badly. I was frustrated and heartbroken that it didn’t. Add in a little post partum depression and anxiety, having a special needs baby, dozens of doctor appointments and I was a mess. A MESS. Emotional, exhausted, angry, weeping mess. I still tried to breastfeed Kierra a few times a day, when I had my mom or husband around to help.
My nipples hurt all the time, if the wind blew, they hurt. I had blisters and cracks which led to something called a vasospasm. Do you know what vasospasms are? Freaking painful, that’s what! Apparently I have poor circulation so after pumping, blood tries to rush back to the nipple and it burns and throbs and the vessel can dilate all the way to your back. I had 3 instances of this where the pain was torturous. I was crying and screaming and Chris was trying to get me to the ER but I knew what it was and there wasn’t anything to do other than wait it out in a warm bath and take some motrin.
So 12 weeks of pumping every 3 hours, then I went to pumping every 4 hours. I remember still trying to breastfeed Kierra but when she got teeth, it became more difficult. She no longer recognized me as a food source, but the bottle. So she would bite down out of frustration and so I stopped attempting nursing all together around 5.5months. It broke and still breaks my heart when I think about it. Around 6 months I started pumping just 4 times a day, half of what I started out doing. Then around 9 months, down to 3 times a day and now at 12 months, twice per day and I will keep this up for a while longer.
So how does one pump 8-3 times per day and still have a life? You nearly don’t. Because after trying to nurse your baby, pumping for 20-30 minutes, washing your pump parts, sanitizing them at least once per day, trying to catch a 30 minute nap and then you start all over. I have pumped in the car, while making dinner a few times, in a bathroom at a wedding, at the pediatrician, out in the open at a state Park. I wanted to quit every day. I cried, I complained, I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just breastfeed my baby. But the best advice I was ever given, and this can go to everything in life: *NEVER GIVE UP ON A BAD DAY* and I didn’t. I have had plenty of bad days, one of the worst being when Kierra had RSV and then we got it too. I didn’t want to move, let alone get up and pump. But, I somehow found the strength to keep going. Well not somehow, my beautiful daughter kept me going and the encouragement from my family and friends.
Now on my own, this would not have been possible. Eventually baby grows up and won’t sit still in a bouncer while you pump. I have had a tremendous amount of love, help and support from my family. My husband has listened to me complain probably every day about pumping and he never told me to just quit….he always encouraged Kierra and me. He washed a fair share of pump parts, (still does sometimes) brings me water and snacks if I forget, and he has held Kierra, fed her, changed her, put her to sleep, bathed her, every time I was pumping. He could have said “I’m tired, you skip pumping and take care of Kierra” but of course that’s not the man he is. My mother, she would come over almost every day or so when Christopher went back to work. She washed pump parts or took care of Kierra. Made me lunch all the time and dinner too. Listened as I cried. Prayed for me. My sister helped when she could too. And when we visit Christopher’s family, my mother in law plays with Kierra while I pump. Or her Auntie Danielle. So I have tremendous support. Friends message and text me all the time saying how awesome I am and what a great job I’m doing. It’s so sweet.
After all the hardships you’ve just read about my pumping journey, your biggest question (if you don’t know much about breastfeeding) might be WHY? Why put yourself through all of that, for a year??? I must be crazy right? Well I’m definitely crazy in love with a baby girl named Kierra, my daughter. I know that breast milk is just the absolute best thing I can give her, especially with her having heart, joint, bone and other issues. Nothing compares to breast milk. If I couldn’t have done this, I would have sought out donor breast milk. It’s that important . I’m not shaming formula, it has a purpose and Kierra had to have formula at first but it’s not what is made for baby. The WHO (World Health Organization) recommends breastfeeding for at least the first 2 years of a child’s life. Exclusively for the first 6 months. Our society has somehow made breastfeeding weird, gross, and shameful. Something that should be done in private, in a bathroom. But breastfeeding, nourishing your child with your body, it’s beautiful and magical and just natural. It’s what God intended when He created the female form. We think that breasts are sexual, but there are cultures in the world that find it odd how some modernized societies see breasts as sexuual while their culture sees breasts as something for a child. So if you are one to think breastfeeding is a little weird, take a minute to look outside of your own mind and see it for what it is. That’s why I have pumped for 365 days for my daughter. She needs it. It’s why I’m still pumping. She didn’t wake up today, 1 year old and decide she doesn’t need her mommy’s milk anymore. It’s a life sustaining, nutrient filled liquid that I make for her out of pure love, and determination. All for this beautiful face:
I have pumped approximately 1500 times in 365 days!