When my daughter was 5 weeks old, a doctor told me I had to stop breastfeeding. There is a huge story of a struggle behind that, but the important points are as follows. I’m flat/inverted. I had no idea what that was until she was born. I tore, very, very badly. I nursed through it, as everyone said to. I wound up with the starting of open wound infections on my nipples and had to stop.
I was heartbroken and devastated. In fact, I was depressed for a number of weeks afterwards.
When I started to tear and bleed badly with Colton at a week old, I made the decision to stop nursing and move to exclusively pumping. This was a very emotional choice. My husband came into our room to find me with my head in my hands sobbing. Our newborn baby was laying on the bed in front of me with blood on his chin, hands and sleeper. I was devastated all over again.
The frustrating part is that the actual nursing did not hurt this time around. However, I was incredibly worried about getting another infection and really wanted to be able to continue to provide milk to my baby. The most important part to me is that Cole gets breast milk, one way or another.
While I am very confident that I have made the right decision, it doesn’t come without a downside.
Every time I sit down & hook up the breast pump, I get a surge of emotions. It’s a mix of guilt and pride and can feel instantly overwhelming. No doubt some of this is thanks to the I-just-had-a-baby hormones still running through my body. However I know some of it is because of my circumstances.
I feel guilty for not being able to actually nurse my baby. I feel guilty over being trapped on the bed or couch for 20-30 minutes while my daughter asks me to play or my son lays beside me, wanting to be held. I feel guilt over not keeping up with the house, laundry, cooking, etc, as much as I would like to. I spend a total of approximately 3-4 hours of my day simply pumping with a nagging feeling that I have so much else to be doing.
However, I feel a sense of pride for the fact that I am doing everything I can to ensure that my son has breast milk. It has taken so much perseverance to get to this point. After the tearing appeared on the second breast, I knew I had to go easy and allow healing time. Since I didn’t want to lose any momentum with my milk production, I hand expressed into a bottle for a little over a day. I then moved into pumping with my single pump, 15-20 minutes each side, 8 times per day.
While it has been hard work, I know it is worth it.
We are now nearly at the 8 week mark and I have made some adjustments to make everything more efficient. I rented a hospital grade double pump for one month to increase my production. It is a beast that lives on our coffee table and makes me feel a bit like I belong on my in-laws dairy farm, but it gets the job done incredibly well.
I also bought a gently used double pump for after I return the rental and accessories to make life a little easier and allow me to pump hands-free. All of this has cut the pumping time down to 15-20 minutes, with a better yield to boot. The hard work has paid off to a point that I am pumping more milk in a day than Cole will eat, meaning we’re getting a nice stock pile in the freezer.
Although I definitely feel like I am winning the battle, it is still not without the sacrifices that every war encounters.
I still feel immense guilt when Lilly asks me to play with her and I have to respond with, “I’m sorry hunny, Mama has to pump.” Or when Cole is fussy and I think it my head, “Please settle little man, so Mama can pump some more milk for you.”
I am aware that due to the extra work of pumping, the image I had for a summer off with my kids will likely be a bit different. The new pump I have is small and mobile, but not quite as handy as actual nursing. It is one more thing to consider every time we plan a day trip, head to the park for a few hours, visit family, etc.
I know this will continue to get easier. As we move more into a consistent schedule and a little more freedom throughout the day. I am also sure that I feel better when I a little less sleep deprived and in a better state to handle my emotions…
In an idea world, breastfeeding would come as easily to everyone has it does to some. The reality is that for many, it is a lot more work to maintain. I count my blessings that I have an independent daughter and a great support system to help encourage me through it. Ideally speaking, I would only feel the pride, and not the guilt. I hope in the future when I look back at this time, that will be the case.
There is one major plus side to bottle feeding. This.