It all started August 17th, 2015. I gave birth, for the first time, to a beautiful baby girl, Paige Michelle Forster. My plan was to breastfeed, so the first thing I did was start breastfeeding, within an hour of her birth. She didn’t latch well, at all, which was to be expected. I had read in countless articles, magazines, etc. that the latching could be the most difficult part of the breastfeeding process. Paige could latch, but only stayed on for one to two minutes at a time. I learned a few things those first few hours; Paige was hungry, she could latch but didn’t stay on well, and I was a milk goddess.
It’s great to hear you’re a milk goddess, but it’s not great to see that your daughter doesn’t know how to take advantage of that milk! The nurses all tried to help; “Here, hold her this way”, or “Just give it time, she will latch better”! I was terrified that she wasn’t getting enough to eat. I had become desperate enough to do the one things they tell you to never do; give her a bottle. Nipple confusion….it’s a real thing. Or is it? I’m still not convinced (more on that later). I had given her a small bottle of formula, as directed by one of the nurses (the only formula she ever consumed, I will point out) and felt much better, but then what? I asked the nurse for the hospital grade pump and she reluctantly called down to get me one. In my opinion this was a very smart move. As soon as I started using it (ouch!) my milk started to really come in. Like I said, I was a milk goddess. I made plenty of milk but had not a baby to give it to! Paige was still only latching for a very small amount of time (NOTE: I realize that newborns don’t eat much, at all, but the amount of time she was feeding was not even close to the proper amount of time). Thankfully, however, she peed, and we could go home (we literally sat and waited for her to pee so we could pack up and head home) .
As we headed home (a mere 24-hours after giving birth) I couldn’t help but wonder if the breastfeeding was for me. I had been given a phone number to call if I had issues, and I called within 24-hours of getting home. Paige was still latching, but either falling asleep right afterwards, or only staying on for about 1-2 minutes at a time. This was exhausting. To say the least. My breasts were getting filled with milk but were not emptying because my daughter wasn’t taking advantage of the goodness! I tried over and over and over again, to the point of complete frustration, to get her to latch, and nothing worked. I felt desperate and alone (ok, Nick was very supportive, he deserves props here). I had already called for lactation support but wasn’t getting any response. Someone finally called me back but DARN IT, I missed the call!! I was in such pain that I pumped to relieve it (but in the back of my mind all I could think of was that nurse who told me not to pump….why?? I still don’t know. Maybe she was afraid I would make too much milk?). I pumped, relieved the pain, and then continued to attempt nursing Paige every hour it seemed. I dreaded it every time. It wasn’t until about week two that I finally got a hold of a private lactation consultant who came over to help me. In the meantime Paige had been living off of the small amount of breast milk she had been getting with her 3-5 minute latching (total for both breasts). The lactation consultant weighed Paige before and after a feeding session and found that, as expected, Paige wasn’t getting enough milk. She worked with me for a couple hours to get Paige going, but the end result was to recommend that Paige get her frenulum cut. What?!
As it turned out, Paige was tongue tied. Apparently this is fairly common, and for babies who are tongue tied it’s important to get the tongue cut in order to make breastfeeding easier and to help prevent speech and dental problems in the future (so they say). I was terrified, especially when my options were; “Drive two hours away and meet with a specialist who can cut her tongue with a laser, or go to a dentist close to your home who can cut and stitch it”. Lasers? Stiches? She was two weeks old! I was officially a frantic mother (more so than before, if you can imagine). We chose the laser. Paige had her frenulum cut (with no problems what so ever) and right afterwards we were sent to a private cozy room and asked to try breastfeeding. The idea was for Paige to get used to her “new tongue” right away and see if she could latch better. She didn’t. I gave it a few more weeks, and did notice a tiny bit of a difference, but I was still anxious every time I had to feed her. One day one position would work, but the next it didn’t. She was hungry, I was making plenty of milk, but she wasn’t getting it. I asked my lactation consultant if I could just pump and give her breast milk in a bottle. As expected she didn’t like that idea. Instead, she kindly suggested taping a small tube on my finger and feeding Paige through a syringe that squirted into the tube, with my finger in her mouth. The idea was to stay as far away from the bottle as possible, so as not to cause nipple confusion (I’m still not really sure that exists. I gave Paige a bottle when I was in the hospital, as well as a pacifier, and I am not convinced, at all, that’s why she wouldn’t latch well. I have no solid evidence to back-up my opinion here, but I just don’t think my giving her a bottle so early is what prevented her from latching). I broke down in tears. Did she really expect me to take the time, after pumping for 20-30 minutes, to take a tube, tape it to my finger, fill up a syringe with milk, and feed it to my daughter? A bottle would just be so much easier! After all, I was going back to work in eight weeks and would be feeding her a bottle then, so why not now? She understood, and that was the moment I became a full-time pumper and bottle feeder (with a few somewhat successful breastfeeding sessions in between).
Don’t get me wrong, I did continue attempting to breastfeed just about every day, but I also continued to get frustrated with not knowing how much she was getting. Most of the time I would breastfeed and then feed her more with a bottle because I knew exactly how much she was getting with the bottle (what can I say? I’m a control freak). At that point what’s the point in even attempting to breastfeed? It didn’t feel like a bonding experience to me, but instead I felt like it was making me feel more angry. When Paige was about two months old I pretty much ended all attempts and felt liberated. Strange, here I was with a pump attached to me at the hip (or the breast…) at all times, but I felt liberated not having anxiety about whether this time she would latch for two minutes, five minutes, ten minutes, etc. From then on my life involved pumping four to six times a day and feeding Paige with a bottle four to six times a day (obviously this changed as the months went on). Finally, eleven months later, I’m done! And, as she approaches one year she still has breast milk because, like I said, I’m a milk goddess and I had stored about two-months worth in our large freezer in our garage. My breasts may be small, but they produce a heck of a lot of milk.
So, here was my daily pump schedule over the past 11 months;
- Wake up at 6am, pump at 6:30am as I fed Paige her morning bottle **At the beginning I pumped while Paige was still sleeping. During that time I would do weight lifting exercises and leg “Barre” workouts. No joke. I also did this sometimes when she was awake. She would just watch intently!**
- At work, pump at 9:30 am ** I always did work on the computer when I pumped because, why not? I used this hands-free pumping bra and it worked wonders! **
- At work, pump at 12pm (this ended at around 8 months)
- At work, pump at 4pm
- At home, as I fed Paige, pump at 6pm (this ended at about 4 months)
- At home, before bed, pump 9pm ** This is about the time I eat my late, late night snack of rice cakes and peanut butter!**
My days basically revolved around pumping and/or feeding Paige. The great news for me was that my family, and especially Nick (my husband) were all very supportive. What would I have done without their help and support? Quit. I won’t lie. Also, my work was supportive. I have my own office and refrigerator, which made everything quite simple. No excuses here! As difficult as it was, I was so lucky my life made it work.
Now, here are my candid thoughts on what needs to change in the world of breastfeeding and pumping (based on my own experiences as an exclusive pumper), as well as my thoughts on the benefits of breast milk and why pumping is worth all the agony and stress (and why I will do it again!).
What Needs to Change in America and the World of Pumping
- Information. When Paige was first born and I was frantically looking for information on breastfeeding (whether it was “how often should I pump if my daughter only latches sometimes?” or “How much milk should my daughter be getting”? or “How often should my daughter be hungry”? or “How many bottles should I feed my daughter”?) and the information about “breasted babies” always referred to the “Breastfeeding mother” and the “breastfeeding infant” not the “exclusively pumping mother” or the “infant being fed breast milk through a bottle”. There is a difference! There is a serious lack of information out there that differentiates the three; “Breast fed”, “Bottle fed breast milk” and “bottle fed formula”.
- Airports. IBM has gone a step further recently and made breastfeeding while traveling for work even easier by offering assistance in shipping breast milk pumped while traveling for work. Please, can all companies get on board with this? Actually, I take that back, the first thing that needs to happen before everyone jumps on the “help moms ship milk” bandwagon is that there needs to be a change in the GOSH DARN AIRPORTS! I flew three times while I was pumping and each time it was miserable. Absolutely horrific. I hope to never have to do it again. I ended up pumpking in about four different handicapped bathroom stalls. Disgusting, but what else was I supposed to do? I also pumped once on the counter, for all to see, because I had no other choice.
- Pumps. They need to have a timer on them. Why don’t they have timers on them?! Can I tell you that if I had a dollar for each time I took five minutes to get myself ready to pump, only to realize my phone (with the timer) was in the other room, I would be rich?! Just add a freaking timer to the pump!!
- Pumps. Another point of contention about pumps….it’s 2015, why have they still not invented a portable pump? No, no, I know what you’re thinking “they do have portable pumps!”. I’m talking about a pump I can strap to me, hook up on my nipples, press start and for 20-30 minutes I can be free to walk around, do chores, cook, play with my child, whatever. Rather, I’m stuck on my butt (or, in my case, doing leg lifts….killing two birds with one stone) for hours a day as I wait for my timer to go off. Stuck. It’s not like breastfeeding where I’m actually holding my child. Typically Paige was on her own when I was pumping. I just had to pray that she stayed close by (this especially became frustrating when she began to crawl, very fast).
- Pumps. They are loud and the noise drives me nuts. I was hoping to be able to stay in bed and pump in the middle of the night, when I was still pumping at night, but it’s so loud Nick would have probably killed me. That first month was tough, as that noise haunted me in my dreams.
- Pump equipment. I could write the book on “pump trouble shooting”. You’d think by now the pumping parts would be seamless and impossible to put on your nipples wrong. But no. Countless times I would put the funnel on my nipples, turn on the machine, only to find that they weren’t situated on my nipples exactly the right angle. Seriously, it took true dedication and effort to get those things on right (not easy at 2am after feeding an infant).
- Lactation Consultants. This isn’t about pumping, necessarily, but there needs to be more lactation consultants in this world. Or, perhaps, simply more support in the form of traveling lactation consultants working with different insurance companies.
Why I Will do it Again
- Good for baby: I won’t go into detail about the fact that breast milk was designed for babies and is amazing in that it contains the exact nutrients an infant and baby needs, in the correct proportions as they age. You don’t even have to look at a nutrition facts label, you can be assured (as long as you are eating a relatively healthy diet!) that your milk will supply exactly what your baby needs. But truly my favorite part about breastmilk is that it tastes like the foods you eat. So, if you eat a healthy diet (highly recommended!) your baby will taste those healthy foods and be primed to enjoy them as he/she ages. Your baby might, in theory, be a more adventurous and less picky eater if you eat a variety of healthy foods as you produce milk.
- Good for mommy! Not only can breastfeeding help you take off that baby weight, but recent research shows it may also be good for your heart.
- It’s FREE! Duh. I would guess we saved close to $2000 by exclusively giving Paige breastmilk. That’s a nice little vacation.