You know how people start telling you something, and somewhere along the line, you get lost, or maybe you just don’t hear them right, and you just shake your head, nod, laugh and agree? Well, that was my relationship with breastfeeding.
I remember my good friend explaining everything about breastfeeding to me and the ups and downs that I will probably experience. I told her when I run into those experiences, I will give her a call, even if it’s 3 am. Well, that 3 am call turned into a 24/7 hotline. I was on the phone with her all day long, and if not on the phone, I was texting her!! So let me just tell you about our breastfeeding journey.
Breastfeeding right after birth
When I was in the hospital having my son, we immediately started to breastfeed after birth. I dreamt of this moment for nine months. Meeting my son for the first time, holding him skin to skin and establishing that mother-son relationship. When I first looked at him, I completely lost it. Hearing him cry was the best noise I had ever heard (now he laughs, and that’s a much better noise). I saw his big brown eyes look up at mine as we met for the first time, and I welcomed him into the world. I told him I was his mother and I would love him forever. I held my son skin to skin, and boom, the gold was flowing.
I remember the nurses saying, “wow, you have a lot of colostrum!” I just laughed, not knowing the norm. As we began to perfect the latch, the nurses said my son had a “small mouth” and “a small bottom lip,” or so they thought. He latched well from what they could see even though we all saw the so-called “smallmouth and small bottom lip.” We even saw a lactation consultant there in the hospital, and she said the same thing about his mouth/lip. I could tell if it was a good latch or a bad one due to the painless latch vs the painful latch. He did great latching during the hospital; from what we could tell, at least we thought he was doing great.
Breastfeeding at home
We left the hospital and came home, and I continued to breastfeed. I noticed my breast felt more and more uncomfortable and began to freak out a bit. So yes, I jumped on that 24/7 hotline and called my friend up. I asked her what in the world do I do about these things? Engorged, very engorged. I would pump a little bit off to gain some relief and continue to try and breastfeed. Oh, let me tell you, emotions were high. Breastfeeding is tough. Your baby wants to eat every second of every day. You are both exhausted, you are both new at this, and you just have to figure it out day by day.
My son would latch on and drink a bit and then pop off and back on. He would cry in-between, and the cycle was ongoing. Being a new mother, I figured this was a normal thing (and to an extent it is) of you and your baby figuring each other out and how to feed. The day we were discharged to go home and start our new life as a family of three, my son was circumcised. The nurses told me he would sleep a lot and eat less the first 24 hours after doing this. So we get home and enjoy the first night (of no sleep..); the next day follows, and my son continues to eat anywhere from 10 min to an hour. This would run into his next feeding, and let me just tell you, we were exhausted. He would fall asleep a few minutes into feeding. I would have to try anything and everything to wake him up to continue eating. I wasn’t sure if he was tired from the circumcision or what was going on. When I thought he finally had enough, he would wake back up shortly after crying to eat again.
The next day we had his first Dr. appointment, and boy, were we excited! As we left the Dr., however, I felt like a failure. My son had lost 10% of his discharge weight (not his birth weight). I was told to feed strictly every 2 hours and bottle feed him afterwards 15 ml to 30 ml as needed. The Dr. asked if I had started to pump at all. I told her that I did because I was constantly engorged. I told her I pumped off 180 ml at a time, and she looked at me like I was crazy. She couldn’t believe how much I was making already and understood the engorgement! Praise Jesus for the abundance of milk and that my son would take a bottle that early (I liked the bottle idea because I could see the exact amount he was taking in).
We began the battle of breastfeeding first and now wondering if we should offer a bottle or not. I didn’t want to overfeed him and make him throw up! We continued with the endless cycles of breastfeeding for 45+ minutes and him still wanting a bottle afterwards. The amount in the bottle began to increase from 15 ml to 30 ml to 60 ml. I was concerned that he was taking so much in by bottle and wondering if he was really getting any from the breast.
The signs that breastfeeding was not going well
While he would breastfeed, he began to show me some incredible neck muscles and began to place his hands on each side of my breast and push upholding his neck up as if he didn’t want the milk that way. He would look around and cry while doing this. This would lead to more and more frustration of not being able to breastfeed “easily.” My son loved to hold his head up and look around, so when he was in the position of cradle/cross-cradle, this is what he would do. He would have his hands in the way, trying to push off or away, and I was unable to force his head down to eat. I remember my mother holding his hands and my husband helping express milk while I held him in place as he cried, well as we both cried. I finally said this is not right. Something is wrong; something is causing my son pain and making him not want to breastfeed. He would chug down a bottle with no problem but cry when trying to breastfeed every time.
So, I wasn’t sure what was going on and why this was happening, but I knew something was up. I felt defeated because my son was crying every time he ate, and it broke my heart. Being a nurse, I started to think of other things that were going on. I immediately checked for a lip tie and knew right then that is what this was. Long story short, my son had a lip and tongue tie, which can cause issues with feeding, pain being one of them. We had this fixed, but he used to drink breast milk from a bottle that he never took back to breastfeeding. I’m sure he would if I made him, but this was not important to me. My son was getting breast milk, and I was at peace knowing how much he was getting.
Not breastfeeding? Don’t feel guilty!
Ladies do NOT feel bad about pumping and doing bottles of breast milk. I have seen so many women being ashamed or afraid to share that they exclusively pump. You are no different; your baby is just getting the same milk another way. Honestly, I’ve been told by many women that if they had to exclusively pump, they would have quit a long time ago. So be proud of yourself! Every single woman’s journey is different. Every single baby is different. Every single pregnancy is different. Do not compare yourself to another’s story. EVEN if you do not breastfeed or do not make milk at all. Do not feel bad about yourself.
Ledger and I are still rocking the exclusive pumping/breast milk relationship!! He is a happy, healthy, chunky 4.5 months old, and thank goodness my parents gave us an older freezer to keep in the garage because that entire freezer is full of a stash, not sure of the ml, but I will try to count soon! We had to buy a deep freeze because we ran out of room in both freezers.
So, with that being said, exclusively pumping can be done, girls! People say you won’t make anything by just pumping, but you can! Don’t let that get you down. Breastfeeding is a way to bond with your baby, pay attention to his needs, learn his movements and sounds. Studies have shown that babies who are breastfed and get exclusive care from their parents during their first years of life might evolve into better children and adults.
If you want to provide breast milk for your baby and breastfeeding isn’t going your way, this is another option! You are not alone in this. Believe me, I felt so defeated that we didn’t have a perfect breastfeeding experience. Still, I promise you, pumping ain’t all that bad! Dad gets to do bottles, and mother gets to sleep more!!