My first son Liam was born in February 2011. I had every intention of breastfeeding. I took a breastfeeding class, read a few books and attended La Leche League meetings. But once Liam was born, everything changed. I forgot what the books said and I had no support in the hospital. We came home, and it was a downward spiral. On day four my husband made a desperate call to a lactation consultant and finally we were able to get Liam to nurse. But the next 12 weeks were a painful, emotional and exhausting journey.
I started pumping on day three. During the day I would try to nurse Liam; the nights were too hard. My husband would hold my hand because the pain was so intense. My nipples cracked and bled, but I didn’t want to give up. I cried and cried. The session ended with me pumping and my husband giving milk through a syringe or bottle. On day five I was engorged and later mastitis set in. I pumped and pumped. Every time Liam ate, I would pump. In the early weeks it was 12-15 times a day. I tracked every pumping session in time and ounces. I needed to feel accomplished in some way since my breasts could not feed him. All I did was work on breastfeeding and pumping. I remember falling asleep while pumping, the milk spilling everywhere and I so angry that I lost that hard earned “gold” milk.
When Liam was 12 weeks old I went back to work. There was not enough time in the evening to work on breastfeeding and pumping. Liam was happy with the bottle. The milk came instantly and his belly was full. My husband and family enjoyed feeding him and we had a little routine. So I stopped nursing Liam and became an exclusively pumping mom, but my heart still ached to breastfeed.
It was the hardest job I have ever encountered. Each phase during the 54 weeks was difficult. When he was a newborn, there were SO many pumping sessions. When he was older, he would crawl towards me while I was pumping and suck on the tubing. Every time we left the house I had to bring milk for Liam and the pump for me. I rented a hospital grade pump. It was expensive, but cheaper than formula and I was more productive. I set up a breastfeeding station in front of the computer and worked on his milestone chart and baby photo book. At work, I would write letters to him and read up on developmental charts. I followed blogs and Facebook groups on natural parenting and breastfeeding. I attended a support group and took notes about every pumping question discussed. My husband packed my pumping bag in the morning and cleaned the bottles at night so that I could feed Liam.
My breastfeeding goal for Liam was one year and I was determined to reach this goal. I took supplements and never missed a pumping session. Even to the very end, I was pumping 5-6 times a day. I pumped for a total of 54 weeks. Fortunately my body made a lot of milk and I was able to freeze 1,050 ounces. My son had breast milk until he was 15 months old. I am a very proud mama to have reached and surpassed my goal. It was not the way I imagined, but my husband and I made the best of the situation.
My second son Rory was born in December 2012. I wanted to try breastfeeding again. I knew I could not do this alone and needed my village for support. I asked friends with experience to advise. I read the book “Breastfeeding, Take Two” by Stephanie Casemore and moved forward from my first experience. I made sure my husband and I had the same feeding goals. I hired Beth Bejnarowicz as my postpartum doula, and we established a breastfeeding plan. I left the pump packed up in the garage. I was determined to breastfeed. I did not have the time nor energy to exclusively pump for a newborn with a toddler running around. I wanted to bond with my baby through breastfeeding.
When Rory arrived he self latched within 20 minutes of his birth and did not let go for 20 hours. He was a big baby and Beth explained he was putting in his large order for long term breastfeeding. Beth helped me with every struggle in the early weeks including position, engorgement, mastitis, side nursing, and lip/tongue tie. He is now 9 weeks old, 15 pounds and a nursing champ.
I will never know why Liam chose to not nurse. For a long time I blamed myself but those days are long gone. When Rory cries Liam looks at me, signs the word “milk” and says “more mama”. I asked him the other day if he wanted to try nursing just like the baby and he shook his head NO. He helps me set up my pump and carefully examines the milk dripping into the bottle. He occasionally asks for a drink of the pumped milk, which I hand over with a big smile.
Both my kids were breast fed, just in different ways. I am proud to have experienced both.
Kelly’s Pumping Tips
-Put everything related to pumping and bottle feeding that needs to be washed into one big bowl by the kitchen sink. Fill with soapy water and only wash once per day. Ask your husband or family to wash.
– You don’t need to wash all your pumping supplies after each pumping session. Just pop everything in a resealable bag, refrigerate, and wash everything once at night.
-Massage your breasts when pumping. For me, the milk came faster and I was able to finish sooner. Massaging after a pumping session to get a little extra milk out also helps to increase your milk supply, especially in the early weeks.
-Do not stress when you pump a few ounces less than the day or week before. There are lots of factors that go into milk production. Are you taking care of yourself? Are you drinking water and eating healthy food? Are you stressed about something else? Did you miss a pumping session? Try to relax and concentrate on what’s within your control.
-Taste and smell the milk. Follow the recommended guidelines for storage but don’t stress over it. If you would drink it, its ok for baby (as long as baby is healthy and normally developing).
-If the baby doesn’t drink the full bottle DON’T throw it out! Breastmilk is not like formula; you can refrigerate and offer to baby again.
-If you are out of the house, running errands or visiting at friends, take your pump. You never know what could happen or how long until you return home. Pump in the car and as soon as you arrive at your location. My husband would drive and I pumped in the backseat while sitting next to my son. It was easy and enjoyable.
-Buy a second set of the valves and membranes.
-Get a cheap nursing cover and wear while pumping if you have company visiting (close family or friends). An exclusively pumping mom should not be forced to sit alone while everyone talks and visits with the baby.
Kelly Zownorega studied business management at Dominican University in River Forest. She is employed at True Value Company as a senior import inventory planner. She lives in Elmhurst with her husband, two sons and her first child, Lia a 7 year old Weimaraner.