On pumping and nursing

I never thought I’d be an exclusive pumping (EP) mom. The nine months before Adele was born, I spent my time researching nursing and never even glanced at the information on EPing or thought about formula. My baby wasn’t going to need those. My baby was going to nurse like a champ. I built up an ideal that I likely won’t ever realize.

I have since realized that so many women build up the same ideal that I did. It sounds great to say that you’ll nurse your baby for up to two years (yep, I thought I’d do that), spending hours a day bonding with your baby at your breast, not have issues latching or feeding, not have any pain, etc. There are some lucky ones that do get that experience, but the truth is that most women do not.

Breastfeeding is hard. Regardless of whether you nurse or pump to breastfeed, you are giving up a big part of yourself for a long time. It takes a huge commitment, and it is not easy.

While we were in the hospital, Adele had a perfect latch and she had a hard suck and she was awesome. The lactation consultant was very pleased with our nursing sessions (I saw her twice while we were there), and I left the hospital very confident in our abilities. The next few days were awesome. I very much thought I’d be one of the lucky ones. However, by Sunday we noticed something was wrong. Adele was not waking up to eat very often — it was very difficult to wake her up, too (we woke her up every 3 hours to eat). She also was not peeing or pooping as much as she should by that point.

Sunday morning was the beginning of the end for us. When I put her to my breast to eat that morning, she just screamed and screamed. She would not latch. I called the on-call pediatrician even though we hadn’t been seen there yet because she wasn’t eating from me and she wasn’t eliminating waste nearly as much as she should.

Dehydration. That was a scary and difficult word to hear. My baby was dehydrated, which was why she was not waking up to eat. Basically it creates a cycle that is difficult to get out of. Even though my milk came in that morning, Adele was too tired to take any of it and we had to start supplementing with formula.

Now, let me tell you that I do not think formula is poison. I don’t think anything less of women who choose formula over breastmilk. It’s a personal decision. I was formula fed, as was my three other siblings. We turned out just fine. But I have milk, and plenty of it. So I do not want to give my baby formula when I have free milk for her, you know? The colostrum is the most important milk to get, and she got all of that.

But holy heck was it hard to hear that my body didn’t make milk soon enough for her. I cried when we had to supplement. I cried at the doctor’s office the next morning when we were discussing her eating and elimination (which, by the way, was textbook by Sunday afternoon — Adele made a quick comeback after just a few formula feedings). It was hard.

I was very glad that I had bought a hand pump before Adele was born. That Sunday I started hand pumping so I could make sure she was getting my milk (we did have to keep supplementing with formula for a few days, though). Of course I still put her to my breast to nurse, but she would not. For some reason, she decided that she hated nursing and would only scream and cry whenever we tried. It broke my heart; everything that I had dreamed of for 9 months was quickly disappearing.

After Adele was better, I started hand pumping my milk to give to her and I’d put her up to my breast numerous times a day to see if we could get her to latch on to me again. The doctor said that there are some babies that hate nursing between 7 and 10 days old and she may just be one of them. So, I gave myself until 10 days to see if she’d take to nursing again. However, hand pumping was exhausting. It would take me 30 minutes to get 3 ounces out of one boob. And then I’d have to do the second one. I pretty much pumped by hand all day long. But I didn’t want to go spend the money for a good electric pump when I was going to nurse.

After a few days of this, though, and lots of crying and lots of discussions with the Mr., I finally decided that I couldn’t go on this way. It wasn’t good for Adele to scream numerous times a day because I was trying to force her to do something she didn’t want to do. It wasn’t good for me to cry numerous times a day because my baby didn’t want to eat from me. That was a difficult thing to experience. Like I said before, it broke my heart. I had to move on. So I did.

The Mr. and I went to BRU and took coupons and gift cards and I ended up buying the Medela PISA for only $75 out of our checking account. This was the best decision I made. Now it is true that pumping is just as hard, if not harder, than nursing. I’m attached to it for 15-20 minutes every 2-3 hours. By the time I finish pumping and clean up my pump parts it’s almost time to pump again. It’s frustrating sometimes. But I make more than enough milk for Adele (I have over 60 ounces in the freezer right now) and she is doing so well with the bottles.

I wouldn’t change my decision. A happy mommy equals a happy baby, and that is so true. And you know what? I bought a nipple shield last week and tried it out with Adele. She nurses now. So we nurse at least one feeding a day and I pump the rest. Sometimes we still give her an ounce of milk after nursing because she is done nursing but still seems hungry, but we are making tons of progress. It’s possible we may get back to only nursing eventually, but I’m not counting on it. I’m happy with the way things are right now: The Mr. can help me feed her (as can others), we can leave her with a baby sitter when the time comes and she won’t have issues taking a bottle, and I can nurse her a few times a day and get that connection that I so wished to experience.

I guess the moral of this story is that motherhood is hard. You constantly have to make decisions for your baby, and sometimes they aren’t what you actually want to do. But what is best for the baby is what is best for the baby. I may not be happy with the fact that we aren’t nursing, but I’m so happy that we are happy now. Things are easy, though busy, and there’s no more crying when it comes to feeding time. I love Adele so much and I’m so glad that I can pump for her. I’m so happy that she can have my milk and she can enjoy it in the way she needs to. It is never a bad thing to not nurse. It’s never a bad thing to not give breastmilk to your baby if you can’t or don’t want to do so.

Things are never how you imagined them. Even the good things are way better than you could have ever imagined. As a mom, we must learn to be flexible and take each day as it is. If today sucks, tomorrow has got to be better. It usually is, too. Everything ends up working out and things get easier as the days go by.

I’m proud to be an EPing mom, and my long-term goal is to make it to 6 months. When I get there, then I’ll decide whether or not I want to continue pumping. If I don’t, then I don’t. Perhaps we will be exclusively nursing by that time, perhaps not. Even if we are nursing a bit more than we are now, I would consider stopping the pump and supplementing with our frozen milk until that runs out. I’m more than fine with using formula for the last few months before she can drink whole milk if we need to do so.

Sacrifice is a huge part of motherhood, but that doesn’t mean we cannot be happy. Moms are the strongest people I know.

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