Before I became pregnant with the kidlet I never thought twice about breastfeeding. It wasn’t something I was exposed to and it wasn’t on my radar. Early in mysomebody asked me if I planned on breastfeeding and I was ambivalent. I think I shrugged my shoulders and responded honestly. It was something I hadn’t thought about. The hospital I was delivering at offered a three hour breastfeeding class and I figured it would be a good idea to take. I left that class feeling inspired. During that class I was introduced to a whole new world. The simplest statement made the most sense to me, “Human babies were made to drink human milk.” Well, duh! So simple…and yet I never thought about feeding my child in those terms.
I will never forget nursing the kidlet for the first time. In her birth story I described it as simply magical. Here was this beautiful being that my husband and I had created. I nurtured her inside of me for months and all of a sudden she was a part of this big overwhelming world. She latched on like a pro and it was as if she already knew me, already knew what to do. Unfortunately the kidlet was admitted into the NICU when she was about 8 hours old and I was unable to nurse her for the next 36 hours.
When the doctors finally determined she was strong enough to nurse I was delighted. I craved feeling that “magic” feeling again. She didn’t miss a beat and latched on. She spent 10 long days in the NICU. From the very beginning I began pumping every 2/3 hours. I made it to about 5 or 6 feedings a day. I recall sitting in the rocking chair and nursing her. She’d look into my eyes and we’d rock. I’d tune out the beeps and buzzes of the machines all around me and the fear I held inside would melt away some. Instead of waking up to late night feedings I woke up to the buzz of my cell phone beeping me reminding me it was time to pump…and when I sat there with tears streaming down my face from missing my baby, I focused on the pump and I knew I was doing the best thing I could do for my baby. The next morning I would show up at the hospital with small bottles of milk carefully packaged and labeled and the NICU nurses would smile and tell me I was doing a good job.
In some ways I was lucky that the kidlet would easily switch between the breast and bottle. We would begin each feeding with her at the breast and towards the end she’d poop out and I’d supplement with a bottle of expressed breast milk. As a NICU baby I was reminded time and time again not to “wear her out”. Compared to bottle feeding, breastfeeding takes work and often times weak babies will quickly become tired. In order to keep up with the demands of supplementing with breast milk I had to continue the strenuous pumping schedule. It was a cycle of necessity. Nurse, pump, repeat...repeat.
In the beginning the kidlet would nurse at the breast about 50% of the time. Hindsight is typically 20/20 and looking back I should’ve fought more. I should’ve encouraged her more, but I didn’t. I didn’t have the tools I needed, and simply put, I didn’t know any better. When she was about 3 and a half months old (after I had returned to work) she stopped nursing at the breast and rather than fight, I gave up.
was still extremely important and I began the journey as an exclusive pumper. I was able to exclusively provide breast milk for the kidlet until she was just under a year. To be honest, exclusively pumping was the single most difficult thing I’ve ever done.
In the beginning I pumped 8 to 10 times a day for 15 to 20 minutes. My pump traveled with me everywhere. I pumped in conference rooms in hotels without locks on the door, a resort in Mexico, my car, storage rooms and even theme parks. There wasn’t a place I went to during that year that my pump did not go with me. There were moments when it felt like a ball and chain and there were moments when it was the tool that gave me the mommy confidence I needed to get through the day. Keeping a pumping schedule like that is insanity…but breastmilk was and is extremely important to me.
Part of being a mom is learning as you go. I get that, only I sincerely wish new moms had the resources so desperately needed when it comes to breastfeeding. The benefits the mother and child are immeasurable. I didn’t know how to foster a successful breastfeeding relationship so I did the next best thing and while I’m proud of the next best thing, moms shouldn’t have to have the tumultuous relationship with their breast pump that I did.