Okay, so I don’t hate breastfeeding anymore, strongly dislike might be a better word. But when L was first born and breastfeeding was my life I dreaded it.
There were a lot of reasons to hate it:
- It hurt. L had been a powerful little sucker since day one. When he was born, he immediately put his thumb in his mouth. Anyway, it was painful. I called him my barracuda baby because he made me bleed so often and so much those first few weeks.
- It was my life. Breastfeeding was all I did all day and night. I would sit in my nursery recliner for what felt like an eternity hoping that he was getting enough to live off of. Then he would fall asleep and I would have to decide if it was worth moving him or if I too should just nap in the chair primed and ready for his next feeding in 10-40 minutes.
- I lost my freedom. Because breastfeeding was my life, I felt like I had to give up everything that made me me in order to be a milk factory day and night.
- It caused hours of agonizing guilt. I felt like I was a bad mother because I hated it so much. It became a vicious cycle. Due to hormones, or conversations with other moms, or a combination of the two, I was under the impression that breastfeeding was something I would eventually love and look forward too and I just absolutely didn’t.
- I felt trapped. I didn’t think that there was a way out. For the first two months, I swear I had to either feed L or pump every two hours. A pumping session took anywhere from 20-50 minutes leaving me with hour and a half intervals to live my new insane life. I had to pump every two hours or get clogged ducts.
- Clogged ducts, hurt me almost as much as giving birth did. There is nothing quite like having gigantic painful boob wedges that can only be relieved by, you guessed it, more pumping and nursing. This is why I felt so trapped. Every time I tried to lengthen the time between pumpings I would get clogged ducts which would make it so I would need to pump more often.
- The cycle. Pump every two hours. Try to pump every three hours instead. Clogged ducts. Revert to extensive nursing and pumping to relieve ducts. Have daydreams about early weaning. Experience guilt because of daydreams about early weaning. Feeling hopeless, “will this nightmare never end?”. Pump every two hours. Etc.
- No one really knew what to do about it. I read blog advice and medical journals and went to see a lactation consultant and a dermatologist (after 6 weeks of excruciating pain). There were many suggestions but nothing concrete. The lactation consultant said L was latched correctly. Great, it still killed. My dermatologist said that I had Raynaud’s syndrome and to put hand warmers in my bra. That made my boobs nice and hot. Pump more? Yeah right. Oh, and clogged ducts just require a super painful massage to fix. No biggie.
- Then, to make matters worse my pump started making me just as sore as L did. This left me with no reprieve from the pain.
So, even though I loathed breastfeeding/pumping. It was not what I would call a magical bonding experience. I kept going because I literally could not stop. At one point, I was pumping over 62 ounces a day. This meant I had my super sore boobs hooked to the pump for over five hours in a 24 hour period. At that same time, I was also nursing L as often as he needed. So between nursing, pumping, and washing all the dishes that came with pumping, my life was consumed and I wondered what on earth I had gotten myself into.
Over 1500 frozen ounces of breastmilk and 10 weeks of agony and endless pumping later, I was ready to try anything. It was then, that I managed to find a few things that saved my sanity and sore breasts.
- Lecithin: This was recommended by the lactation specialist I saw but it took about two weeks to actually start working. I had seen this mentioned on kellymom.com and several other blogs but didn’t try it until it was recommended by a professional. I only had one clogged duct after it started working.
- Letting go of Guilt: I finally talked myself into pumping the majority of the time. This required me to let go of a lot of the guilt I was hauling around about giving my kid a bottle rather than a breast. Making that decision simplified my life. I spent less time with my baby attached to me which made me more excited to spend time with him in other capacities. It also gave me the freedom to leave and know that he was fine. Getting some me time back was rejuvenating and made me a better mom.
- Pumpin Pals Breast Flanges: I found these gems when I was desperately searching Amazon for something that would make pumping less painful. I ordered them and figured if they didn’t work I might just wean early. Lucky for L and I, they worked. These were almost as a big a game changer as the lecithin. I could pump and not even think about it. (Seriously though, sometimes I forgot I was pumping until I had a sizeable stain on my lap.)
- Pumping Schedule: Once the Lecithin finally kicked in, I was able to get myself on a pumping schedule. It took about a month but I got to the point where I only had to pump four times a day. This was infinitely better than 12.
- Keeping the Pump Stuff in the Fridge: I don’t keep the actual pump in the fridge just the stuff that gets milk in/on it. That way I only have to wash it once a day instead of four times or, heaven forbid, twelve.
At month four, pumping has just become a part of my routine. I pump at roughly 5:00 and 11:00 in both the am and pm. I set my pump up by the computer for the 11 pm and 5 am session. This gives me time to answer emails, blog, play with gimp, and make movies. For the other two times, I take my pump with me or move it to where L is. Yes, I can change a diaper while pumping.
As a side note, I didn’t stop breastfeeding entirely. L still breastfeeds roughly five times a week. Now that he is a little bit bigger and the breastfeeding is less frequent it hurts much less and is more enjoyable. I like to cuddle him and I love how he looks at me. Breastfeeding is also a magical tool for when he is inconsolable, which doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it is nice to have a plan.
Fast forward to 10 months. . .
At about 8 months I dropped one of my pumping sessions (the 5 pm one) and started being really lazy about the timing of my other sessions. Not having clogged ducts gave me the ability to push the sessions a few hours or complete them early. This did not help my milk supply at all. When I was pumping 4 times a day at almost the same time every day I was making about 40 ounces. Once I dropped one session and threw my timing to the wind, the amount I produced easily dropped to 30 ounces than 25 ounces within a few weeks. Luckily, I had hundreds of ounces saved up. This enabled me to feed L using just breast milk until he was almost nine months, at which point I slowly introduced him to formula.
Around this time, L stopped breastfeeding entirely, preferring the ease of the bottle. I remember the last time I fed him. Physically it still killed but I no longer hated it. I knew it was the last time and I was grateful that I had stuck with it as long as I had.
During his ninth month, I dropped another session because we went on vacation, I hadn’t intended to drop it, it just happened. I am now just pumping twice a day, twelve hours apart, and I only pump between nine and twelve ounces. This isn’t much but it’s close to a third of what he drinks in twenty-four hours. My goal is to make it to one year before I quit.
To some people, that might seem like a failure. However, making it this long, was one of the most difficult things I have ever done and I am proud of myself!
At 11 months, I am officially done pumping. The amount I was making steadily decreased because I wasn’t consistent with my timing and I just wasn’t being careful about my supply at all. It got to the point where it didn’t make sense to keep doing it so I took a few weeks and slowly stopped altogether. Didn’t quite make it a year but I did make it a lot longer than I thought I would. Hopefully, this experience better prepares me for my next kid.
What I would do differently
- Keep my pumping four times a day schedule longer. If I could have maintained that I probably could have pumped for as long as I wanted (but it was hard and time-consuming.)
- Maybe introduce formula sooner?
Please comment below with your own experiences and suggestions.
-This is not medical advice, it is simply my experience with breastfeeding.