Before my first child was born, I decided that I wanted to breastfeed him. It was what everyone said was best, my friends all nursed their babies, and it was, well, natural. It’s what we evolved to do, and I saw no reason to mess with it.
I did end up breastfeeding my son, but I ended up having to do this very “natural” thing in a very artificial way: I breastfed him for over a year by exclusively pumping.
Exclusive pumping means feeding your baby breast milk only by pumping and bottle feeding breast milk. After the first couple of weeks, I didn’t nurse my baby, but he was only fed breast milk. (I was lucky and had a good supply, so I never had to use formula after I started exclusively pumping.)
How did I end up tying myself to a breast pump for two hours a day for over a year?
When I found out I was pregnant (now almost a year ago to the day!) I had already made the decision to breastfeed exclusively. And it was funny how often that question came up, “are you going to breastfeed?” almost as often as “do you know what you’re having?” And I would reply, yes, I hope. Because I knew it was hard and I knew a lot of people that didn’t. The only thing I didn’t know was really how hard it would be at first.
I read a lot before the baby came about how to breastfeed, how to get the best latch. Remember, the books said, the baby is learning to latch and you’re learning to breastfeed but its a lot of instinct – she knows what she needs to do.
I am an overachiever. In my education, in my career, in my milk supply. I’m almost ashamed to say it, when so many mamas have such problems making enough milk or keeping their supply up. But I make milk and I make a lot of it. Even now, when she is starting to wean herself and only sporadically nursing there is plenty in there. My husband is sure that there’s nothing left. Ah but there is, see? And this abundant supply led me to rebel against the two biggest don’ts of lactating women: underwires and plastic nursing pads. dun dun dun…..
Breastfeeding During Pregnancy
"You ARE going to stop breastfeeding her, aren't you?”
Those were the first words uttered by my daughter's pediatrician during her 18 month checkup as soon as he found out I was pregnant.
"Not a fat chance, Mister", I thought, but I simply smiled and nodded in reply. I would rather have him leave me alone than hear a sermon that I would not agree with.
Unfortunately, his reaction is quite typical. Even though studies show more and more women are choosing to breastfeed up to the 6 month recommendation with an average of 49% in the U.S; and even 27% of women are now continuing to breastfeed their infants at 12 months , many women are uncomfortable with the idea of breastfeeding a toddler and even more so while pregnant. Some might even think breastfeeding while pregnant is dangerous.
Before I gave birth to my son via C-section I attended one lonely breastfeeding class. It was free and yes, I learned a few things like how big a baby’s tummy is at birth and the difference between colostrum and what milk is like once it “comes in.” I asked questions and watched a little DVD in the dark about what breastfeeding is supposed to look like. But nowhere, anywhere did I learn a thing about all of the possible difficulties I might face once my little one nestled at my breast and began screaming for milk.
Really, how hard can it be? Baby + Boob = Milk. Duh!
So after being birthed up, spruced up, weighed up and sent off for a quick snuggle with Daddy my son was placed on my chest to nurse and he began scooting towards my breast like a champ. My heart immediately burst into a billion little glittery pieces and I felt so…..motherly.
Three days later he wasn’t gaining any weight.
He was approaching the dreaded 10% loss that the hospital staff incessantly reminded us about so that we would what….feed him formula? Well, after a bunch of charts and graphs and jaundice and talking to the staff pediatrician that said, “If it was my kid, I’d feed him formula,” I wailed and pounded on the sheets about not being able to nourish my child with my body like I was supposed to….and I gave in. His first bottle was taken with no problems which just confirmed for me that I had been starving him by trying to get this breastfeeding thing to work when my boobs were apparently broken....