When I found out I was pregnant, I had this idea in my mind of the kind of mom I would be. I would breastfeed until two years, my baby would be dressed in adorable outfits everyday, and my house would be spotless. You know, completely Instagram worthy. Insert face palm here.
Needless to say that’s not how it started. I’m pretty sure I wore the same pair of pants for a week and lets not even mention my hair…
*This post contains affiliate links, by purchasing through the link, at no extra cost to you, I will earn a small commission.*
So when EJ was born, I started with breastfeeding him, it was actually going pretty okay when we were at the hospital. The first few latches weren’t great but I got some wonderful advice from a kind nurse that helped us get a better latch going. Her advice was essentially, grip your breast from underneath like you would a hamburger, squeeze, then shove your nipple into babies mouth. Weird explanation, but it worked pretty well. At least, it did while we were at the hospital. I think the reason breastfeeding is always easier at the hospital is because your baby is still reeling from birth so they are much more reasonable… kind of.
When we got home, no matter how much I made my breast resemble a hamburger, EJ was having none of it. He was too hungry to be happy putting up with my attempts, especially since my milk had not come in yet and he was letting everyone know how displeased he was. I had bought a manual hand pump for just in case I needed it at some point, and while I was desperate to try it, I was not getting support from my local health nurses. I was sleep deprived, hurting and upset that my poor tiny boy was hungry. Add in my hormones and when I got mommy shamed by these nurses I thought anything but breastfeeding would doom my tiny boy. They were quite pushy about how I shouldn’t try anything but breastfeeding, which made me doubt myself pretty hard.
Since he really wasn’t getting a lot of food from me, his mild jaundice got a lot worse, overnight. Enough for my sleep deprived brain to panic and rush him to the hospital. A different hospital then where the pressuring health nurses worked thank goodness. The nurse at this hospital took one look at my stressed out face and bluntly told me, “Just feed him. Don’t worry about those nurses, no one cares how you do it, as long as he’s fed.” It may seem like pretty common sense advice, but man, to my hormonal self it was like a hallelujah moment. Duh. Just feed him. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t starving my child, but clearly he wasn’t getting enough from me when he was breastfeeding.
So at three days old, I started pumping exclusively for EJ. When I started, I had a hospital grade pump on loan to me from the hospital and my milk had finally come in, so it started off on a great note. I was warned that my supply could drop with pumping, but I was determined to not let that happen. I looked up everything I could to keep my supply going strong. Power pumping, smoothies, oatmeal, so much water… I was committed and it was working pretty well for the first week.
But then, I got sick. It was a terrible cold that knocked me on my butt, being that sick with a new baby is not easy but I was terrified of him catching my cold. So I wanted to get over it as soon as possible, and pass on as much antibodies to him as I could. Which meant upping my pumping schedule which was already crazy, and drinking an insane amount of tea, taking as many vitamins as possible. It did work, in the sense that EJ never got my cold, thank my lucky stars, I couldn’t imagine trying to get past that cold, while taking care of a sick newborn.
Between the cold and the peppermint my supply dropped drastically, so drastically that I went to my doctor and asked for a prescription to help me boost it. At this point, I was still determined to continue exclusively breastfeed, and the prescription allowed me to continue doing that. Within two weeks, I had enough that I could start slowly stock piling a freezer stash.
Everything was going great for awhile, but between EJ being colicky and pumping taking so much time, I was exhausted. I was starting to feel overwhelmed, add in my hormones and my emotions were getting out of control. I made the decision to switch to my freezer stahs, then to formula when that had run out, thank goodness my husband was very supportive of every decision I’ve made about how to feed EJ. I also took the opportunity to use not breastfeeding as a chance to talk to my doctor about a mild antidepressant to help me until my hormones are back to their normal. It’s helped me immensely and since I’m happier, everyone at home is happier and more relaxed.
I have the utmost respect for mothers that breastfeed, and pump. It’s hard work, and I wish that it was something I could have continued but if that’s the route you’re looking to go, then here are some tips that I found worked for me.
–If you baby starts to prefer the bottle, like mine did, I would give myself a break from pumping by using a nipple shield to trick him into thinking he was drinking from a bottle. It actually worked pretty well. I mean, until he realized how much work it took for him, then he got angry. But it was a nice break.
– Sanitizing every part after every single use was exhausting. Hot water and soap is perfectly good and then just sanitize once a day (I’m not a doctor this is just what I did to help make things a little easier.) Pro tip: the attachments to this pump from amazon fit all the medela pumps and is so much cheaper. The more parts you have, the more time you get in between washing.
–Since I wasn’t sanitizing every use, I had a bowl and a small rack that was only ever used for bottles and pumping parts. This way , they never came into contact with any food or bacteria from my counter tops or my sink. I would suggest a cheap dish rack you could get for a camper, they are smaller and cost less.
– I had an inexpensive electric pump that I used sometimes but I found using my manual pump would keep one of my hands free, and I was able to move around. So I didn’t feel so chained down and I was able to get some stuff done while pumping. If you can get a battery for your electric breast pump it’s even better. You won’t feel so chained down, and like you have a life outside of being milked like a cow…
– Since breastmilk is okay at room temp for 4-6 hours, I would make a bottle before bed and leave it on my nightstand, since EJ woke up every three hours, so that for at least one feed I wasn’t having to run to get his bottle. Which let me get to sleep faster. I also set up a little pumping station, where I would put everything I would need for each pump throughout the night, so I could pump his next bottle, put it all on my nightstand and fall back asleep. Once I switched to formula I employed the same tactics.
–Check the size and the power of your pump. Too strong, or the wrong size can cause cracked, bleeding nipples. Or just a very painful pumping session. I was too lazy to drive all the way into town to get the proper sizes and ended up suffering through each pumping session for weeks. Don’t be like me. Be smarter,
They might not be the most life changing tips, but they helped keep my sane when I was exclusively pumping. I hope they add a bit of ease to your routine.