New mom's breastfeeding struggle: All I do is pump, pump, pump no matter what
Breastfeeding my daughter in the first weeks of her life was a constant struggle.Posted — Updated
Breastfeeding my daughter in the first weeks of her life was a constant struggle. Four months later, things are better, but they're still not perfect.
Before my daughter's birth, I did my research on breastfeeding so I'd be ready. I was excited to jump right in, never imagining that it would be anything other than natural and easy. At first I was disheartened -- and even angry -- that my breastfeeding journey didn't go as planned. Since then I have learned that breastfeeding is difficult for so many moms, we just don’t talk about it enough.
Now that I am back at work full-time, I am constantly attached to my breast pump, but I never knew how much I would need it when my daughter was a newborn.
My daughter was a small, sleepy baby born almost three weeks early, and she had trouble drinking from me for more than a minute at a time. By the second day of her life, we started supplementing formula to make sure she was adequately fed.
I am so thankful for formula, but I was determined to breastfeed even as I struggled to make milk. My lactation consultant’s advice? Pump every time my daughter receives a bottle to maintain my supply. Yes, every. single. time.
In the weeks following my daughter’s birth, I spent much of my day (every 2 to 3 hours to be exact) sitting on my couch holding the breast pump to my chest, usually with tears in my eyes. In those days, each time I tried to feed my daughter, she cried in frustration. To keep my baby from becoming upset or ravenous, I’d hand her off to my husband for a bottle after a few minutes of trying to breastfeed.
I love that he got that special bonding time with her, but I was devastated that I couldn’t feed her. Between my pumping sessions, sometimes I barely had time to hold her before she was hungry again.
The first days were the worst, because before my milk came in, 15 minutes of pumping yielded no more than a few tiny drops of liquid. We’d use a tiny syringe to suction the milk off the sides of the bottle and feed them to my daughter.
Since I was exposed whenever my baby got hungry, having company from friends and family felt almost impossible. Again, I was miserable.
Then things slowly started getting better. I used scissors to cut holes in my old sports bra so I could pump with no hands. Then I bought a hands-free pumping bra online, an invaluable tool I now use anytime I pump.
I persisted, pumping for at least 15 minutes every two hours. Sometimes it became a joke (I even made a song about it), but usually I hated it.
By the time my daughter was 4 weeks old, she would drink longer and with more strength, only needing 1 or 2 ounces of a bottle after I fed her. Then my pumping sessions started to decrease in quantity as she began to get full without a bottle.
I was so excited the first time I was able to feed her by myself, and I was able to do that for a couple months. I finally felt like I had reached my breastfeeding goals, and I was thrilled my baby was getting COVID-19 antibodies from my milk (I was fully vaccinated by the time I was 37 weeks pregnant).
I am back at work now and still breastfeeding when I can, but with my busy schedule and my daughter now drinking up to 6 ounces at a time, we’re back to supplementing formula multiple times a day.
To keep up with her demand, I’ll keep pumping, but I have learned to not stress out anymore and enjoy the times I get to feed her. I've learned my happiness and mental health help me be the best mom for my daughter, not my ability to exclusively breastfeed like I’d planned.
It turns out so many moms struggle to exclusively breastfeed their babies -- I have heard from women who can't due to medical reasons, supply issues or simply the struggle of balancing work life and mom life.
Did you struggle with breastfeeding? I'd love to hear your stories. I hope that by opening up about our experiences more women realize how common their own struggles are.
I definitely learned a lot about breastfeeding and pumping during my ups and downs and will share those next time. In the meantime, I leave you with my "pumping" song, set to the tune of DJ Khaled's "All I Do Is Win."
got [insert your baby's name here] on my mind and I'm trying to make enough.
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