When I got pregnant I told myself I wouldn't be hard on myself if I couldn't breastfeed. I would just go with the flow and accept whatever Huxley and myself were able to do. Fast forward to the day Huxley was born and things went a little south. I had every intention of breastfeeding if I could, and when the day came Huxley had an awesome latch and that was enough for the nurses to say it was going great. But I wasn't so sure.
My colostrum and my milk came in no problem. Which was surprising since Huxley was born via c-section a week before his due date. However, I had a strong feeling he wasn't getting enough. I asked for the lactation consultant to come by just to help me with it. She was a bit ruthless, literally just grabbed my boob and squeezed my nipple so hard to see how much colostrum was coming out. I saw her a few times after that and everytime in my head I was thinking do not touch my nipple or I will literally punch you lol. Anyway, she said I was producing enough colostrum and Huxley's latch was great and to keep going. But she also suggested I rent one of the hospital-grade Medela machines for two weeks to help boost my supply. It was $60 for the 2 weeks and then I bought the kit (tubes and flanges) for $25, which I would keep. I thought this was helpful, so I did that. Since I had a c-section I was at the hospital for 2 nights instead of one. But before I was discharged, the nurses realized Huxley lost more weight than what was normal and that was enough for them to say I might need to stay anther night. I again asked for the lactation consultant to come by, who said that he was using my breast as a pacifier (and also squeezed my nipped again). Huxley would also fuss in different positions and neither of us could find a position that was comfortable for us. I had a c-section and I didn't want pressure on my incision because it was so painful and there were limited positions that prevented that and Huxley didn't like those.
We tried supplementing with formula through a tube. And this is where things got just ridiculous for me. All of this was advised by the lactation consultant - and I'm sure in the most determined situations this works - we filled a 60ml bottle with formula and taped a tube to my breast which was inserted in the bottle so that when Huxley fed he would get colostrum/milk + the formula. I can imagine that trying to feed from the breast plus having a plastic tube in the way is not comfortable for a newborn. Huxley hated it. So I attached the tube to my finger and finger fed him so he could eat, which I also thought was ridiculous and then whatever colostrum I pumped I fed him that via a syringe, which also felt crazy - but you do what you have to do for your baby. I wondered how long this would go on for. When the nurses came back later that day, Huxley had gained weight and I had agreed to see the lactation consultant the next day (which was crazy because I was in pain and exhausted and could barely walk. Going BACK to the hospital the next day was honestly awful) so I could be discharged from the hospital and sleep in my own bed.
That night at home Huxley SCREAMED bloody murder at my boob and I just lost it. I could see in Bryon's face that he wanted to help and felt bad, but there was nothing he could do but encourage me. On top of that my nipples were sore and chapped (which almost every woman has). Huxley was uncomfortable, I was uncomfortable, I thought the tube situation was absolutely insane and not helpful because we ended up having to feed him with our finger instead. I was also extremely exhausted and my hormones were crashing and I felt rejected by my baby. It was heartbreaking. The next day I went to the lactation consultant and she found a position that Huxley seemed to like and he ate from my breast and got a decent amount (after squeezing my nipples...again lol). But when we got home, without help, I couldn't get the position without him kneeing me in the abdomen and hurting my incision. After another night of tube feeding and tears from both myself and Huxley I woke up the next morning and told Bryon I had enough. The pump had been working well for me and I was starting produce a decent amount of actual milk so I said I wanted to exclusively pump and bottle feed because the situation I had been in was emotionally taxing for me. I wasn't getting any sleep because feeding him was such an ordeal and I was anemic and overly exhausted from the surgery so I needed a break. Bryon thought this was a good idea. Pumping would allow me to feed Huxley breastmilk for as long as I could and Bryon could also help with the feedings which wouldn't leave me as the only one Huxley could rely on to eat AND Bryon could have some time to bond and connect with him as well.
So I began my journey as an exclusive pumper. And while for the first 3 weeks I was in pain from pumping (it's equally as painful as breastfeeding) I enjoyed the situation. I would pump 6-8 times a day and once during the night either before or after I got up to feed Huxley. It never crossed my mind that I would stop exclusively pumping and go back to breastfeeding. Why would I change a good thing? Feeding him was much easier and it was actually enjoyable and Bryon felt involved as well. Plus, I wasn't the only one who had to wake up to feed him. For the first two weeks when Huxley needed to be woken up every 2 hours we took turns feeding him. And when he gained enough weight and could be fed on demand, I took the night feeds because Bryon was back at work and he would feed him in the early morning before he left for work.
My mom and Bryon were the most supportive of my decision to exclusively pump. While I was in the thick of the stressful ordeal, my mom assured me to do whatever was best for me and not worry about what other people said. She reminded me that my brother and I were formula-fed and we turned out okay. If I couldn't do it, there were other options and to not feel stressed about it. There was a solution.
Now here is the part where I get really irritated...
A lot of women truly believe that what THEY did with their baby is the best option. The hospital also 'lovingly' pushes breast is best, which may be true to an extent but it also puts an enormous amount of pressure on women who cannot breastfeed. I had enough of people who wondered when I was going to start to try breastfeeding again, reminding me that if I bottle feed Huxley, he might not be able to take the breast later, that I wasn't going to bond with my son, or giving me their advice on breastfeeding thinking that I should give it a try before I give up on it. Just like the negative feedback I got about having a c-section, I got it worse when it came to the way we were feeding our son. There's a moment where women need to mind their own business and if they ask about a mother's decision on how they are feeding their own child to say, I'm glad that works for you, instead of, "you should try this...because breast is best".
My story above may not sound that bad, but the experience was traumatizing. And you don't know what it feels like until you experience it. When your hormones are raging and everything is more emotional and difficult than it needs to be, it's extremely upsetting. Right now, after one month of being an exclusive pumper all I care about is that my baby is fed. I don't care how he gets his food, as long as he's eating and gaining weight. It shouldn't matter of he's getting breastmilk by a bottle, the breast or if he's having supplemented formula or just formula. This is where women need to take a step back and mind their own business.
Huxley did go through a major growth spurt that threatened my supply. I had been freezing TONS of milk because I was producing so much, but as Huxley started growing, so did his intake volume. To keep up, we supplemented with formula! We would add about 20ml of formula to each bottle and eventually he started eating at a normal pace again and I was caught up and I was able to freeze more supply and relax. Since then, we always have a few bottles on hand, just in case. But during that growth spurt, certainly researched different ways to keep up my supply, which I will list at the end of this post.
I decided to share this story for a few reasons:
1. For mom's-to-be: to prepare yourself and keep an open mind. If you can't breastfeed, if your milk doesn't come in...it's okay! Do what works best for you and your baby and forget about what anyone else says. FED IS BEST. Just make sure your little one gets fed.
2. For judge-y women and mom's: Zip it. A woman's choice on how she feeds her child is HER choice. Not yours. Keep your opinion to yourself. You don't know what she went through to make her decision. If her child is gaining weight, be happy for her. Congratulate her and encourage her to continue doing what she is doing. Don't offer advice on a different ways to feed unless SHE asks.
3. Just to remind everyone that fed is best :)
And for those of you who are considering exclusively pumping or just want to learn a few things about it....
SOME THINGS TO CONSIDER ABOUT EXCLUSIVELY PUMPING
1. Don't buy a pump before you give birth. Why? Juuuuust in case you can't breast feed and you don't need it, in case your supply is amazing and you just need a handheld pump, there are pumps for different kinds of pumping. Wait and rent one at the hospital for a couple weeks before you make a decision. I bought my pump used and bought my own attachments, which saved me a lot of money. Sometimes your insurance will cover the cost of a pump as well - but I wouldn't spend the money until you know for sure regardless of whether or not your insurance covers it.
2. To my point about different kinds of pumping: If you are able to breastfeed you might just want a handheld pump or an electric pump that just had one attachment. If you are going to be exclusively pumping you'll need a good pump that mimics a baby sucking that has two attachments or you will go insane. I recommend the Medela Freestyle.
3. Consider getting a Haaka. The Haaka pump is great for a few things. A. If you are breastfeeding, you can attach it to the other breast to catch milk. B. You can use it as a hand pump. Mine came in handy when Bryon and I went to my parents' for the weekend and I used it in the car and caught 50ml on each breast in under 20 mins (and I don't have two..just one.) So it's super effective.
4. If you are exclusively pumping you're going to have to work on keeping up your supply! This might be the most difficult part. You have to stick to a schedule and you have to pump frequently - like 6-8 times a day. Every time I pump, I write down the time I started and how much milk I pumped. This helps me keep track of my supply and I'll know if it starts depleting.
5. KEEPING UP MY SUPPLY: I use the following to help with my supply (although I'm not sure if any of these work - it doesn't hurt to try!) I drink a pint of Guinness in the evening, I drink Mothers Milk tea 2-3 times a day, I eat a few Booby Boons cookies throughout the day and I also eat a bowl of oatmeal each morning. I think the Guinness and the oatmeal are the most effective. Other detrimental things to do to boost your supply: drinking enough water!!! Every time I finish a glass - I pour another. I make sure that there is water near me at all times and that I'm drinking enough. I also eat more, and I have a high-fat diet. I include foods such as avocados, coconut oil, full fat yogurt, cottage cheese, etc. I ensure that I eat more calories than I normally would.
6. Getting up in the night to pump is also important. I should probably do it twice a night, but I do it once a night. I get up at 3am every night and pump and I was also feeding Huxley at this time as well, but he gets fed on demand in the night now so sometimes he doesn't wake up. To keep me occupied at this time, I watch mindless reality t.v. shows on my phone so I'm at least entertained.
7. Supplement with formula if needed...it's okay! In the beginning, we gave Huxley bottles that were half and half (half formula, half breast milk. This allowed me to build up my supply and catch up with how much he's eating. A week ago he went through a MAJOR growth spurt, which threatened how much I was producing. We bought some formula and it took about 2 bottles of formula (about 10-20ml) mixed in with each bottle of breastmilk for me to catch up with Huxley. Once I was caught up, we went back to straight up breastmilk. Since that situation, we always have a few bottles on hand - just in case!
Also...if pumping feels like chaffing - get flanges that are larger. The Freestyle comes with 24mm flanges, which are great if you're an A cup. I use a 30mm flange.