I have been contemplating writing this for a while. It's quite personal, but I really wanted those I am close to to know exactly what I have been through with Kaylee and why I chose to pump exclusively for her.
When I was pregnant, I was all for breastfeeding. It was the only way to go - I felt like there really was no choice in the matter. And why should there be? It's convenient, cheap, healthy, the list goes on. I learned about breastfeeding from my midwives, La Leche League, books, and the internet, and it looked simple enough. I heard people describe it as blissful, relaxing, enjoyable, natural, fulfilling...etc. I was excited to nurse and have that special, close bond with my baby. I was determined to have a natural labor, as pain medications sometimes dull the baby's senses as well and can interfere with nursing.
Labor was a breeze, a total of about 10 1/2 hours from the first contraction, and Kaylee was born, perfectly healthy and strong in every way. Imagine my utmost surprise and confusion when I brought her to my breast and...she wouldn't latch on. She just didn't know what to do. After a couple of weeks, things were going a bit better (she would actually latch), but still going pretty badly. She would latch on, but she clamped down (horribly painful - worse than labor), she wiggled, she choked, she cried, she wouldn't suck hard enough to get anything. I went to La Leche League, I asked my mom, I went to two lactation consultants, my midwives tried to help me, and I searched the internet for any bit of information that would help me.
I kept trying for weeks, but I was completely miserable, as was Kaylee. Every time she ate, it was something else. One time it would be her not getting enough milk, the next she would be choking like crazy and couldn't breathe. Another time she would be wiggling so much I couldn't get her to calm down enough to latch on, and the next she would be falling asleep instead of eating. For a couple of weeks, she wanted to eat for about two minutes at a time, every five minutes. All day long. I never knew what to expect and I never knew what to do - I tried everything that was suggested to me, over and over again. I was exhausted, sick and tired of fighting with her every single time she ate. I could deal with an occasional fit, but I could not deal with this. In those first few weeks I must have cried more than I have ever before in my life, put together. I got sick several times in those weeks, probably from the stress, which just made it even harder to deal with. I looked up pumping on the internet, and learned a bit about exclusive pumping. I'd never heard of it before, but it was intriguing to me. These women would do nearly anything to make sure their babies would get breast milk, even though their babies couldn't latch for whatever reason. The thought of doing this actually filled me with a sort of hope. I learned about it and for the first time I felt peace - that sounds corny, but it's exactly what I felt. I felt like something was telling me it was the right decision. Maybe I could still give her breast milk and not have to go through this anymore.
The bonding that everyone talks about with breastfeeding...well, we certainly weren't getting it. In fact, I didn't even LIKE my daughter. I loved her, yes. But I did not like her. I too often got so incredibly frustrated with her when she was hungry that I would have to put her down and leave her crying for a few minutes, in order to calm down. That was about the extent of our bonding from nursing. A couple of times I gave her a bottle, sometimes of pumped milk, a couple times of formula, and it was incredible, the difference. I was calm, I felt truly relaxed, and Kaylee was happy, actually getting plenty to eat. She seemed to just love eating from a bottle, which hurt me more than anything.
When she was about two months old, I finally broke down and bought a good pump. I cried when I bought it, knowing in my heart that if we started using bottles, she would never go back. I felt like a complete failure for not being able to nurse her like I was "supposed" to. For a few weeks, things went really well. In fact, pumping and giving her bottles when she wouldn't nurse seemed to even be helping! She was happier and more willing to nurse more often. But when she turned 3 months old, it all just ended. One night she woke up and wouldn't nurse (she had always nursed well at night and in the morning), and I thought "Oh well, whatever. Just a fluke." Nope. My worst fear was confirmed - too many bottles, and she didn't want to nurse at all anymore.
I still cry sometimes when I think about it. I feel like maybe, maybe if I had given it a bit longer...maybe if I had tried just a little bit harder, we would be able to nurse. Maybe I should have tried more alternate feeding methods...so many possibilities. But then I remember all those terribly frustrating times we had. I remember her screaming at 2am because she was hungry and just couldn't latch right, just couldn't get the milk out. I remember feeling angry, hopeless, confused, lost, not good enough.
Exclusively pumping is definitely no walk in the park, though. It's very hard - just a different kind of hard. It's hard to rearrange my schedule (however flexible it may be!) around pumping. It's hard to be with family and have to excuse myself for 20 minutes to go sit on the bathroom floor alone. It's hard to miss out on spontaneity. It's hard to have my husband go to bed alone, and stay up and pump by myself instead of being with him. It's hard to get up at night and feed the baby, and then spend another 20 minutes pumping before I can go back to sleep. It's hard to keep up! A pump does not work as well as a baby in keeping a milk supply stable. I wasn't sure if I could do it, but so far I haven't had to supplement with formula at all. She has gotten 100% breast milk since I started.
I will never, ever again judge a women for not nursing their baby. I will never look at a baby eating formula and think "She just didn't try hard enough". Because maybe she did.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
I decided that our bedroom was way too bland and boring, so I to made some frames and painted pictures to go in them above our bed. I'm very happy with how they turned out!!! Now I just need to finish our quilt I've been working on...don't know when that will ever happen though.