Today my dear friend from college, Coco, is sharing her story. She is an amazing mama and has such a sweet heart. You are gonna love this one, I promise…..
Huge thank you to Julie for letting me share my story with you! I tried to find a picture of us cheerleading together but it’s probably for the best that it’s not shared!
I’m mama to 6 month old Sawyer, wife to Lysander who is a middle school band teacher. I work full time at the University of Redlands (go Bulldogs!) while Sawyer goes to daycare during the day. I also blog over at Coco Mckown Photography where I showcase my wedding/family photography, which I do on a part-time basis.
While I was pregnant with Sawyer, I didn’t do much reading on pregnancy or parenting. I had the BabyCenter app on my phone and I followed AlphaMom’s weekly pregnancy updates (surprisingly accurate, by the way) but other than that I didn’t want to read anything. I found that there were more fear-mongering sites and books out there than not so I just stopped listening. I strongly felt that the baby could sense stress and anxiety and wanted to clear it from my mind.
Unfortunately, it also meant I didn’t read a whole lot on breastfeeding. If I’m perfectly honest… I didn’t read anything on the subject. I just figured I would know what to do. Spoiler alert: I had no idea.
The amazing, life-changing day when Sawyer was born was full of wonderful and confusing new feelings. No one can describe how it feels to have this warm, soft absolutely lovely little person be put on your chest. The relief to finally have him out and safe (and selfishly, to see what he looks like!), the overwhelming love I felt for my husband when he held him skin to skin, the amazing SURGE of hormones that is racing through you. Wow… I’m tearing up thinking about it again and it makes me want to have 10 more babies (not right now though. And not all at once).
Some facts to know about the birth: My water broke and they gave me Pitocin to rev up the contractions. Holy crud, that sucked. So about 4 hours in and only 2.5cm, I went for the epidural. I said wonderful things about the anesthesiologist and told her I would name my first girl after her, and meant it. Too bad I can’t remember her name. ANYWAY… Also, after Sawyer was put on my chest, I did not try to latch him on to me. I couldn’t stop staring at him and wanted my husband to hold him as soon as possible as well.
The hospital I went to prides itself on alone time with just baby, mom and dad for an hour after the birth. What they DON’T tell you is that there are nurses constantly checking on you, your stitches, and your uterus. So we were constantly being interrupted anyway. We were moved up to the Recovery unit and tried to latch there. So I didn’t try to latch him on until about 2 hours after he was born.
WHOA. You guys. It hurt. Like. Hell. No joke. I was extremely emotional anyway but the pain when he latched on was just too much. I tried and tried over the course of a few hours but not much was happening plus I just couldn’t handle the pain. Finally, around 8pm (he was born at 9:54am) we called up the lactation consultant on duty. She was wonderful, no nonsense and blunt. But even she said my sensitivity to his latch was through the roof. Didn’t really make me feel good about myself, to tell the truth.
Convinced that I was just being an overly sensitive baby, we struggled through the first night. Nurses were coming in every hour trying to get me to feed him. He would latch, I would cry, he would cry and repeat. At 3am, a nurse came in and told me brusquely if I couldn’t feed him, he wouldn’t be sent home. She had me hand express colostrum into a spoon so she could feed it to him (why oh why didn’t I ask for a pump?). I was sobbing, trying to eke out enough to feed him. She gave it to him and was on her way.
The lactation consultant came in first thing the next day and had me try again. She used a nipple shield but it was still too much for me to handle. I would be sitting there, tears running down my cheeks while he sucked away. He was also a touch jaundiced and needed to eat to help get rid of it. They weren’t going to release him without the doctor’s consent. Finally, we were released and could go home later that day.
Once we got home, it was sweet relief. We could feed him however we wanted without being judged by doctors or nurses. We had him on a tube feeding system, where we would insert a tiny tube into his mouth along with our finger and we would slowly shoot it into his mouth so as to not get any nipple confusion. We fed him formula the first couple of days (which I do NOT feel guilty about. At all) and any colostrum I was lucky enough to pump. Ladies, either rent a pump from the hospital or buy one beforehand. Luckily, I had bought one before giving birth. We were also trying to get him to latch any chance we could but it was still incredibly painful.
My friend who happens to be a lactation consultant would come over to help and she was lovely. But he would perform great for her and then pop off the second she left. We would try latching every time he was fed but he would get a couple sucks in, pop off and scream. And scream and screeeeeeam. He wouldn’t even calm down enough to try latching again. Everyone kept telling me to watch for his hunger cues. But honestly, he didn’t have any. There were no rooting reflexes, hands in mouth, nothing. He was just start screaming from hunger. How could I latch if he wouldn’t stop screaming?
So we continued with our syringe feeding system every day, 8-10 times a day for two straight weeks. I was pumped furiously every two hours, trying to get enough for him to eat. Our days were pump, feed Sawyer, wash everything, change a diaper and it was time to repeat the whole process. It got significantly more stressful when my husband went back to work. Sawyer would instinctively know when it was time to pump and he would wake up, start fussing, etc. There was many a time when I pumped with him on my lap, which seemed to go against all my instincts.
After about 2.5 weeks, I had enough. I couldn’t keep doing the feeding tube. We tried a bottle, he took to it like duck to water, and didn’t look back. I told my husband that I wanted to exclusively pump and he was behind it 100%. He had only kept encouraging me to try breastfeeding because he knew it was important to me. Exclusively pumping was the best choice for our family. If breastfeeding was the best choice, I would have done it. If formula feeding was the best choice, I would have done it. I was willing to do whatever I needed to do to make the best choice for our situation. Sawyer was going to need to take a bottle anyway because I always knew I would be going back to work.
So, here are my top 10 tips for those of you exclusively pumping
1. Do NOT beat yourself up if you can’t/don’t want to breastfeed. A part of me was sad I didn’t get the glowing dream of breastfeeding, where baby and I would be bonded because of it. Well, let me tell you we are still bonded. There are no bonding issues with our baby and if anything, both my husband and I got to bond with him through feeding. Your baby needs a happy mom, not a miserable mom. If breastfeeding is making you miserable and you are in a HUGE amount of pain, it’s ok. It’s TRULY ok. You are still feeding your baby, right? It hurts when I see “Breast is best”, because even though I’m giving my baby breastmilk, I sometimes feel like I’m less of a mom because he wasn’t attached to me to get it. NO. “Feeding your baby however it works for your family is best”.
2. Stay off the internet. I loves me the internet. I do. When I have questions, the internet is always there to help me answer it without constantly asking my husband (who has no idea either. I don’t know why I would think he would know all the answers to parenting when we both became parents at the same time). BUT. Internet moms make you feel horrible if you don’t breastfeed your baby. I thought I would get flack from people when I pulled out a bottle in public but no one has ever said anything to me. NEVER. It was all in my head, fed by anonymous internet moms. In real life, in everyday interactions, you will get less judgment than you think.
3. When you’re exclusively pumping, bottles and cleaning will seem endless. Enlist your husband to help and buy lots of bottles. Dr. Brown bottles are great and all parts can go in the dishwasher. We definitely have to hand-wash quite a bit but it’s nice when you have a full dishwasher and can throw in a lot of bottles. My husband is also in charge of putting together Sawyer’s nighttime bottles and bringing them upstairs. Our laundry room is upstairs and we bought a tiny, college dorm room sized fridge. We keep our bottles in here at night and whatever I pumped during the night was kept in there too. Sawyer has always taken a cold bottle (funny little quirk) so we haven’t had to heat them up ever but it would be easy enough to bring up a bottle warmer if needed.
4. You’re going to get really good a pumping in weird places. I have pumped in the car (we have an outlet but you can get an adapter on Amazon), at the San Diego Zoo (great nursing station!), Petco Park, airport bathrooms, mall bathrooms, etc. Swaddling wraps are great for cover up. When I’m shooting weddings, I find a 15 minute block of time usually before the ceremony or during dinner where I run off and pump in the car.
5. Okay, here is something I couldn’t ever find on the internet (and when I did, it was after searching through pages and pages on Google) and I’m only telling you because I love y’all. You’re going to start to smell. There! I said it! If you are pumping, the baby isn’t cleaning old milk off of you and it just kind of sits there. I was wearing breastpads, not for leakage but to tone down the nips. They would start pointing in every direction! I thought, “Maybe I don’t have to wear these anymore, since I don’t really leak”. Once I stopped though, I found that I started to smell, even after I had thoroughly washed! The breast pads soak up a lot of the milk and with it, the smell. But every once in awhile, do yourself a solid and kind of pick out the dried milk.
6. Pumping still hurt. I thought that since I was pumping it wouldn’t hurt. FALSE. It actually still hurt a bit, but less so than nursing. My mom said, “Some people have sensitive feet, maybe you just have sensitive nipples”. It took a solid 7 weeks before I looked at my husband and said, “Hey! This doesn’t hurt anymore!”
7. Another fun fact, a power surge can happen when you switch your pumps to different outlets. I would pump downstairs during the day, upstairs at night and still do so at work. When I would set myself up in the pump and turn it on, it would have a huge surge of suction which would make me audibly gasp. So, here’s my advice: turn it on first, then hook yourself up to it. You’ll thank me later!
8. Still get a nursing bra. In fact, get three. I got these from Target and never take them off. Well, I take them off to shower but other than that I wear a bra 24/7 now. I was a medium before having Sawyer and I wear a large in these bras.
9. When you pump and have all those little bottles of milk lined up in the fridge, the milk fat will start separating from the water. In order to make sure your baby has all the milky goodness that you worked to hard for, you’ll need to swirl the milk to get the fat off the sides of the bottle. This may seem like “duh” to most of you but we were shaking the bottle of milk to do this. SWIRL! Shaking breaks down proteins in the milk, swirling does not. I’m not ashamed to admit that we just figured this out about a month into pumping.
10. Be kind to yourself. You are feeding your baby the best way you know how. We started supplementing at 8 weeks and I don’t feel bad about it. What were we going to do? Let him go without eating? Science is amazing and formula feeds your baby too. Although, we jumped in hard and fast when I returned to work and gave him a cheaper formula at first. Poor thing didn’t have a BM for three days. Lesson learned. If you are giving breast milk right away and are switching to formula, you may have to try several different formulas until you find the one for your baby. Also, NEVER feel guilty for giving your baby formula. You’re not a failure. The only way you fail is if you don’t feed your baby anything. And you wouldn’t do that.
If anyone has any questions about exclusively pumping, I would love to answer them. It’s nice to know you’re not alone. It’s a small club but fiercely proud! I still have so much to say (storing milk, supplements, thrush, plugged ducts) but I don’t want this to go on and on. Sawyer is 6 months right now and I stopped pumping at 5 months. I cried when I stopped pumping but mostly I felt relief. Sawyer is happy, healthy and thriving… exactly how a baby (and his mama!) should be feeling.
Thank you so much to Julie for this opportunity. Sorry for writing a novel!
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