Did you know it's World Breastfeeding Week? As a mother and a breastfeeding advocate this is a topic that's dear to my heart. What you feed your baby is obviously a personal decision, but I truly believe that women owe it to themselves and to their babies to at least give it a shot. If you try it and it doesn't work out, then that's one thing. But to not try it at all? I'll admit that I think that sucks. I do feel like I've earned the right to say that, given the struggles I had with feeding my own child.
People have this idea in their head about breastfeeding - that it's the most natural thing on earth and that it's second-nature to both mother and baby (I'm ignoring the people who have the "breastfeeding is disgusting" idea in their heads right now). I don't know where we got this idea, but probably from TV or some other media outlet. When things don't start off smoothly and there are problems with feeding patterns, women often feel guilty about it, that it's completely their fault, and that they're failing as mothers (and as women, in general!). It's something that your body was made to do, and when you can't do it well then it makes sense to feel that kind of failure.
Trust me, I speak from experience. I was one of those special ones who struggled from day one. These days Charlie will eat just about anything you set in front of him. Unfortunately this wasn't always the case. He had such little interest in eating that we had to start pumping and bottle-feeding while we were still in the hospital. We had to stay an extra day because he lost too much weight. That was the most miserable day of my life. All I wanted to do was go home, and I couldn't. Well, I could have, but the thought of leaving my brand new baby in the hospital alone was just too much to bear. So I stayed in my hospital room, and I pumped and pumped and pumped. Every two hours, around the clock, until my milk came in. You've never seen boobs that big, ever. Trust me.
(I still can't believe someone let me out of the house looking like a two dollar hooker. I about died when I saw that picture.)
They finally sent us home and I got to bring my very own personal Medela PISA along with me. I got home and stuck to that rigid pumping schedule. Every 2 hours during the day, every 3 hours at night. While Charlie slept, I pumped.
I still remember how excited I was when I filled one of these little bottles.
That was hitting the big time!
It was grueling. It was tedious. It sucked, both figuratively and literally. So, so bad. I tried everything I could to get Charlie to eat like a normal breastfed baby. Nipple shields, nipple covers, Boppy pillow, different positions, lactation consultants, you name it we tried it. He just wouldn't catch on. I guess I could have kept trying, but when a few weeks had gone by I just hit breastfeeding rock bottom. I was sitting on the couch watching the Democratic National Convention (the Olympics were long over) in the middle of the afternoon with month-old Charlie sideways on the Boppy. I just kept trying and trying, and he wanted nothing to do with it. He was sobbing because he was hungry and I was sobbing because I wanted nothing more than to feed my child. That was when I gave up on trying to breastfeed and became a member of the exclusive pumper's club.
I emulated a cow for almost 11 months, pumping to maintain a supply that was plentiful enough both to feed my own child and to donate to our local milk bank. I donated over 3000 ounces to feed NICU babies. I'm super proud of that fact. I pumped in the car, in an airplane, in a park, and in hotels. I pumped on road trips, at work, at friend's houses, in offices, in public restrooms, and in between acts at the NKOTB concert. I pumped into bottles, bags, and tupperware containers. I battled mastitis (twice!) and clogged ducts. I spilled milk and cried about it. I stuck with it and met my goal.
To this day, nearly one full year since we used up the last bag of frozen breastmilk, being able to provide my child with that kind of nutrition for an entire year ranks up there as one of my greatest accomplishments. You can say it's silly of me to think that way, but I'm proud that I stuck with it, milk machine and all.