Today we are sharing the breastfeeding journey of Stacey and her baby Joslyn.. And – you can read other breastfeeding stories here and to share your own just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org !
During my entire pregnancy with our daughter, I told people I was going with the flow and did not have a set plan on how everything was going to happen. I didn’t have a birth plan and was going to just see how things played out. However, despite all the times I said that out loud, I knew deep down how I was hoping things would go. I was hoping to go in to labor close to the 40-week mark, labor would be relatively short, I would possibly get an epidural, I would immediately do skin to skin, and then try to get her to latch.
The funny thing is, everything I was quietly hoping for went the complete opposite. I ended up having to be induced, labored for around 15 hours, but baby wasn’t dropping, and she was starting to turn breech. That’s when I was told I would need to go in for a C-section. I had never had surgery before, so to say I was nervous would be an understatement. When they took me into the operating room, I started having a panic attack. I will never forget the nurse anesthetist and how calming and supportive she was towards me. After what felt like hours, we heard the most beautiful cry and our sweet Joslyn was born.
After the surgery, I was extremely out of it and could not immediately do skin to skin with her. However, once I arrived back to my room, I did try and get her to latch. Unfortunately, it was unsuccessful, but the nurse assured me that was common. Over the next two days in the hospital, I tried desperately to get her to latch and was unsuccessful most of the time. I had the help of the lactation consultants there, and they showed me holding techniques and encouraged me to keep trying. We were later told that Joslyn’s blood sugar levels were dropping and if she didn’t eat soon she was most likely going to have to go to the NICU for observation. And that right there is the first time I was introduced to the breast pump. Little did I know it would become my new best friend for the next 12 months.
Just like every new parent says, the first few days/ weeks of parenting are an absolute sleep-deprived blur. Once we were home, I was alternating between trying to nurse and then pumping after when she wouldn’t latch. It was draining and frustrating, but I knew I wanted to keep trying. Then one night I was out in our living room trying to nurse Joslyn. I was trying all the tricks I thought I had at the time to encourage her to latch. We were doing skin to skin, I was trying different positions, but she was so unhappy and did not want to latch. At this point since my milk had already come in, I was covered in breastmilk, she was covered in breastmilk, and it was clear both of us were beyond frustrated. That was the moment I realized that while breastfeeding was extremely important to me, this was not benefitting either one of us. I woke my husband up and asked him to take her for 10 minutes. I went back out in the living room, set up my breast pump and never looked back.
It took a few weeks to really get the hang of exclusively pumping. I had bought a hands-free pumping bra, purchased multiple pump parts, extra bottles, and would pump and feed Joslyn at the same time. Everything seemed to be going alright until I got MASTITIS. I had no idea what mastitis was at the time, but oh my goodness was it AWFUL. I felt like I had been thrown against a brick wall. I remember looking at my husband and telling him then and there that I was done breastfeeding. However, once I got to the doctor, I was informed that while the antibiotics would fight off the infection, I needed to continue pumping to get the clog out that started this whole mess. It took about 24 hours or so, but after that things did start getting better.
Once my milk regulated and I was able to drop a few pumping sessions, things did start to get easier and more routine. I unfortunately continued to get countless clogs in my breasts, and even had another bout of mastitis. Every time one of those things happened I swore that I was done. But the best advice I think I received in those moments was that if I wanted to stop then I absolutely should but that I shouldn’t make the decision on a bad day. That is when I started making short term goals for myself, taking it one month at a time, and sometimes one day at a time. Having this new frame of mind helped to relieve some of the pressure and expectations that I was putting on myself, which made the whole experience much more relaxing.
So fast forwarding, here I am at 13 months post-partum and happy to say I made it to my original 12-month goal. I did not have a hard time emotionally when it came to weaning. To be honest, I almost wanted to do cartwheels in the pediatrician’s office when he gave us the green light to switch to cow’s milk. While I am very proud of what I accomplished, I cannot lie and say it was always enjoyable or easy. It was not the beautiful experience that pregnant me had hoped for, but it was very rewarding. I know there are so many things I could have done differently, so many resources I should have used, and while I can’t go back in time, I can take them as lessons learned. I told my husband a while ago that I wanted to have a bonfire and say goodbye to my dreaded breast pump. But instead, that little guy is now safely packed away because who knows, I may need him again someday.
My Exclusively Pumping Checklist: