Confessions of a Bottle Washer
It is 9:39pm the night of the Super Bowl. Our friends left not long ago, our 2 year old son is asleep, and I just finished giving my 2 month old daughter her bedtime bottle. She will go to bed shortly, and I’ll be a slave to the pump for the next 15-20 minutes before I have time to shower.
Before our son was born I took a class on breastfeeding. I knew nothing, and was interested to give it a shot once he arrived. What I learned there was two fold: you have to have patience, and there sure are a lot of different ways to hold the baby while feeding! How was I supposed to know which was going to work for us, when I had no clue what I was doing, and had never even really held a baby that little!
It felt overwhelming then, and after he was born it was even more overwhelming. My son wouldn’t latch after he was born. I had help from a lactation consultant and nurses in the hospital, and a lactation consultant privately after we were home, advice from friends, nipple shields, hours trying, help from my husband, and nothing was working. The consultant suggested that I keep “practicing nursing” at home, but the sheer thought of how to even hold him, hold my boobs, position the boppy or roll up towels or blankets for support all while running on 2 hours of sleep just was not working. How did my other friends do it? They told me it was really really hard and it would take time. Time? What’s that?
After he was born it felt like everywhere I went someone asked me if I was breastfeeding. The man at the nail salon, a woman in line at Jewel, literally random people. It was a constant topic in the moms class and playgroup I did, even family members continued to ask. Why does it matter, why does it feel like you’re judging me, and moreover...why is it your business?
I had heard about exclusive pumping from a fellow working mom friend, and thought it was an interesting idea because you could still give your baby breastmilk in a different way, so I reached out to her for support. I did a lot of googling and even more planning, and eventually determined it was a good fit for us, so the journey began.
I pumped every 3 hours around the clock for the first month or so. This was sometimes very difficult as you can imagine. It took twice as much time as breastfeeding or formula feeding because after I would feed him I had to pump again to “prepare his next meal”, but I was determined to try for as long as I could.
I went through the typical feelings of being engorged, leaking through nursing pads overnight onto the sheets a million times until I finally found the right type of nursing pad/sports bra combo that worked to prevent that, running out of milk in the fridge from the baby cluster feeding, and so much more.
Eventually, I weaned down to 4 scheduled pumps per day which was much easier, but it also meant I needed to be sure to be home during my maternity leave around 10am and 3pm to pump. I knew exactly how much milk I was getting, and how much milk the baby was eating, and that I loved. I was super fortunate to have enough of a milk supply to have a little extra to freeze each day and my goal/plan was to start to wean from the pump at 6 months and switch him to formula since we were going on vacation and I was NOT bringing that pump with me. I had it down to a science so that when I went back to work, he would have enough to eat every day.
Being back at work and pumping was a challenge. Between making sure my door to my office was locked, calls, emails, meetings, washing the bottles and pump parts, shlepping the pump, the parts, and the milk back and forth, it was exhausting.
When my son was 5 months old my milk supply crashed, and I was getting less and less each time. We used up the frozen milk and on to formula (Costco brand FTW!) it was. This all happened earlier than I had planned, but there was nothing I could do about it. I had an internal struggle between being happy that I was done, and guilty that I couldn’t keep going.
I’ve always been a believer in “fed is best.” I never had any issues about the thought of giving a baby formula(what a wonderful invention formula is!!), but when it was my time, I still had this lingering twinge of guilt. Did I do something wrong? If I tried harder to nurse him at the beginning, would I have been able to keep up with supply and demand better as he got older? He was a happy baby and thriving, so why did I feel guilty? Eventually and luckily, that twinge of guilt went away.
When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter last spring family and friends asked: will you try to nurse her, are you going to go right to formula, or will you exclusively pump again? The truth was that I didn’t care, if she latched then great, if she didn’t then I’d decide if we’d go straight to formula or if I’d try pumping exclusively again. She latched when she was born in labor and delivery but when we got to our room upstairs she was having trouble latching, and so it began again. The good ole pump made its way back into my life. I fell back into it easily, it was familiar and comfortable for me to just do it again for her, so I stopped trying to get her to latch pretty much as soon as we got home.
This time around I have the same goal of 6 months..but to be honest.. I don’t know how long I am going to make it and I’m totally fine with that. Let me tell you, it’s a whole new ballgame getting everyone ready in the morning with a toddler around, and I go back to work in a few weeks!
It’s funny, any of the guilt I had last time is totally non existent this time around. Fed really is best. The reality is that as long as my kids are healthy and happy, I am happy too.