What does this photo mean to you? To me, it represents nurturing, sustenance and love. The infant seems relaxed, engaged and all is well. Unfortunately, this was not my breastfeeding experience. Breastfeeding was an emotional journey for me. It seemed the odds were against me – low milk supply, baby with reflux and feeding issues (which would continue through his preschool years), multiple yeast infections, mastitis, and difficulty latching. All of our feeding sessions except two ended in screaming fests. Because I had low supply, I attempted to feed my son, then my husband would feed him a bottle, then I would pump. Sometimes I would partially pump, then try and feed My son.
I worked with a lactation consultant for several months trying to get baby to latch and deal with my low milk supply. We even tried the Supplemental Nursing System (SNS). This tube allows you to breastfeed your baby, while also supplementing with either pumped milk or formula, so that your baby can eat at the breast. Unfortunately, this did not work for us either.
With only 2 weeks left before I returned to work, I needed to change course. So, after 2 1/2 months of trying to feed my son at the breast, I made the difficult decision to exclusively pump. This means that although my baby received my milk, he drank it from a bottle. At first, I didn’t have enough milk, so I needed to supplement with formula. We made up a cocktail of sorts, that my son would get a bottle of breast milk (sometimes only ½ an ounce or an ounce) and then a bottle of formula. During these early days, my son was receiving ¾ formula and ¼ milk. As the weeks went on, I was eventually able to increase the breast milk ratio, to where he no longer required formula. Interestingly, my low supply was no longer an issue once I made the decision to exclusively pump, because I felt good about the decision and let go of some of the stress.
While I initially looked at my breastfeeding experience as a failure, it was anything but. I was able to exclusively pump for my son until he was 2 years and 11 months old. Now that is a success – even though it looks very different than I originally envisioned.
This was possible due to my supportive husband, first and foremost. He fed baby while I was pumping, and later cared for him when I was pumping and my son had already been fed. Additionally, online support groups conveyed positivity and told me that I could make this work for my baby and me. (This was especially helpful when some family and friends left me feeling discouraged about my choice, saying things like, “Wouldn’t it be easier if you just gave him formula?” or “How much time does that take? I would NEVER do that!”) Finally, I was fortunate to have a supportive employer who provided a clean, private and secure pumping location on my breaks.
Do you know someone who exclusively pumps? Is it something you would consider?
Click here to learn more about exclusive pumping.
Click here for resources on breastfeeding in general.