Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Sarah the Mother Pumper: Our Breastfeeding Journey

A while back, I had an email from Aeroflow (where I got my pump) asking for Mother Pumper stories. I was still in the new mom with a newborn fog, so I didn't send in my story. Now that I'm back at work and have been a Mother Pumper for over four months and the fog has lifted a little, I decided it was time to share my story as a Mother Pumper! There's even a Mother Pumper blog community. So cool!

I've only blogged a few times since having Carter. I've wanted to write about breastfeeding, about our journey with it because people talk about it, but usually in a this or that way is best, not a
"this is how we did it".  Breastfeeding is such a hot topic and sparks fire in the hearts of many mamas for one reason: your ability to be a good mom comes into question. Or at least it feels that way. Personally, I think that we moms are more alike than not, so sharing your story helps others that are like you find their way and peace with their decision.

When I was pregnant, I was asked by oh so many women, "Are you going to breastfeed?" and I would reply that I was going to try. I was a some breastfed, mostly formula fed baby. My mom has worked my entire life. I knew that I was going back to work, so I really wasn't tied to one way of feeding over the other. I just knew that I wanted to try. To give it an honest go and, if it didn't work out, be able to say that I gave it my all and it just wasn't for us.

My favorite quote about breastfeeding actually came from the social worker that we spoke with before leaving the hospital. It has stuck with me and provided sanity in many stressful moments: For something that is so natural, it sure as heck doesn't just happen naturally.

So, so true. At least for me.

Our breastfeeding story begins with my labor and the word magnesium.

I hate that word. When we were leaving the hospital, I told Aaron that I was going to make a sign with three terms (blood pressure, magnesium and breastfeeding) and if someone said one of the words in the house, they were going to be kicked out. Immediately.

I had preeclampsia. I was induced two weeks early because of it.  One of these days I will get around to writing out Carter's birth story if only for me to remember just how crazy it was and how blessed we are. The treatment for preeclampsia is to have the baby. If you're like me, you're given magnesium. It's a muscle relaxer that helps prevent seizures.  It can make you very tired and loopy. In my hospital, you aren't allowed to eat (you could asphyxiate) and you are tied to the bed. You get a catheter and you're bedridden until you're off the mag.  You're also on magnesium for 24 hours after you have the baby.  And, because it makes you tired and loopy, you aren't allowed to be alone with the baby. Magnesium also can cause a delay in your milk coming in. It's fun. Not.

One of my first photos with Little Man. This was after we left labor and delivery.
Since I had magnesium, Carter had magnesium too. When babies are born, they are very sleepy. I've read that it's best to feed them within the first hour or two because of the sleepiness (but I'm not a doctor, so don't quote me on that). Because Carter had mag in his system, he was even sleepier than usual and had no interest in eating. We did skin to skin as soon as he was born. We tried to breastfeed him. It also didn't help that I didn't have any milk (because of the mag). We sent him to the nursery the first night because I was still on magnesium, so I couldn't help Aaron, and we'd both been up for about 24 hours at that point. They gave him some formula through a syringe in the nursery so he wouldn't starve.

The nurses kept saying, "He'll eat when he's hungry." And we kept trying. But my milk didn't come in and he didn't eat. And then all of the sudden it was, "You need to breastfeed your baby now. He needs to eat, he's dropped 13% below his birth weight."

You want to feel like a terrible parent? Like you've totally failed and it's only day 2? That's how you do it.

Thankfully, the same nurse that delivered that lovely statement was also willing to help us. And was probably the most helpful of everyone, including the lactation consultants. Her name was Sarah (I knew she was good people!). She came to see us every three hours that night and taught us how to do SNS.  With SNS, you're simulating breastfeeding with formula.  The idea is to stimulate your breasts so that milk does come in and teaches the baby how to breastfeed. You put the formula into a vial that hooks onto your bra at your shoulder. It uses gravity and suction from the baby to deliver the formula through a tiny tube that goes into a nipple shield.  It's a pain in the butt to set up and I honestly couldn't have done it without Aaron. We did this every three hours for 2 or 3 days.

We met with lactation consultants. They checked and made sure he didn't have a lip or tongue tie. He had a small tongue tie, but the LC told us it was small and would take care of itself. By the time we left the hospital (5 days later), the nurses and lactation consultants were all proud of us and impressed by what we had done.  One of the LCs even brought us a crocheted blanket and cap for Carter.

This is my one and only photo of Carter breastfeeding. I never planned to document it, but his little face was so precious that I couldn't not capture the moment. 

When we got home, the SNS went out the door. My milk had started to come in, so I breastfed with a nipple shield, because apparently I have flat nipples (the world told me this) and we supplemented with formula. We were on a strict schedule with a certain amount we had to bottle feed him in order to get him back up to his birth weight. I would feed him, then supplement and then pump. And it hurt. Lord the nipple shield hurt. Because it felt like a bottle, I got treated like a bottle. We lost the nipple shield once. I used one that was too small until we replaced it. And then my nipples started to bleed.

It was rough. I lasted about two weeks at home. I caught myself getting mad at Carter because of how much work it was and how hard it was to get him to latch. I was mad because it hurt. Because I was mentally and physically exhausted. Because my body was still reeling from everything. And that  bleeding nipple with blood in the nipple shield was the last straw.

At that point, I decided to stop breastfeeding and to just pump. For my sanity. We were already supplementing with formula and he was doing fine. Aaron was fine with me stopping all together, but I felt like I could keep pumping. Also, formula is expensive and we were about to be broke from daycare.

Today, I pump four to five times a day. I produce between 14 and 16 ounces a day and he eats around 32 ounces. We've been doing this for 4 months now.

Here's my schedule, especially now that I'm working:

5:30 AM - 20 minute pumping session
9:30 AM - 15 minute pumping session
1:30 PM - 15 minute pumping session
5:00 PM - 15 minute pumping session
10:00 PM - 20 minute pumping session

I can honestly say that this is probably more work than just breastfeeding. There are so many pump parts and bottles to wash. And I know the tricks of the trade and how to make life easier. I've also now pumped while road tripping and flying for work training. It just is what it is. But I always knew that I'd be pumping when I went back to work. And pumping also allowed Aaron to share in the joy of middle of the night feedings.

Right now, my goal is six months. I used to say anything after that was gravy, but considering I've dreamed about chucking the pump out the window while flying down the interstate, I'm going to say that's probably not going to happen.

My name is Sarah. This is my happy, healthy and growing baby boy named Carter. He's breast and formula fed. Mostly, he's just fed. I'm a proud breastfeeding, working mother pumper.