Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Guest Blog: My Affair(s) with my Pump(s)

This is a guest blog post from another pumping mama. I (mama Christa) met Kristine on facebook before I had Ella. We met because we were both exclusive pumpers (she currently was and I had with Olivia). I'm really excited that she was willing to share her pumping story because it shows other mamas that there are so many ways to breastfeed and provide milk to your baby. It also let's other pumping mamas know that they're not alone!! Thanks Kristine!

I am proud to say that I am a working mother to two very healthy & active young boys. However, I am not the type that dreamt of marriage & kids when I was young so to be where I am at today was a total surprise to me. I never thought I’d find anyone that would put up with me or my selfish ways but I actually did find a wonderful man & not long after we met we got married. We went thru quite a few turbulent years early on in our marriage…he left his family business to come to work for my family business…& then we my family business to venture out on our own. We managed to make a go of it for just over 3 years before I found out that I was expecting our first child.

Because money was tight, my plan was to breastfeed my son for his first year so that we wouldn’t have to spend money on formula in addition to all of the extra expenses we would soon be incurring. Our business was struggling financially so we made the decision to close it down shortly after I delivered my son (via c-section). From day one, breastfeeding was very hard for me. I have VERY dry skin and to add insult to injury, I couldn’t get a good latch to save my life. I also had problems with forceful letdown. I was also given a pump in the hospital to “encourage my milk to come in”. Not sure if that was a blessing or not but my milk certainly came in! I tried desperately for 6 weeks to latch my son & nurse but cried thru most of the feedings because of the pain from a cracked/bloody nipple. I feared the thought of even putting him to my breast because I knew it’d be painful & often opted to just pump the milk & feed him from a bottle. It just made for a much easier & way less painful/stressful feeding for both me & my son.

BTW…my son did not have nipple confusion…he had nipple preference…& yes, even at such a young age they are able to make decisions on their own. ;)

All the while, my mom couldn’t help because she didn’t nurse me or my two sisters. My MIL, who’d nursed 7 babies, didn’t help because “it just wasn’t her place/style so she didn’t want to be intrusive” and my sister, who nursed her two LOs & was there to help for the first week postpartum, just kept telling me OVER & OVER that it “SHOULDN’T HURT”. OK…I get that it “shouldn’t hurt” but damn it…it hurt like hell! Nothing helped…not lanolin…not hot/cold compresses…hot showers…NOTHING! It seemed like time was standing still & I was to the point where I just couldn’t take it any longer. Nursing was just too painful & not at all what I’d expected it to be like for me to continue our nursing relationship as it was at that point in time.

About 5 weeks in & after battling mastitis several times, the Dr. told me to nurse & then pump so that I could keep them drained. What he didn’t tell me was not to pump too long or I’d over stimulate them & cause oversupply. Well, I did just what the doctor told me to do & wound up with WAY too much milk. Over supply can be a blessing but it can also be a problem if it’s not addressed +/ managed. That point in my nursing relationship was a turning point for me. It was all just too much & too overwhelming so I looked to simplify things & make it easier on me. So I did, I switched over to exclusively pumping…& it worked! It was do-able for me! While I felt like a failure for not being able to exclusively nurse, I knew I could at least do the next best thing & still provide him with my milk (& not have to dump money that we didn’t have into formula).
After switching over to pumping full time, feedings actually became a pleasant experience. My oldest grew really fast & thrived on that milk & I was overjoyed when we hit that one year mark so I no longer needed to pump. Well, because I oversupplied, I had a deep freeze full of milk that I’d tucked away for future use. Not knowing how precious it was, I forgot about it until long after his first birthday & had let it all expire. It tore me up to dump it but because it was well over the expiration, I had no other choice but to dump it. I made up my mind at that moment to do something better/more with the extra the next time around & stuck to my guns.

Approximately 3.5 years later, we found out that we were pregnant with #2 so I started looking around for a place to go to with the extra milk. My pumping “affair” had gone so well the first time around that I knew (especially since I’d planned on returning to work) that I’d have extra milk that I could donate so I got set up with the local milk bank in preparation for my next go round with my pumps. I also bought a second pump (secondhand but I’d be very cautious about doing this because it doesn’t take much to sabotage your milk supply when it comes to pumping) and kept this one in my vehicle with me so I could pump anywhere I needed to go for work/etc.

When LO #2 came along, he latched like a champ! Finally a normal/happy/easy nursing relationship…but again, we soon parted ways because I went back to working to support our double income budget. Even though it was short lived, I relish in the fact that I was able to nurse at least one of them without any artificial/high tech interference because it helped me let go of my feelings from my first nursling of not being able to latch which made me feel like I failed him. I knew that I could do it…but because pumping was so familiar to me, I opted to go this route again.

I was able to make several donations to the Austin Milk Bank & even got to meet a donor recipient mom in the process. If you oversupply & can donate, I highly recommend it. Per a phrase I’ve seen on TLB…I donate because it could be my baby. For some reason, even though mine weren’t preemies or sick, this was something that was very healing for me as both of my boys were c-sections & both of them were bottle fed (even though it was my milk). Long story short…if it hadn’t have been for my pumps, I would’ve never survived for the two plus years that I’ve been pumping for my boys because of the lack of support that I had or was able to afford during my pumping years.

Because of my experiences & my desire to help others avoid going thru what I went thru with breastfeeding, I have started working for WIC as a breastfeeding peer counselor. It just baffles me that there is so little support & information out there for new & breastfeeding moms. I really hope that I can help to change that…even if it’s only one mama at a time!

Kristine Keller
Mom to Grayson (5.5) & Jaxon (13.5 months)

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