Sophia had a tongue tie when she was born which caused some problems latching. For the first two days we expressed colostrum with a syringe and syringe fed her. When my milk came in I used a pump and finger fed her with a feeding tube taped to my finger.
When she was three days old, we took her to the doctor to get the tongue tie cut. After that I called the lactation consultant to come and help with getting her latched correctly. I was able to feed (uncomfortably, and with difficulty) while she was there, but when she was gone I couldn’t do it properly. The same thing happened when my midwife helped me, and even my aunty. Whenever someone was there to help, I was sort of able to do it, but when I tried on my own, it just didn’t work. Sophia woke up at 3am, so I tried putting her to the breast again to feed her. She wouldn’t latch: I was full, leaking, and stressed; she was hungry and stressed. I called the midwife (yes, at 3am) in tears, with Sophia screaming in the background, and told her, “I can’t do it, she won’t latch”.
Sophia being finger fed EBM
“You need to both calm down, have a shower” (she knows Sophia loves the shower).
“Can you still express?”
“OK then, just express, and finger feed her.” I was so intent on being able to breastfeed, that I had totally ignored the breast pump.
I pumped, fed her, then we all slept happily.
After speaking to my midwife, and Plunket, seeing lactation consultants, and discussing it with my husband, I decided to just ‘give up’ on breastfeeding. Obviously it isn’t going to work for us, so there is not point stressing us both out trying. I went and purchased my own pump (until then I had been using one borrowed from my midwife).
Sophia having a bottle of my EBM
I was still finger feeding Sophia, so at about three weeks old we tried Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature bottles. She didn’t like them, so we went back to finger feeding. When she was six weeks old, we finally found a teat she liked, so were able to transition her to a bottle.
I managed to build up a good supply of milk in the fridge, so that when we went out for dinner on our anniversary I had a drink (two standard drinks). The next two pumpings I had to throw out because of the alcohol in my milk, and after that I noticed my volume had decreased.
For a while my supply struggled to keep up with demand, so I kept trying her at the breast to stimulate production. I also while cluster pumped for a day, and soon my supply was back.
I enjoy pumping, as it is a nice chance for a wee time-out – I usually use the time to read. If I have to, I am able to pump while feeding Sophia, or giving her a cuddle. It gets easier to do other things while pumping once you’re used to it.
In the first few weeks I felt like a terrible mother because I couldn’t breastfeed. I don’t have any photos of Sophia being finger fed, because I didn’t want there to be evidence of it in later years. Looking back on it now, it was crazy thinking. I have come to realise that I am the opposite of a bad mother. My baby is better off on expressed breast milk than she would be on formula, and full time pumping takes a good dose of love and commitment on my part.
I had many people offering to help me get my baby breastfeeding, but after two months I got to the point where I knew it wasn’t going to happen, no point stressing about it.
Sometimes when I am giving Sophia a bottle in public I feel like I have to justify myself to strangers and explain that it is EBM, not formula in the bottle.
Sophia - 7 Months
Because my pump is battery operated, I am able to pump when I’m out and about. I always take my power cord with me just in case, so I have been able to plug myself into the Mall Parents’ room, University Parents room, and at friends’ homes. I have pumped in a park, in a cafe, in the car on a long trip, on an intercity bus in broad daylight, and even on a full intercity bus at night time (they guy next to me didn’t say anything about it :s)
My greatest fear is that I’ll go on holiday out of town, and leave my pump, or part of it behind. I am thankful to say that never happened, although I did leave essential parts behind on two occasions when I went to Uni.
Sophia on her 1st Birthday
My supply started decreasing when Sophia was ten months old, and a couple of weeks before her first birthday it got so low I thought I wouldn’t be able to make it until her birthday. It made me sad, and I felt like a failure again. I started pumping just morning and night (12 hours apart), but I was getting a lot more milk, so was able to keep pumping for another couple of weeks. When I was only getting 50mls, I started pumping just in the mornings, which lasted about a another week. I was pleased I made it pumping exclusively until Sophia’s first birthday, and continued for a couple of weeks after. Because I got a few more weeks than I was expecting, when I stopped, there weren’t any sad feelings.
I am really proud of myself for pumping so long, and I’m quite surprised my supply managed to hold up for a year without a baby’s mouth to keep it going.
I am due with a little brother for Sophia in November and I am filling myself with as much information as possible and surrounding myself with supportive people in real life and online so I can feed him at the breast instead of from a bottle.
I made the most of my pumping experience, but it was hard. I would much rather be able to feed my baby whenever, wherever than need to have a bottle and somewhere to warm it, and have to remember to take my pump with me everywhere I go. Come November I hope to become a total NIPing pro!
I know with a little bit of help, support, and perseverance I CAN breastfeed. I have learnt from my past and will make sure I succeed at this. I keep telling myself “I WILL BREASTFEED”, and I really do mean it.
I’m taking the lazy way out this time and breastfeeding. No bottles or pumps for me (except for pumping milk to donate via HM4HB NZ).