A Pumping Mom’s Journey
When I was pregnant with my first child I just knew I would breastfeed. As far as I knew it was just what you did with babies. I wasn’t expecting to give birth at 29 weeks. I wasn’t expecting my son, Robbie, to have birth defects that would make breastfeeding even more difficult. When I went into labor at 29 weeks I remember being terrified about a million different things, and one was breastfeeding. Crying I asked the doctor if I would still be able to, and he told me it was even more important that I make breastfeeding work with a preemie. After a day of trying to stop labor with no success the doctor decided it was time for an emergency C-section, since Robbie was transverse. Robbie was born July 22. I was put all the way under, and when I woke up there was a pump and pump kit in my room. That was the beginning of my pumping journey. I started pumping right away, 8 times a day, around the clock. I got plenty of colostrum, and on day three my milk came in. I always had more than enough milk, the nurses would marvel that with my tiny frame and small breasts, I was pumping enough to feed triplets. Pumping was all I could do for a long time. With a baby born under 3 pounds, I had a lot of waiting before the two of us could attempt breastfeeding. Robbie always had a strong rooting reflex, but we waited until he was 32 weeks to start our nursing attempts. Robbie did pretty well, but things still were hard and slow. After all, he wasn’t even supposed to be born yet. Unfortunately, he didn’t get stronger as we got closer to his guess date like preemies usually do. Instead he started throwing up, violently, everything he got from nursing or from his feeding tube. By 37 weeks we had stopped all oral feeds and he was being fed by a tube that constantly dripped my pumped milk in at only 21 mls per hour. I continued to pump. Robbie’s doctors kept looking for answers to his condition and Robbie got weaker and weaker. Where most preemies come home by their guess date, Robbie was transferred to a larger hospital for more testing. I still pumped all I could.
I hated pumping. It was this giant monster machine, sucking violently at my breast, instead of a soft, warm sucking baby. The first time I saw a pump ad in a magazine and felt a letdown, I didn’t think my heart would ever heal from the pain. But I pumped, because if any baby needed breast milk it was my tiny Robbie.
Soon the doctors found a pyloric stenosis. They had looked for it many times, but it was hard to find on his tiny body. Robbie had surgery to correct this problem, and we could once again hope things would get better. However this was almost a month after his guess date, he had gone so long with little to no oral stimulation and was very weak from struggling to keep nutrients in his body. Any sucking he could do burned up so many calories that he was losing weight from eating. So we went home with a NG (nasal gavage) feeding tube. It was three weeks of frustrating work to get him onto oral feeds before we could get rid of the feeding tube. With oral feeds we used a bottle, with medium flow, because any sucking still tired him out too much.
I pumped for a few more months. But now that Robbie was home it was harder to find time to pump, my baby needed so much to be held and loved. And I had been through so much already, the stress was finally taking a toll on my milk supply. It was January and Robbie was showing an ability and interest in nursing, but I had so little milk that he would get frustrated. I obtained a prescription for Reglan to boost my supply, but had a bad reaction and had to stop taking it immediately.
I only pumped for another month after that. My supply was just gone and there was nothing I could do, no matter how many herbs or teas I took. I had enough in my freezer to keep feeding Robbie breast milk for another month. But in March we had to switch to formula. I hadn’t know about milk sharing at that time or I would have tried that.
My son is four years old now, and his mouth is still a little weak actually. But I am finally accepting my journey. For years I was haunted with would’ve, could’ve, should’ves. I felt guilt, pain and anger. I would wish so much that I could go back in time and try this, or do that differently. I tried to tell myself I did everything I knew to do, everything I could do, but it took a long time to really believe that with my heart. Since then, I have a second child, a daughter. Everything about breastfeeding was easy with her. I never had any sore nipples or other adjustment problems in those first few weeks. I’ve always had plenty of milk, enough I could pump and share milk with Robbie. My daughter is over two years old now and still completely in love with her “beeboos.” My two nursing experiences couldn’t have been more different, and while one outcome may not have been what I wanted, it was still ok. I did my best and Robbie did his best, I learned and grew from what I went through.
Every mother has a story, and no matter how it ends it is a worthwhile story, with lots of emotions and heart behind it. And every story is worth hearing.