I had a love/hate relationship with breastfeeding. I had a hate/hate relationship with pumping. Yet, I did both.
Learning to breastfeed my oldest child was difficult. As a first-time mom, I had no idea how to get him to latch on or anything about burping after each feed. I got painful blisters and clogged milk ducts. I was starving all the time, and I didn’t lose all the “baby weight” from breastfeeding. I gained it and a lot of it.
But, once I got the hang of it, I loved breastfeeding. I loved being able to feed my baby at any time, not having to worry about buying formula, and being able to meet his nutritional needs. I especially loved the closeness I felt with my son.
That bond made up for all the inconvenience breastfeeding sometimes caused. So what if I couldn’t have that glass of wine without pumping and dumping? Or if I no longer felt like my body was all my own? Looking into those sweet eyes while feeding my baby made it all worth it.
When my twins were born 3 months early, the nurses encouraged me to pump. They called my breast milk “liquid gold,” and said it would be great for their immune systems.
So, I would sit next to their isolettes with the hospital grade breast pump and make my babies food. Pumping was definitely not like breastfeeding, though. It was uncomfortable and didn’t produce nearly as much milk. However, since my boys were getting very little breast milk at first, I still created a good supply.
When my boys were finally able to breathe without the ventilator, I got the go ahead to breastfeed. Holding them both in my arms, and feeding them myself was amazing. And by myself, I mean with the help of nurses and nipple shields. It’s hard getting two babies to latch, especially ones that are so tiny. But, we did it!
I knew I would have to supplement with bottles and formula because they needed extra calories, but I figured we’d breastfeed part-time once we got home, and then eventually, full-time.
Unfortunately, one got Thrush, a painful, fungal infection in his mouth from the antibiotics he was taking. Of course, the other twin got it next. When the nurses told me that I could also get Thrush and it would feel like shards of glass in my breasts, I decided we were done with breastfeeding.
I was disappointed and sad that I wouldn’t get to experience that same bond I had with my oldest child. I had already missed out on so much with them being in the NICU, but I was exhausted and emotionally drained. So, that is when I decided I would pump. I wanted them to get breast milk for their first year, and so I pumped. And pumped.
That supply I had built up while they were in the hospital? We burned through that in a couple weeks of being home. I missed out on sleep, gained more weight, and was sore. I hated pumping. It felt like it was attached to me constantly. Sometimes, I think I can still hear that horrible noise it made, sucking in and out.
I’m sure formula would have been just fine, but I kept going. It might have been the guilt from their premature birth that made me so determined, but I made it pumping for an entire year. If my boys could endure blood transfusions and surgeries, I could handle pumping.
Even though it wasn’t fun, good did come from pumping. My boys gained weight and were healthy. It also gave me lots of time to myself, during which I started to heal from my traumatic pregnancy, birth experience, and NICU time by writing. I’m not sure I would have found that outlet or taken that time had it not been for pumping.
While I’m grateful for my experiences and proud of myself for what I did, I would never judge another mother for however she decides to feed her baby. Breastfeeding is challenging, and pumping is hard. Fed is best.