Hi, welcome to my milk factory. I’m a mom, but people also call me the human cow because my body can make an excess of breast milk. Breastfeeding and pumping for me was somehow simultaneously the most rewarding and wonderful experience while being the most exhausting and lonely time of my life.
What a blessing!
I am aware that women try to breast feed and cannot. Mostly I’m grateful. I’m grateful that I was able to provide nutrition for my children. I’m grateful for that bonding experience with them. I’m grateful for knowing when I completely dried up, that I could use skin to skin at any age to bring my supply back. I’m grateful for other mothers who guided me through this journey. I’m grateful for avoiding a formula shortage. I’m grateful for my healthy children. I’m grateful that I was able to donate four hundred ounces of breast milk to Ochsner’s milk bank in 2017. I A M G R A T E F U L.
BUT How Tremendously Exhausting!
These breasts were making extra milk from the get go. I had my own little operation going; bagging and tagging and freezing and washing bottles all day, every day.
My breastfeeding journey with my first born lasted for 14 months. Incredible. Wonderful. Exhausting. Pumping and/or feeding every three hours for 14 months! Sure, the schedule weans down over time and you cut out some night time feeds and increase time between pump sessions. But this whole experience can be overwhelming.
I want you to pause and take a second to consider how lonely all of that can be.
Ya’ll, I started a new job right after having my first child. And it took me a LONG time to feel like I made friends because I was always pumping. Treating patients all day long and pumping on breaks and at lunch time didn’t give me ANY time to speak to coworkers. Once I stopped pumping, the work relationships were able to truly blossom.
Why is it lonely?
When breastfeeding my first child, I was shy in public and around family and friends. My initial instinct was to isolate myself.
All that time pumping, alone with my thoughts, was a dangerous thing.
- Here we go again.
- Let me go into my corner.
- Let’s make sure no one else is uncomfortable.
- I feel like I’m missing out on everything.
- How many ounces did I make?
- Is it enough?
- When do I pump next?
- Where do I store this?
- How long can it stay in the fridge?
- It’s been on the counter too long.
- Don’t heat it in the microwave.
- Wait let me do it.
- How do I pump in public? I guess I’ll stay home.
- How do I breastfeed on a plane? I guess I’ll stay home.
- Do I have all my pump parts? I FORGOT THE FLANGE AT HOME! (Insert panic!)
Other mothers have shared some of the same feelings with me. No one teaches you how to be a parent. There are some classes you can take, but mostly it’s like being thrown to the wolves which is extremely stressful and terrifying.
If I could go back…
If I could go back and give myself advise as a new mother, here’s what I would tell her:
- The first few weeks of breastfeeding is hard, BUT it gets easier.
- You don’t have to be shy and hide when breastfeeding.
- Your breastfeeding journey doesn’t have to be lonely.
- Your breastfeeding journey will look different than others and that’s okay.
- Let others help you.
- Talk to someone! Counseling is a normal part of healthcare. In my opinion, it should be routine for every postpartum mother.
- Don’t you dare care what anyone else thinks. (This last one is my magic trick. When I remember to use it, it’s golden.)
Mothers need support. Check on your strong friends. Show up to their house. Wash their bottles. Fold their laundry. Let them nap. Even strong moms need support. They may be good at hiding it but no one is strong one hundred percent of the time.
So, is breastfeeding and pumping a blessing?
In my opinion, yes of course breast feeding is a blessing. However, I will never forget the extreme determination, blood, sweat, and tears that went into this beautiful, exhausting journey.
At the end of the day, fed is best. We are all just doing our best to love and protect our babies. And in case you haven’t heard this today, you’re doing an excellent job! Peace, love, and boobies!