So I’m trying to nurse at home, and the suggestion is to nurse exclusively for the first six weeks. And I really planned to do that. I wasn’t strict, as in thinking “no formula EVER.” I just figured, it nourishes my baby, it’s free, and it helps me lose weight. We’d gotten bottles and cleaned and sterilized them, for the thought of me pumping and popping them in the fridge to be given to Blue Eyes when I was working. I still had problems. It all stemmed from Blue Eyes not being able to latch on. I followed the directions, did (I thought) what all the nurses did who were successful in getting him to latch on. With the latching on problems (and the hospital telling me to feed him every 1-2 hours or when he’s hungry, whichever’s first. So unless Blue Eyes wanted to feed constantly or every half hour or something, I had to try every couple hours. And of course, there’s was the little chart we had to fill in with when he was fed and changed and how many of each diaper (number 1 and 2). If it wasn’t filled in, they asked.
So all that amounted to nursing becoming a traumatic experience. I’d try (already anxious from the previous failed attempts on my own), my son would start crying, I’d get more upset, and it’d become an endless cycle. I think I succeeded twice, and let him eat for a good long while. At the hospital, the nurse had told me my “job” was 15 minutes. Any longer was my decision. Well, given the problems we’d had nursing, I let his nurse longer. There was also the added anxiety that even if I was successful this time, there was no way of know if I’d be successful again. Fairly soon it became clear that we’d have to get Blue Eyes on bottles and formula. That realization wrecked me. Obviously, I was glad we could feed him, that we had another means of giving him the nourishment he needed. I did tons of research of breastmilk and formula, and found that the only thing missing from formula was immune system enzymes that science couldn’t duplicate. I also found out (much later on) that back in the day, breastfeeding had a stigma attached to it (that’s right, breastfeeding had a stigma). This stigma was basically that only poor people breastfed, because they couldn’t afford to buy formula. Talk about wow. Anyway, so knowing that formula was just about the same as breastmilk helped me a little in coming to terms with Blue Eyes getting formula. I didn’t even care about the bottle (actual nursing was weird for me, but pumping was annoying and time-consuming; glad it’s available, but doesn’t mean I have to like it). My concern was still being able to give Blue Eyes breastmilk. So I pumped.
Something you learn, whether in Lamaze class or on your own, is that the mechanics (for lack of a better term) behind a baby nursing and pumping are different. And the difference, at least for me, was key in my pumping. Essentially, the way a baby feeds actually tells the muscles and nerves (or whatever) in a mom’s body to produce more milk. Pumping doesn’t, and if you’ve ever actually watched a pump in action, you kinda get why. It’s is subtly different, but it’s enough. Now I’ve met some women (one of whom is a friend of mine), who had no problems pumping despite the fact that she was not nursing, or at least she stopped at some point (baby teeth are sharp, trust me). Unfortunately, I wasn’t that lucky.
The other problem I had with pumping is pumping at work. Now legally, they couldn’t stop me from pumping. However, any nursing mom knows that the baby and the mother’s body are on a schedule. Go too long and your breasts can actually hurt from having too much milk. Normally, you’re supposed to pumps every couple hours, right after you nurse (if possible), but eventually your body gets into a routine. When you’re working a 9 to 5 job, that means nurse/pump before work (if you can), mid-morning, lunchtime, mid-afternoon, and then nurse the baby and pump when you get home for dinner. Here’s another thing, the actual pumping. Pumping breastmilk is a process, it’s not a quick trip to the bathroom. You have to have space because double pumps are best for working moms and they’re big and there’s setup involved, both with the pump and you. So a good pumping session is probably a good 30-40 minutes. Maybe longer if you’ve really got some steam going.
No pun intended, that doesn’t always work when you’re working. Some people gets morning and afternoon breaks and a lunch break, some don’t, etc. And normal morning and afternoon breaks are maybe 15 minutes max. You see where I’m going. There was no way I could get a good pumping session in. Anxiety running through your veins when you’re on the clock and trying to pump, is not a good recipe.
So I tried, and tried, racing to the bathroom (yeah, no separate room where I was comfortable baring all and having the constant anxiety of someone accidentally walking in), trying to get set up and pump and make the most of my 15 minutes. Now granted, I did have the option of taking a shorter lunch, and then I could have 3 30- minute sessions. In retrospect, I possibly should have done it. However, my actual job made it more difficult, as I was the front desk person. Answering the phone was my bit, and yes I could get coverage, but I think I’d have had a bit more leeway had I been higher up in the company food chain (which wasn’t going to happen where I was because of the needs of the office, etc.) Plus, I didn’t feel comfortable discussing my parenthood and the associated challenges with most of my co-workers, even the women. So again, I struggled and struggled. It felt like weeks, but was probably only a week at the most (when you’re constantly pumping, time both slows down and speeds up). And throughout this struggle, because I wasn’t nursing, my milk production was decreasing. At one point, past the six-week mark, I tried to nurse my son.
Mix all this up and I started researching different methods of increasing my milk production. Another thing I loathe about the health system in the States, holistic and alternative medicine are not part of medical school training. So unless you pursue the knowledge yourself, you won’t know what you’re talking about. I was researching holistic methods of upping my milk production. Obviously you want to be careful, since whatever you eat/drink/consume is going to be in your breastmilk. I read about different herbs that could be taken, but, like a “good” girl, I checked with my ob-gyn first. Unfortunately, even if someone on the staff there knew about holistic remedies, there’s a good possibility that legally they couldn’t advise me. Liability and all that, which I kinda of understand. However, they should have had referrals to other professionals to help patients with these concerns and questions. As it was, all I got was the advice of, keep trying to nurse. Great, thank you very much. Granted I could have called a lactation consultant, but I’m a touch busy. New mother and going back to work. No one checks on you after you get out of the hospital, except for one checkup six weeks postpartum. I’ll get to that later.