Breast milk. Formula. That strange goat’s milk recipe passed down from your great-grandmother. Whatever the choice in feeding your baby, you’re bound to run into a snag along the way. After successfully breastfeeding one child, I was sure the second would be a piece of cake. Boy, was I wrong!
With my first baby, I chose to breastfeed, but not for the reasons you may think. You see, I was a complete metro-hippy back then. I was just finishing up an environmental master’s degree program at UNR. The waste from endless cans of formula wasn’t something I wanted to take on, so breastfeeding was the best choice for me. The first couple of months were a struggle, but once we got into a groove, my daughter had breast milk through her entire first year.
Cue the second baby. I had a completely healthy pregnancy, but a complicated delivery that left him in the NICU for the first 17 days of his life. His last hurdle was teaching him to suck, swallow, and breathe all at once. My husband and I agreed that a bottle would be easier for him, as it provided a more immediate reaction. Since my daughter had breast milk for a full year, I wanted to give it my best effort to provide the same for my son. Our breastfeeding dream had been suddenly been thrown out the window, so I quickly learned to embrace the power of the pump.
During those late nights in the first few months, I scoured the internet searching for any resources on exclusive pumping. I had so many questions. How often do I need to pump? What foods should I eat? How much milk does he need each day? Is it realistic to think that I could pump for an entire year? I didn’t find much, just a few chat boards with exclusively pumping moms, but that was enough to give me hope.
I dove in without reservation, pumping around the clock for the first three months. My husband would handle the middle-of-the-night bottle while I’d wake up and pump. Once exhaustion completely took over by the fourth month, and I was back to working full-time again, I cut the night pump and would get in six or seven pumps a day. I sailed right on through until my son’s reflux flared up and we decided that I needed to cut dairy. I had a freezer stocked with milk for day care that I had to throw out. I went from being overly prepared to just barely getting by each week.
By month eight, I was ready to give up. I had heard of a great local resource, Starfish Lactation, so as a last-ditch effort, I gave Robin a call. My goodness, what an amazing woman! She gave me some tips to maintain my supply and helped me better understand how milk production and let-down work. But the most helpful thing she said was that I may not be able to make it to a year. Hearing a professional tell me it was okay to not reach my goal somehow made it more acceptable.
Funny things happen when you stop putting so much pressure on yourself. I was barely pumping enough milk each week, yet somehow I made it! I’ve been exclusively pumping for a full year now! I’ve learned so much through this journey. Firstly – feeding a baby is stressful! But secondly – now more than ever, I realize that things may not always happen as I envision, but if I’m patient and flexible, I can make it work.
For any moms facing the challenge of exclusive pumping, know that it is possible. It’s an uphill battle, but with the right resources, and a few batches of lactation cookies thrown in for good measure, you can make it work too!
Guest contributor Megan Gibson is a local mom and marketing professional who currently manages communications for a national nonprofit organization. When not fully engaged in toddler activities, she loves testing out new recipes, tackling DIY home projects, and sipping wine with good friends.