Oct 19, 2010  •  In Baby, Claire, Motherhood, Parenting, Personal

Motherhood: The Most Difficult Journey Yet (Part 5)

Motherhood: The Most Difficult Journey Yet (Part 1)
Motherhood: The Most Difficult Journey Yet (Part 2)
Motherhood: The Most Difficult Journey Yet (Part 3)
Motherhood: The Most Difficult Journey Yet (Part 4)

Do what works best for you and your family.

I repeat: Do what works best for you and your family.

Books, articles, and internet forums are great sources of information and advice. But don’t drive yourself crazy trying to follow everything to the teeth.

Because as soon as I decided to take my mother’s advice and cut down on my marathon pumping sessions, I actually started producing MORE milk. Additionally, I was better-rested, less stressed, and gave my nipples a chance to heal.

I gradually cut down my pumping sessions from every 2 hours to every 3-4 hours…then every 5-6 hours.


The Medela Pump In Style® Advanced Shoulder Bag: my best (breast?) friend and worst enemy

Today, at 19 days post-partum, I only pump 4 or 5 times in a 24 hour period, and I am producing 2-3 times the amount of milk that my baby needs…and my supply shows no signs of dwindling. I have a hefty stock of pumped breastmilk in the refrigerator and am starting to amass quite a collection in the freezer as well.

And now that my milk supply is sufficient for my hungry daughter (she continues to consume above the average amount for her weight but she seems healthy and happy so we are not concerned), I am ready to try taking her to my breast again. I have even purchased nipple shields and bottles that most closely resemble the human breast in order to make the transition as smooth as possible.

However, I will not worry too much if she ends up never taking my breast again.

Because at this point, exclusively pumping is working for us. Other people are able to take care of Claire while I nap, take showers, and — eventually — go out and have some “me” time away from the baby.

Sure, exclusively pumping has some drawbacks. Breastmilk loses some of its nutritional value once it is cooled, and even more so once it is frozen. A mother and child may not bond as well as they may with directly breastfeeding. And it is a lot of work cleaning and sterilizing all the pumping parts after each session.

However, they say that pumped breastmilk is still better than formula. Exclusively pumping is starting to gain in popularity and I have found much support and resources in sites like The Lactivist and Exclusively Pumping. So if this is what ends up working for me and my family, neither J nor I will have any problems with this solution. (Besides, J loves feeding Claire!)

This will be the last post in this series.

I am sure that I will have additional — and probably more difficult — challenges ahead of me as a new mother.

I still struggle at times, especially in the middle of the night when Claire won’t sleep for more than 30 minutes at a time and will only stop crying when I walk around with her in my arms.

Or when I catch myself in the mirror, baby in my arms, and I ask myself, “Whose baby am I holding?” (Nope, she doesn’t quite feel like MINE yet…)

And I still feel silly talking to her. Did/does anyone else have this problem?

But at the moment, I am starting to get the hang of it…being a mother, that is.

And I hope that I have helped new and future mothers by sharing this journey.

Next up: my labor story! (I know I seem to be going backwards, but bear with me here!)

Thank you to everyone for your support, advice, and prayers!

29 Responses to “Motherhood: The Most Difficult Journey Yet (Part 5)”

  1. Teresa:

    A friend of a friend did pumping exclusively for her twins and reported that she pumped *2 LITERS* of milk a day. Holy mackerel! Can you even imagine??? She must have been thirsty all the time!!

    Don't worry about feeling silly talking to her. Of course you feel silly talking to someone who basically never responds. Once she starts smiling in response to your voice you'll find it easier. Even now (my girl is 2) I'm not a big chatterer. Her dad more than makes up for me though. :-)

  2. Tiffany:

    I have no advice, but wanted to thank you for being so honest about this! I do not have any children, not even pregnant (yet), but I find it so helpful to hear REAL stories beyond things like "I am in love with my baby!" Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  3. MrsW:

    Yeah, I thought talking to my baby was weird too. I'd carry her around in the Moby dusting or something, and we'd just be totally silent. I'm a little better but I still stay pretty quiet with her. What I've heard is to just narrate your actions to her every once and while, or just sing to her as you go along. I make up stupid songs like "It's Diaper-Changing Time" and "You're My Chicken Nugget." Even if you think you sound stupid, she'll think you sound awesome.

  4. kimmie:

    Glad to hear that your milk supply is up! The first couple days of pumping is always the hardest when you just get like two drops. I was in a similar situation as you… I wanted to breastfeed but nothing was coming out, so I pumped until my nipples cracked and bled, so I supplemented with formula for the first few weeks. It finally got better but then baby was used to the bottle and wouldn't take to the breast. I pumped exclusively for the first 3 months, and when he was around 3 months old, I offered him the breast again, and it worked! He was more coordinated with the sucking (now that he wans't a newborn, and he knew what he was doing) and so I nursed all the way up to 1 year (with pumping at work). So don't worry that she is bottle fed for now, you should try later on to see how she takes the breast. Plus, your nipples won't hurt as much after a few weeks/months of pumping :) Good luck! and congratulations!

  5. kimmie:

    Oh, and another thing. That "PUMP IN STYLE" pump? UGH. I hate that thing with a passion. It doesn't even come close to "in style" LOL. They need to rename it. heh

  6. Janet:

    RELAX.

    If you think the first month is tough wait until she starts high school.

    Try to relax and enjoy this time. You won't get it back.

  7. Joyce:

    I also exclusively pump for my 7-months old baby. It has been time consuming and hard, but it works for us because I had a really hard time breastfeeding. I gave up in a week and pump (a manual one, no less!) became my best friend.

    Just FYI. I had over 800oz of breast milk in the freezer when I found out that my daughter doesn't take frozen breast milk. Something called lipase enzyme…google it and you will see. My advice is to try your frozen milk on Claire and see how she takes it. My daughter won't take any frozen milk more than a week old. So right now, before I freeze, I scaled the milk.

    Good luck!

  8. Vir:

    You should be proud of your choice to exclusively pump. To me it is not a feat that is smaller than exclusively breastfeeding in any way. The effort you've put in to provide breastmilk to Claire is something to be applauded. That said, even if you'd felt led to formula feed that would be fine too…. whatever is best for your family! You're doing an amazing job.

    I think I felt silly talking to K until she hit the point where she started to seem to register my voice and respond a little… a few months in, to be sure! :)

  9. ann:

    hi! i've also exclusively pumped for 6 months. it was the best i can do. have you tried wearing her in a moby, white noise, swaddling? the environment is new to claire so she definitely wants to be as close to you as possible. hang in there!

  10. I'm sending your (eloquent as always) posts to my SIL, who felt so deeply conflicted about bottle feeding. Actual breastfeeding was so uncomfortable for her that it was ruining all the bonding time she had with my niece. Once she decided to pump and bottle feed, her relationship with her daughter got so much better.

  11. Megan:

    Glad things are getting better for you! I have a Claire too! She's four months old now but we also had some early problems with nursing. I had to use a nipple shield all the time because she couldn't latch on. Finally one day she just got it. Try to be patient and not let it worry you (its so hard though!)

  12. If you feel stupid talking to her – read to her – even adult books that interest *you*. She won't understand but it will help her vocabulary and soothe her and you won't feel as silly. If it helps – once they start interacting more (for Everly this was around 3 months) it gets SOOOO much easier/better. The smiles/giggles/playing with toys really helps. Plus they start sleeping better!

    So proud of you!

  13. Courtney:

    BIG TIME SAVING PUMPING TIP:
    You don't need to wash and sterilize everything after each pumping session!!! You can just refrigerate the parts in between sessions and wash them at the end of the day!

    I forget where I read this tip, but it made so much sense that I wondered why it is that new moms don't all think to do this (I wouldn't have thought to do it if I hadn't read it somewhere).

    Just like the breast milk in the sterilized bottle is safe when refrigerated, the breast milk inside the pump components is as well. So as long as you keep things in the fridge, you can save yourself A LOT of washing and sterilizing.

    I pump and then put the parts in a plastic sandwich bag and put them in the fridge. Sometimes if I'm feeling particularly lazy I'll leave the pump thingy right on the bottle, put the baggie over the top and put it right into the fridge. But if you do that, just be careful because the pump part can spill if it's knocked over.

    I figure this will buy you at least 30min more free time a day!

  14. Linda:

    Thank you for writing this series, I've truly enjoyed every single post. As an expecting mother it is preparing me emotionally better than any of the dumb books and I'm sure I'll be back reading them again once my baby is born. Thank you!

  15. pooiee:

    Glad to know you are feeling better now.
    give yourself some time, I'm sure your maternal instinct and all the motherly love will kick in when you are more relaxed. :)

  16. Erin:

    I second a previous commentor. Read to her, anything will do. I read many of my books outloud. That way you can read something a bit more stimulating than "Moo, Baa, La, La, La" and she gets to hear your voice!

  17. LHR:

    I'm so happy for you. And good to hear that you're getting some "you" time.

    If your baby won't sleep for more than 30 minutes at a time 20 days after she's born — hey, that's normal. It makes you understand why parents buy giant contraptions to help the baby sleep. I never thought I'd get a bouncer or want a swing, but I caved too.

    I totally felt silly talking to my baby. Was never the squealy-type around kids. As some other posters have mentioned, you can read. You can also narrate what you're doing. My friend used to read the newspaper and stock quotes to his infant.

    You'll grow into being a mom and, in a few months, being a little more animated in your conversations will come naturally.

  18. Good for you! Each mother is different – I say that I breastfeed Neddy for 5 months and even though he stopped taking the boob at 5 weeks, I pumped religiously for 4 months and it was HARD but I did it for him and yes, I say "breastfed" even tho it was me pumping the breastmilk for him.

  19. Pam:

    I exclusively pump for my baby…she's now 3 months old…she had jaundice in the beginning and we were instructed to feed her pumped milk and if i wasn't producing enough, to use formula. well it was day 4 and i was pumping 1/2 oz total per pump, so we used formula. in the meantime i was taking fenugreek 3 pills 3 times a day, drank lots of water, and tried not to stress out too much over everything as your mom mentioned, can affect the milk supply. well like you, baby loved the bottle immediately and didn't want to take breast much after that, she would scream when i tried to give her the boob. so i pumped and pumped. after about a week, my milk supply was steadily going up and i was overproducing about 6-8 oz a day, which is about what i overproduce to this day.

    after 10 days, i used a nipple shield and she took to it, i guess it was like a bottle so she liked it, except she was still an inefficient sucker that i still had to supplement a bottle of pumped milk, or i'd have to feed her again after 45 minutes. when i went to a lactation consultant, after sucking for 45 minutes, she was only able to drink 1/2 oz, vs the 2-3 oz she should be taking in. after 6 weeks, i thought i'd try without the shield and she actually took to it, except she sitll is an inefficient drinker and gets hungry again not too long after. i suppose i can keep this up and she can get better and better, so we'll see, but it's also nice that my husband and his parents can help feed her. i started pumping 8 times a day, after my milk was established, i dropped pumps and am down to 5 pumps a day and i don't pump in the middle of the night (7a, 11a, 3p, 7p, 11p). i stopped taking fenugreek after my milk was established as well.

    i do enjoy your journal entries and that you share everything about your experience, good and bad, thank you for being so honest. it's not easy being a mama. and yes i felt silly too talking to her at first, but she's gonna start responding and smiling when you play with her soon in a couple of weeks…and your heart is just going to melt!

  20. Christine:

    Thanks for sharing. I've been reading these posts intently since I'm gearing up for my little bundle to arrive hopefully in the next 7 weeks. I am hoping to be able to nurse for as long as possible, so it's good to hear about your journey.

  21. Pam:

    I also wanted to say, i know you already have a medela instyle pump which is a great pump that i used too, but i bought a medela freestyle pump at week 7, and i love it so much more. with the instyle, it's not a big deal but you're kinda tied to one place all the time as it's a total drag to move the pump to another room with the power cord. also, it's good the instyle pump allows you to be mobile with the battery unit, but it is a battery sucker (8 AA batteries) and you have to replace the batteries quickly.

    the first 6 weeks wasn't a big deal to have a stationary pump as I was healing and the baby was young so we didn't leave the house aside from a few quick errands or a walk around the neighborhood. but by week 8, we were starting to go out, have meals at restaurants, visit family, and i'd be out of the house more than 4 hours at a time, and i'd have to pump, and the freestyle made it easy to be mobile. i charge it overnight, and the charge is good for the rest of the day, and i can plop it in a bag and take it with me anywhere. i also bought a simple expressions bustier which made it even easier to pump since i had my hands free and could use the computer. also, with the freestyle and bustier, i am able to walk around the house freely (slowly but freely), get water, attend to baby if need to, do simple things around the house, i wasn't tied to the chair holding the pump in place.

    i was originally going to buy the pump on ebay which is cheaper than buying from babies r us, but if you don't buy from a certified medela dealer, you don't get medela's support service. medela's support services are supposed to be pretty good if something goes wrong with your pump, and can replace parts or the pump itself. so you can do a search on the internet for pumps from certified dealers, and they're still cheaper than babies r us. i think i ended up paying $280 for the pump total.

    anyways, something to think about. i am not paid by medela, i just really like their freestyle. i was really apprehensive about buying it since it does cost quite a bit, but i am glad i did because if i need to tend to my baby while pumping, or walk around the house to do get water or something, i can do it. and if something goes wrong with the pump, i always have the instyle to rely on while i'm being waited on by medela's support services.

    like other posters mentioned, i also don't clean after every pump, and i just put the parts in a baggie and put in the fridge, and clean it all at the end of the day.

  22. jcat:

    Thank you so much for this post. I'm an expectant mom who is hoping to breastfeed, and I'm hoping to take a class on it. However, I feel like the pressure I'm putting on myself (not others doing it to me) is what may ultimately cause me to fail. This is fantastic advice and I'll be sure to bookmark this page for when the time comes!

  23. Once again, I don't have kids… but I think exclusively pumping is totally fine. If she DOES go back to the breast, you may find that you actually like pumping most of the time and just breastfeeding at night to calm her down. I just got a pretty good job at the local hospital, and there's a good chance that I'll be working there for the next few years, babies or not. The hospital has a child care center right next to the office I'll be working at, which is pretty darn cool. As of right now I'm planning on working when I have a kid (although who knows if I'll change my mind when the time comes), so I plan on pumping quite a lot. And I think it's really nice that your husband loves feeding your little girl. I think that's great bonding time for them, and it's nice that you get to relax a bit. I can already tell you're a great mom, and although you don't feel like you've bonded as much as you though you would, it's obvious how much you care about your daughter and her needs. Thanks for writing this series, it's great to read a realistic view of motherhood.

  24. Larisa:

    I am litterly crying because you have taken me back 10 months, the time when I came home and my mom was here taking care of me, her baby. Breastfeeding is the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life, no joke. We took our baby to the pediatrician the next day because she didn't have a bowl movement, it's normal, but we were so freaked out that we didn't know. I was having latching problems, my nipples were sore, cracked…uhhh! I haven't thought about the first days because they are hard to relieve, but trust me, it will get better. I bough the breast shield, she latched on perfectly with it and a couple months later she was latching on without it. No big deal, but to my husband it was. Your nipples will bleed, your baby will drink your blood, normal, your breast will hurt but don't worry. You are trying your best and that's OK. I stopped breastfeeding at 6 months because it was too much work; I went back to work, I was pumping at work 4 times, coming home and feeding her, then pumping again 2x….ahhhh… My goal was 6 months of breastfeeding and I reached it. If I could go back in time and talk to myself, I would tell myself to take a deap breath and trust yourself that you are doing the best that you can do. Hugs..it will get better.

  25. Thanks so much for this post! It's so great for moms-to-be to hear about life on the other side of the trenches. I too had a lot of difficulties breastfeeding – so Baby Shortcake is not EBF, and had to be supplemented with formula at 2 weeks. It wasn't until 6 weeks that breastfeeding stopped being a living hell. I compared it to having to put your nipple in a meat grinder every hour – she was such a barracuda! Now things are better – it doesn't hurt, we have latching figured out, so she gets the boob for every feeding, unless we're out (then she gets a bottle of pumped breast milk or formula).

    As for the bleeding, it's normal to bleed up to 8 weeks, actually. I bled for 10 weeks (bright red for 6), and am still spotting at 13 weeks. It takes time to heal, but everything gets better eventually. You're doing great!

  26. Jane:

    I totally feel like you're talking about my experience. I just found your blog through another "bee" and as I sat, pumping, I read your journey after having Claire. My son is now 4 months old and I've been pumping exclusively since he was a week old. I had so much trouble getting him to latch-on properly and even had a lactation nurse come to my house to help because I was so frustrated and helpless. All I ever thought about was breast milk and feeding and it was taking over my life and draining everything from me. I was pumping every 3 hours for the first 6 weeks because my MIL was staying with us and it was nice that I could go pump while she took care of the baby. But, I was dreading her leaving because I didn't know if I could continue to pump when she left and be alone with the baby all day. I wondered constantly how mothers make it work and am still learning and trying to "figure it out." I set goals for myself about pumping as it was (and is) time-consuming and I felt like I was constantly pumping, washing, feeding… all the time. At first, I kept telling myself, 6 weeks is good enough with breast milk… I'll pump for 6 weeks at least and I'll be happy if I get there. 6 weeks became 2 months, then 3, then 4… I still contemplate whether or not I should stop, but somehow, I keep going. My long-term goal now is to make it to 6 months and then feed him whatever I have stocked in the freezer (probably a month or 2 more. I also have a surplus!). But, who knows, I may be saying 9 months by the time it's been 6. Randomly, I tried putting my little guy to my breast a couple days ago and I was amazed at how he quickly latched and started sucking! But, it was almost after I had pumped and so there wasn't much milk and he was hungry. I tried a couple feedings later and he, again, HATED it. Oh well. I have read though that people have gotten their babies to breastfeed as late as 9 months, so maybe it's worth a shot to try it once in awhile?

    I also was so conflicted with breast milk vs formula, especially those first few weeks when I was pumping so often and having a hard time getting used to being a mom. I grew up formula-fed, as were my siblings and so many other healthy and successful people I know. So, it was hard for me to see why formula was so much worse than breast milk, especially if formula feeding meant I wouldn't be stressing over breast milk and pumping, and therefore, a happier mom, which is way better for the baby than anything. Even though I'm still pumping exclusively, I honestly believe that whatever is going to make you happier and stress less, is better. Whether it's formula or breast milk.

    On a side note, my MIL (who is wonderful and has been really helpful) is all about the baby and making sure he gets breast milk. She had supply issues when my husband was born so he was only breastfed for a month before she switched to formula. I have an abundance of milk and so I feel like she believes I should give breast milk until I run out. She doesn't get that it's tiring and time-consuming…blah blah blah. But, my mom gets it. When I was having a hard time with it, my mom told me it was okay if I stopped and if I was having a hard time I should stop. Like you, my mom was looking out for me, not just for the baby, but me. It's funny how different the two moms approach the situation.

    Anyway, it's 4:30am and I finished pumping an hour ago and I should sleep. Thank you for your posts! Good luck!

  27. Diana:

    I feel like you are describing my own situation, I wanted to cry because I have been suffering over the same thing like you and ended up pumping during the day and breastfeeding during the night. I also have the support of my mom only when she came over from my country and my baby was already 6 weeks old. I drank tons of water and bought herbal supplements like crazy to increase my milk supply. I am so happy I found your blog. Hope to communicate more with you in the future.

  28. I’m expecting my first this December and have to say, thank you so much for your honest candid truth.

  29. breastfeeding is for perverts. 77 percent of all breastfead kids grow up feeling molested.

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