Before we had Peanut, I wasn’t sure I could breastfeed. My primary concern was that I had a breast reduction 10 years ago and I was pretty sure that would affect my ability to breastfeed. But what I didn’t know was that wasn’t the biggest obstacle – I later found out that PCOS, which I was diagnosed with many years ago, actually has a pretty big impact on milk supply. I knew about all the other effects of PCOS, one of the main ones being infertility and so I just felt incredibly grateful to be able to get pregnant without any medical intervention.
Unfortunately, there are no tests that can be done beforehand to tell you whether you can breastfeed or not. You just kinda have to give it a whirl once you have a baby and hope for the best. My expectations were low but I was determined to do everything I could to breastfeed successfully. Here’s where I got lucky: the pediatrician we picked (and I’ll admit that we didn’t go about this very well – we didn’t interview anybody or visit any doctor’s offices; we were completely unprepared. When we had the baby and the hospital asked who our pediatrician was, we panicked and said the first office that came to mind) is also a lactation consultant. And she is awesome. (I don’t throw that word around lightly.) In the early weeks, we would go to her office every 2-3 days, even on weekends, and she would sit with us while I attempted to nurse so she could see how it was going or what I was doing wrong. I mean, she literally sat with us in the room for almost an hour and never once made us feel like we were wasting her time. For a busy doctor, this is practically unheard of.
I can honestly say that I think had we not found this doctor, I probably would’ve given up trying to breastfeed after a week or so. (I also want to give huge props to my husband who encouraged me every step of the way and never once made me feel bad about myself. He was so supportive through this whole thing and continues to be supportive – without that support, I probably would’ve fallen apart.) It was hard. There were far too many times that I would cry while trying to put Peanut on the breast and she struggled and fought and wailed and I just felt that I couldn’t even do the most basic thing such as feed my child. I remember saying to my husband through my tears, “My baby shouldn’t have to work this hard just to get food!” I had to use nipple shields and milk syringes and supplemental tubes taped to my breast that gave her formula while she nursed so she could a get a little breast milk but not starve. I took goats rue (the nastiest tasting stuff ever), fenugreek and prescription pills that had to be ordered from NorthCarolina all to try to increase my milk supply, most of it to no avail. And so I felt guilty. And ashamed. And exhausted.
(I’m going to go off on a bit of a tangent here: during this time, somebody I follow on twitter who was pregnant at the time, tweeted about breastfeeding and how she wasn’t worried about it because it’s completely natural and the body just knows what to do [emphasis mine]. While I understand this way of thinking, I feel like it’s really damaging to the millions of women who are struggling to breastfeed and already feeling enough shame about it. Could we just stop perpetuating the idea that it’s supposed to be easy? Even without my supply issues, I believe that breastfeeding is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Yes, it’s totally worth it but perhaps that’s one of the things that makes it so hard to begin with. There are all these emotions and expectations tied up in it and the last thing new mothers need is more pressure.)
Anyway…we kept going and eventually we found a rhythm. No, I couldn’t breastfeed exclusively but I could nurse enough to give her about half her nutrition from breast milk and also enough to feel like I was getting that bond that I craved. I began to love breastfeeding, especially during the times when it seemed like all she did was cry unless she was on the breast. Once I realized I could do this, I decided I wanted to make it to a year. I wanted to give Peanut as much as I could up until her first birthday. And then I went back to work, where I had to go through the hassle of trying to find time in my schedule to pump and shortly after that, Peanut became a very curious, wiggling, active baby who would now only nurse in the morning and only for about 2 minutes. Therefore I had to pump even more to ensure that she would continue to get all the breast milk that she could.
And so, as you may have guessed from the title of this post, I absolutely hate pumping. Really, truly hate it. As much as I love breastfeeding, I hate pumping. I don’t even think words can describe how much I hate it. But we’re so close to Peanut’s first birthday and so I continue; I’m determined to make it the year that I promised myself. But wow, I’m going to be so happy when I can toss that pump in the closet and never look at it again. Or until the next kid…