There was a point in my life where I remember thinking breastfeeding was weird.
My mom did not breast feed and I was not exposed to it. As I got older and more educated, I opened up to breastfeeding. Once I was pregnant I started reading everything I could about breastfeeding. I became very attached to the idea of breastfeeding my baby, but at the same time very aware that it might not work out and that it might be difficult. When my baby was born 8 weeks early and I could not even see him for 36 hours, the possibility of it being hard became my reality.
Before I was even able to see my baby I was handed a pump.
When I was delirious from medicine used to treat my preeclampsia and pain from my c-section, crying uncontrollably about not being able to see my baby, I became very well acquainted with my new breast pump. Every 2 hours a nurse would come in or my alarm on my phone would go off and I’d hook myself up to the pump. Those early days were difficult with hardly anything coming out and I would often fall asleep while pumping. Still, even then pumping gave me a purpose and made me feel like I was helping my preemie who was hooked up to machines in the NICU. I remember my feelings of pride as more and more milk would come out- we were not dealing with ounces and cups but tiny syringes that I would send down to the NICU with love. And as I became more mobile I would walk them down to the NICU in the middle of the night and peek in on my sleeping baby.
It was about a week after Milo was born that I finally was able to try nursing him. Prior to that he had been fed breast milk through a feeding tube- donor milk at first and then the milk I produced. The first nursing session did not go well. Milo was so tiny and fell asleep almost instantly. Milo’s pediatrician told me that if I wanted to nurse Milo, he would likely have to stay in the NICU for 1 or 2 weeks longer. As a very hormonal new mom who wanted her baby home as soon as possible, I agreed to bottle feeding. I continued to pump every 2-3 hours around the clock once I was sent home from the hospital without my baby. When I was up in the middle of the night pumping, I would call the hospital to check on Milo. Each time I went in to the hospital I would bring milk. Eventually I produced enough breast milk to start freezing it since Milo was eating so little.
Milo came home a month later and one of my biggest concerns was continuing pumping while being home alone with a new baby all day. I didn’t think I would make it, but somehow I did. We tried nursing again but it just didn’t work out and I learned to accept that it just wasn’t going to happen. While I felt sad we weren’t able to nurse, I felt proud of myself for pumping and knowing Milo was getting the best. He had problems with reflux and spitting up a lot, and I felt in my gut that I was giving him milk that was made for him and the gentlest on his tummy.
When Milo was 4 months old our worlds were turned upside down.
I found out my husband had been cheating on me, starting during my pregnancy, and had gotten the other woman pregnant. He ended up leaving me for her, and I quit my job to move back by my family. When it first happened I felt so sick to my stomach that I ate and drank very little. My supply dropped drastically so I did all I could to get it back up so I could continue to provide the main source of nutrition for my baby. I had days where I could barely get out of bed or I would cry all day, yet I made sure to eat and drink plenty of water and continue on my rigorous pumping schedule. At the time I had no idea how I continued to do it and at times I wondered why. Looking back, I know that not only did it help my son thrive, but it helped me through a very difficult time in my life. It gave purpose to each day and a reason to get out of bed. Later when my son started going away for visits with his father, it made me feel better to send breast milk along with him and continue to pump when Milo was not with me.
It was not easy, especially as we took a mini vacation to the Mall of America, a day trip to Six Flags or a day out at the state fair. I pumped in a public bathroom, the car, a family room at the mall, a utility shed at the fair. I pumped and fed my baby at the same time, I pumped and listened to my baby cry because I couldn’t hold him, I pumped and bounced my baby in his bouncer while I sang made up songs to him to try to keep him from crying, I pumped with him laying between my legs playing with the pump tubing. I pumped with mastitis and very painful nipples, I pumped while crying, I pumped in the living room with a nursing cover while watching TV with my sister’s family. I pumped in the bathroom with a pillow on the toilet when company was over and I couldn’t climb the stairs to my bedroom because of my c-section. I pumped despite countless people asking me why I did it, was it making my baby have reflux, maybe he was puking so much because of my breast milk. I pumped when I went back to work, in a lactation room, instead of taking a lunch break.
Eventually when Milo was around a year old, I stopped pumping. We used up our frozen milk stash and I said goodbye to my frenemy, the pump. Despite hating pumping for the past year, I suddenly was flooded with emotions upon stopping. I hated not being able to give my baby milk that was created especially for him, but I felt good knowing I had done the impossible for over a year.
Written by Bridgett Hodges
Bridgett is a 32 year old single mom to the best dressed little boy, Milo, and the craziest miniature dachshund, Roxy. She can be found on instagram with lots of selfies and puppy and baby pics as Bridgie23.
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