i did it

DISCLAIMER: If the words "breastfeed" or "pumping milk" make you uncomfortable, then stop reading now. But I had to do a blog post on this because it is very important to me.

For those of you who don't know, let me break down a history of the past six months. During my pregnancy, I had planned on breastfeeding Violet (pros: it's super healthy! it's free food!) Starting from the very first attempts in the hospital though, it was so difficult. Among other issues, she wouldn't open her mouth very wide, and she just couldn't latch on properly. Every nurse and lactation consultant that tried to help ended up giving up and just saying "Well... it will probably get easier with time." In the meantime, they suggested I temporarily use a breastpump so I would continue to produce milk.

So I went home and it did NOT get better. I don't know if you've ever been recovering from major surgery, adjusting to a completely different life, and sitting with a baby screaming from hunger and feeling totally helpless and incompetent as a mom. Ah yes, and I didn't mention the bruises and scabs (yes, SCABS) caused by the incorrect way she was latching on. I was miserable and overwhelmed.

I got to a point where I asked for advice from doctors, friends, family, the internet (dumb) about whether I should just give up completely. Or if I should "give up" and exclusively pump long term. I had a lot of support, but mixed in I heard comments like, "You won't feel as close to your baby" or "You won't produce milk for much longer if you exclusively pump." I had always had the goal in mind of breastfeeding for at least the first six months. In that first month I tried so many different techniques, I read books, I scoured the internet... but it just did not get better. All the while I committed to pumping every couple hours day and night to keep things going.

I finally decided to stop trying to breastfeed at about the month mark, and exclusively pumped and bottle fed her my expressed milk. By the end of the second month I was pumping about 10 times a day (every two to three hours). It was around that time that I had a postpartum check up and my wonderful OB shared with me that she had the same situation but was able to pump for six months! It was the first encouragement I got, and it gave me some hope.

For the third month, I cut down to pumping every four hours (still through the night). For the fourth month I started getting longer stretches in the day and especially at night. Then the fifth month I cut it down significantly to three times a day- morning, afternoon, and evening. And this past month I've been doing just twice, morning and right before bed.

Through this all, I have produced WAY MORE than I have needed. I got rid of quite a bit awhile back when our freezer was completely full. I have always had enough and (other than a few instances in the first week of her life) have never had to feed Violet formula.

So all that is just to say: I DID IT. Every month of Violet's life has also been a celebration of another successful month of producing milk for my baby girl, and yesterday I REACHED MY GOAL OF SIX MONTHS.

It has been incredibly difficult, time-consuming, and physically painful. And in case you are curious, I'm not sure what my plans for the future are. It is so hard to pass up free baby food, so for the time being I am going to cut down to once a day (right before bed), and see if I keep producing.

Final words: One reason I wanted to do a post on this is because I found basically NO encouragement on the internet. It was always breastfeed or formula feed as the only options, and everyone said exclusive pumping wouldn't work. Well, people who are looking for encouragement, it can be done- You can do it! (And believe me, you have plennnty of ways other than breastfeeding to bond with your baby) And to all those other people: I'm not trying to be a jerk, but you were wrong. So there. I DID IT.

If you found me on the internet because you're in a similar situation, please let me know if you have any questions or want advice or encouragement. Seriously! I know it's superrrr hard to go at it alone.


Nichole June 7, 2011 at 8:03 AM  

congrats on making it karen! that's really awesome!

demoreeann June 7, 2011 at 8:50 AM  

GREAT JOB!!! :) it's super cool that you wrote this up; i'm sure it will be encouraging for other moms who have similar issues.

alison lewis June 7, 2011 at 2:52 PM  

YAYYY!!! You, Mike, and Violet did it!!! I added Mike in, because I NEVER would have made it this far breastfeeding without Jim encouraging me AND giving me the freedom to chuck it if I wanted to. Oh, and putting up with my crap regularily. It is truly a huge achievement. My issue has always been milk supply - Noah can latch on, but many times it's been like trying to get milk from a rock - there's just not much there. It has been a rocky road - no pun intended (well maybe it was :)).
Cheers to making it as moms!!! And super cute babies . . who make it all worth it.
Thanks for your blog Karen.

just mom June 7, 2011 at 3:13 PM  

YAY for you, Karen!!! We're so proud of what an awesome mommy you are!

Emily Spasovski June 7, 2011 at 11:04 PM  

Great work Mama!!! I know that took a lot of time and sacrifice, but you made it:)

Kate June 8, 2011 at 9:04 AM  

karen, i loved this post! way to go!! i eel so encouraged by it as i get ready to go back to work next week and will be pumping much more. violet is beautiful - keep up the good work, mama!

alison lewis June 8, 2011 at 10:13 AM  

One more thing . . . breastfeeding is a hot topic for me too, I guess. I think it is a shame how much pressure I allowed myself to feel (and I believe is just out there in general) to breastfeed. You say it's "free food." To me, while the financial cost is "free" (although that is debatable with the cost of herbs I took, breast pump fee, breast pump bags, Zoloft co-pay :), etc.) there is a huge cost still. The cost of sleep, sanity, and lots of stress, as well as lots of pain at the beginning. Breastfeeding IS best, all things being equal. BUT!!!! All things are NEVER equal. You make lots of milk. I don't. I just wish is was OK to make the decision to give formula without feeling like you've given up or are somehow less tough/womanly/motherly/sacrificial/etc. When and if the next time occurs, I hope to be less obsessed with breastfeeding and more go with the flow. Even if that flow is not from my breast.
I will now come down off my soapbox.

my name is karen. June 8, 2011 at 11:25 AM  

You definitely make a good point. All of this was from my point of view, so when I said "give up" and use formula, that was my expressing how I (wrongly) felt about myself, not a judgment on others. I don't think there is anything wrong with formula. As a formula-fed baby myself, I don't feel deprived of anything at all. I'm sorry if any of this came across like I was saying that my way is the way anyone else should do it!

And I agree that the "free food" thing has it's drawbacks. Believe me, I remember when my baby started sleeping more and I was still setting my alarm for 12am... 3am... 6am... There is always a cost.

It is unfortunate that we feel so much pressure about breastfeeding. You're the mom, you can choose what is best and should feel no guilt or pressure!

Meghan June 8, 2011 at 7:16 PM  

Awesome awesome awesome. Karen and Alison, you are both heroes. The emotional toll of new motherhood is so outrageous sometimes. I feel like the three of us should have a support group!!

I read recently through several recipes for homemade formula as well, which might sound crazy. But the benefit is that it would be guaranteed to contain real or whole foods, as opposed to synthetic, which a lot of store-bought formulas are...just to add to the discussion. Never tried it myself.

alison lewis June 9, 2011 at 2:21 PM  

Meghan, thanks for saying that! You are so sweet. Also, homemade formula - that's genius!!! I never even thought of that. We have started using Rice Dream to make Noah's cereal, since he doesn't like the taste of formula. You can't use it as formula though, but if I could make a formula that had a better taste (like Rice Dream) that would be awesome.
Karen, you rock, and not just on stage. Although, you do that too. Thanks for your response. I got formula as a baby too, and I don't think I was too badly damaged. :)

mclainey June 10, 2011 at 11:11 AM  

yay formula fed babies! :) [this post is awesome & so are you]

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