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.