Breastfeeding was what I looked forward to the most when I was pregnant with my now three-month old son. With my 8-year-old son, a few hurdles prevented me from having the magical breastfeeding experience I ached for (read previous post). For that reason, when I had a new opportunity to redo all that went so wrong, I was beyond thrilled. I convinced myself of all the factors that could help my cause this time around, “I’m an experienced mom, I have all the breastfeeding products I need… but most importantly I am more versed in the matter.” Turns out, that being competent in the subject of breastfeeding was the only factor that helped me a bit. And I’ll emphasize- a bit. Everything else was utterly irrelevant and isolated to my not-so-perfect experience.
When I reached my final trimester, I excitedly shopped for nursing bras, pillows and covers; nipple pads and creams; and a double electric breastfeeding pump. All to prepare for what I thought was going to be a long road of putting my breasts to work. One night, I remember lining up all my new toys and looking at them in awe as I reasoned they were the instruments that would give me the experience I longed for. I turned my gaze to the breastfeeding pump and quickly assembled it using my protruding belly as a tabletop. Then, hastily unfastened my bra to free my breasts and I vacillated with the thought of what I would do next. But, before I knew it, my arms decided for me. They extended as far as they could, to reach both breast pump cushions. My apprehension for breastfeeding was put to rest temporarily as I felt the rhythmic suction. My breasts were sucked into the valves and released, sucked in and released; my stance on breastfeeding.
Before the Pain
Fast-forwarding to my son’s birth, I did not produce breastmilk until four days after. Therefore, I was feeding my baby with the next best option- baby formula. I was ridiculously obsessing about my plan not going as I anticipated. To make matters worse, I was dumbfounded to see how moms effortlessly filled bottles and bottles of breastmilk minutes after delivery. They pressed, squeezed, pumped and poured loads of their liquid gold without a hitch. Meanwhile, my overly enlarged, but still undersized breasts, screamed for relief. They were engorged and hard, begging to be alleviated from all the pressure. And still not even a glimmer of colostrum (first secretion of breastmilk after giving birth). Every mother’s experience is different. Even my second-time experience was different from the first. First time, I gave up too quickly and my baby had no interest in my nipples. This time, I was fixated on proving to myself that my body was able.
I positioned my baby and he latched and sucked beautifully and still no signs of breastmilk. He squirmed and cried in frustration when his appetite was not satisfied. I gave in, again, and fed him a bottle. Moments later, I felt my breast filling up to the point they felt they would explode. The pain was almost debilitating and when I thought I could go to bed to “sleep-it off,” a fever and chills took control of my body. I quivered under layers of blankets in May. My feet felt like blocks of ice and I dug my head under because the temperature above was too cold to bare. My mind tried to register what was happening. In between trembles, I managed to call my husband and through shattering teeth yelled for him to rush home. “I need to get this breastmilk out of me!,” I thought in desperation, feeling hopeless and crippled. I massaged my breasts profoundly to stimulate secretion because the gentle and circular massages I read about were not working. The pain was unmanageable. When my husband got home, I ordered him to squeeze as hard as he could and to pretend he was milking a cow (to draw a picture for him)- and that’s when I lost him. I had to finish the job myself, so I squeezed and squeezed as if wringing water from a sponge. I coiled in agony praying my work will not be in vain. After a few minutes of more self-harm, a speck of colostrum emerged. I jumped with excitement and ran frantically to get my baby to nurse. My breast was the magnetic field that pulled his mouth to it organically. Each suction produced a painful and alleviating pattern. I felt disappointed and excited about breastfeeding. I tear rolled down my chin. What mattered most was that I was able.
Honey Moon Stage
I was thrilled I could attest to the amazing feeling all moms boasted about being one of a kind, because it was. As a mother, I felt elated and powerful to witness one of the reasons my body transformed. I was providing my newborn with the finest form of nourishment only I could serve. It gave me the added opportunity to bond with him in a way only unique to breastfeeding. I was in love with the process and for some time I did not care for the sacrifices. I pumped in intervals of 2-3 hours. My breasts were producing like clock-work. It’s like they had a mind of their own reminding me they had to be emptied. I thought to myself, “Not only am I feeding my baby in the most natural way, but I’m going to shed the baby weight?! How awesome is that?!” I thought I would breastfeed forever.
My life revolved around breastfeeding. I took the pump with me everywhere. When my phone marked the time to pump, I would drop everything to empty my breasts. I pumped in the car, I pumped at other people’s homes, I pumped while eating! When I was not pumping, I was feeding my baby and vice versa. I pumped around the clock every three hours and I fed my baby for close to an hour. I rested and tended to my older son for two hours at a time or less. I felt I was neglecting other aspects of my life. I was a sleepless mom with clinging breastfeeding cushions attached to me at all hours. To top everything off, I still had to supplement feeding with formula because I was not producing enough. I was a food-making-and-feeding machine that needed to reset. I only breastfed for six weeks. I loved having the experience while it lasted. However, I am a more happy and sane mother since I stopped. Mothers do not get enough credit for the work and sacrifice motherhood and breastfeeding entails.