Breastfeeding was always in my “plan” as a new mother. For some reason, I assumed everything would go just swimmingly, I would have no problems, and I’d nurse my son until he was ready to wean. I read all the books, read all the blogs, watched all the videos, etc. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
Greyson latched right after birth. He fed like a champ all day long and was even cluster feeding in the hospital. The nurses were amazed at how naturally breastfeeding came to us and I felt like I was on top of the world. We went home, feeling confident… until our first night alone.
Greyson was inconsolable. He wouldn’t latch and more or less cried himself to sleep after HOURS. Jeff and I were beside ourselves. We didn’t know what to do or what was wrong. Was he hungry? Tired? Wet? In pain? We didn’t know whether to drive back to the hospital or whether he had colic. As sleep deprived, new parents, we were at a loss.
I called the pediatrician first thing in the morning, as Greyson hadn’t had any wet diapers in 12 hours. The first thing he told me was to buy was Pedialyte to make sure he wouldn’t get dehydrated. The second thing he told me to buy was formula and supplement my breast feedings with a 1/4 to 1/2 ounce.
“Formula? Why? I’m breastfeeding,” I thought. I’ve always believed in fed is best, so although I was sad that he wasn’t getting breastmilk from me, the only thing I cared about was his health and well-being. So I drove to the store, picked up what the doctor ordered and came home to feed my baby. Let me tell you, that kid DRANK. That sweet innocent newborn was so hungry and that’s when I felt terrible.
I knew my milk had come in, but apparently, it wasn’t enough. This kid was eating triple time in order to make up for the weight he lost since birth, which apparently was a good amount because he hadn’t gained any back. The pediatrician was concerned with his weight gain and encouraged the supplemental feedings in order to ensure he would gain weight.
The more formula I supplemented with, the more he wanted. It took the edge off the empty breast feedings and satiated him. However, being a new mom with no prior breastfeeding experience, I didn’t realize that every formula feed hurt my supply. To this day, I still think, “I could have breastfed more often, I wish I knew about pumping after feeding to increase supply, I wish I knew about power pumping, I should have just had him on a strict 2 hour feeding schedule,” and it eats me up inside.
After a few weeks of supplementing, Greyson started to refuse both the breast and the bottle. He would scream bloody murder every time I tried to feed him. I knew he was hungry. Considering what he had been eating and what he was eating now was next to nothing. Greyson would pull away from the bottle with every other suck and writhe in pain. He would burp or spit up and begin to cry. He would arch his back while he was feeding and even after. Something was up. I began to Google his symptoms (what every new mother does, but also what every new mother shouldn’t do because Google can be evil) and it appeared he might have acid reflux.
I called the doctor and described Greyson’s symptoms. He thought he might have acid reflux as well, yet another hurdle in our breastfeeding journey. He told me to supplement any bottle feedings with a teaspoon of baby oatmeal in order to thicken his feeds. In doing so, the hopes was he would keep the milk down, so it would stop burning his esophagus when he would spit up.
It didn’t work. Greyson would scream every time I tried to feed him. The more I tried to breastfeed him, the more he resisted. I was heartbroken. I called the pediatrician again and we went in for another visit. After checking him over, he decided it was time to start a low dose of medication. We had to get it from a special compounding pharmacy because Greyson needed an alcohol free medication, so it wouldn’t burn his esophagus even more.
We tried the medicine and I kid you not within a matter of days, he was sleeping 4 hour chunks through the night and eating normally. YAY! I was so happy. However, now every time I tried to breastfeed, he was traumatized. He had begun to associate breastfeeding with being in pain and so he refused me more and more. The lactation consultants told me that if he was going to resist me when I offered the breast to just “pump” and don’t worry about it. And honestly, that was probably the worst advice I received because then he stopped latching all together…
This is why I started exclusively pumping. Exclusive pumping wasn’t the vision that I had for myself. Exclusive pumping wasn’t a choice. Exclusive pumping isn’t easy. I still beat myself up every day thinking, “If I had just done this or that,” I wouldn’t be in this position. My son has been on a combination of breastmilk and formula for the past 11 months. I pumped 6-10 times a day for this kid and if that isn’t love, I don’t know what is! Now, my supply has dwindled to the point where I am pumping a total of 2 ounces per day. My exclusive pumping journey is coming to an end for Greyson and even as I type this, I get teary eyed. I know a lot of people don’t make it this long due to a variety of reasons and I should give myself a pat on the back, but ultimately, I still feel like I failed.
I am very thankful for the formula. The formula helped my son to remain healthy and helped provide him with the nutrients he needed when I couldn’t. My son is now in the 98th percentile for both height and weight. He is in size 18 months to 2T clothing at 10.5 months old. I know that the breastmilk I was able to provide him with was a huge part in that, but the extra formula he received was what helped him to grow to his full potential.
I am hopeful for any future children I have that the knowledge and experience I have gained through this experience will help me achieve my goal of breastfeeding exclusively for the first year of life. I am confident in my ability to identify acid reflux signs early on, so that my future children can get the help they need. And finally, I am hopeful that one day I will be able to see how much I have accomplished in these past 10.5 months with exclusive pumping and how I have provided for my son the best I could have.
Because I was able to exclusively pump for so long, I have gained a lot of knowledge that I am hopeful can help others. Read about my exclusive pumping tips and tricks here.