For the Pumping and Working Mama

**I originally posted this on my personal blog almost a year ago. This my work, not someone else’s just in case you feel like you’ve seen it before. Maybe you have. 😉  ***

December 2013:

I’ve been working and pumping for almost 4 months now since returning to work in August. The first two months really were a huge learning curve as we struggled with a nursing strike, weight gain, and using the wrong-sized flanges. I thought I’d list out what has worked for me as a pumping mama. I hate it and I think I always will, BUT…I love that my baby girl is still getting my breast milk and that my supply has been great since day one. Things I’ve learned in the process…

  • Prep the night before: I have to make sure that I am washing and drying my parts every night otherwise my morning is totally rushed trying to get everything cleaned and organized.
  • Keep your pump in the same spot: Like most mamas, I am super forgetful especially when I have so many other things I’m trying to think of as we leave the house. I always put my pump in the same spot on the kitchen counter ready to go so that I won’t forget it in the morning.
  • Don’t forget anything! I did this once–thought I had the little white valves in and nope…weren’t there. Thankfully I work in a hospital and was able to find some!
  • Do things while you pump: I like to watch you tube videos. I catch up on Ellen and Conan, two shows I don’t get to watch regularly. I also like playing a game or updating Instagram. This all distracts me from what I’m doing.
  • Make a few videos of you nursing your babe: I love watching some videos of Evie nursing while I pump. It helps the let down, it makes me smile and releases more oxytocin. This too makes the pumping process more enjoyable.
  • Eat and drink: I often have to pump on a regular break so I make sure to have a full water bottle and something to at least snack on. You need those extra calories and hydration for all the pumping you’re doing.
  • Don’t pump at home…unless you have to. I keep the pumping just for work and have rarely had to pump at home. This makes nursing more intimate and helps me only associate pumping with work. Then I dislike it less. 🙂
  • Lastly…just keep reminding yourself that you’re doing a great job! It’s tough work pumping and working. It can be exhausting and interrupts your day. So much of my time is dictated by when I need to pump but I’m totally used to the routine now. It takes time to get comfortable with it all so just keep hanging in there if you’re still trying to figure it all out. I does get easier!

The Pressure to Breastfeed

photo by 2M Photography
photo by 2M Photography

It’s no surprise to anyone in the birthing community that breastfeeding is being more heavily encouraged. More hospitals are obtaining an official “Baby Friendly Hospital” status, which means that baby will be placed skin to skin, encouraged to nurse within the first hour, room in with mom, and breastfeeding encouragement throughout the mom’s stay. She is given a pumping kit to use and take home as she tries to help her milk come in. Sometimes, mom may use a spoon or syringe to feed baby the tiny drops of precious colostrum while they both continue to learn how to latch and nurse. This all sounds wonderful, right? Sometimes, it’s not. Sometimes, breastfeeding is just not going to work. Or maybe it does, but mom feels frustrated or is in pain. There are a laundry list of reasons why breastfeeding may or may not work out. Here is the one thing you need to know, my friends, that ANY amount of breastfeeding is awesome, even if it is only for one day! You did it!! Don’t you let ANYONE discourage you or tell you that you “failed” at breastfeeding.

Below, is a story that a mom shared on a motherhood group I’m apart of on Facebook. This group has nearly 1000 members. Of all the stories and questions I’ve ever seen there, this story struck my heart. Right to the core. I was instantly weeping for this woman. With her permission, I am sharing her story below. As a warning, this may trigger something you’ve experienced. It involves breastfeeding, three-stepping, and post-partum depression. I have talked with Chelsea a few times since she shared her story and she’s an incredible mother!! I feel honored to share her story. I know she is not alone. If you or someone you know has experienced something similar, please share this post.

***

This is the saddest thing I will ever write…ever. It makes me even sadder that I want to share it because that means that someone else is just as sad and needs to hear this to validate their sadness and hopefully feel understood. I felt completely misunderstood and like a flat our terrorist in my community of Colorado Crunchy Mothers when I “failed” at breastfeeding.
It all started out so well. I am a yoga teacher, fit, fertile, and was READY to have a baby! I got knocked up on my first try after getting my IUD yanked and man was I ready to be a Mommy! My husband and I moved out of the city back to our small town “community” of friends and family and my other family known as my “yoga family.” As the cosmos would have it we all got pregnant within WEEKS of one another. A bunch of us would gather at our studio for our prenatal yoga classes then waddle down the block to gorge on ribs and cake, feeling blissful about being able to indulge during our pregnancies. Ahhh, bliss! We all talked about our plans to chant mantra during our contractions and some of us wanted home births some of us too scared to do so BUT, would totally have a Doula there, no matter what to tell our Doctors (who have a PHD not a Doula Cert) to shove it when we beg for pain meds. Yes, we all had a plan…

Then we all signed up for a “Goddess Breastfeeding Course.” Wowza was this some crazy informational stuff; there was even a PowerPoint presentation! I bought a copy of Ina May’s “Guide to Breastfeeding,” and read it cover to cover. I was ready. Ready for my “as natural” as possible childbirth and my breastfeeding success! I even went as far as being a bit of a snark to new Mom’s in my “Welcome to Motherhood” Facebook group who were “struggling” to nurse. I think I even said something like…”read this book and it will fix all your problems,” or “don’t you know how easy this should be? It is our gift to our babies..blah blah fuck me, blah.” So yeah, I was a psycho preggo bitch who had not a CLUE what the hell I was up against. So that is how it went for my second trimester. Prenatal yoga, ribs, boobs, birth, yadda yadda. I felt good.

Then my crotch started to hurt, like hurt nonstop and I started to not be able to walk as easily then one day I fell. My back went out and I fell on the floor and was stuck there for hours before my husband came home and found me. This was the beginning of the end…the end of all of my prenatal dreams, my mental health, my nursing efforts…my everything. I was diagnosed with SPD, which basically means my vagina was expanding too much. Ouch, huh. So, I was put on pain meds for the remainder of my pregnancy and was also restricted from yoga, exercise and existing in the world altogether. Depression set in, and it got really scary.

My midwife was concerned and wanted to put me on anti-depressants during my 36th week but I refused, worried that it would get passed along to the baby in my milk, because I was still going to nurse damnit! I knew deep down I was headed for a C-Section but I kept it secret and kept up with my crunchy friends and their amazing pregnancies. They all felt sorry for me but told me to hang in there, they will BE THERE FOR ME. Famous last words.

After 3 months of misery I went in for a prenatal visit to find out that we needed to go ahead and get baby out. My fluid was low and I was in so much pain it wasn’t really worth the wait anymore…we were a bit scared. I went in the next morning with all of my loving family by my side, my amazing husband who had put up with my craziness (crazy was just starting by the way, he had no idea what was yet to come) and checked into the hospital, ready to go. Within 45 minutes my son was out, squealing and totally folded in half, frank breech and 7lb 8oz. I was so happy to have him OUT! I was reunited with him in recovery very fast and we started nursing right away. It didn’t even hurt and I got this insane drunk love feeling that rocked my world…I was hooked.
That first day would be the only day that I felt this way…

In Colorado, we had the flood of the century the day my son was born in September. It was national news and my doctors were running around like chickens with their heads cut off treating patients from surround hospitals that were not accessible. We began to fall through the cracks. I had amazing nurses, amazing! They all helped with the latch which was not going well and were all sympathetic to my fatigue and even showed me how to use my breast pump which we were seeing some colostrum come out of. However my son was not amazing, he was miserable. He screamed nonstop for the first 3 days of his life, only stopping out of sheer exhaustion and what I can only imagine defeat from not being fed. He began to turn yellow and look thin but I was in such a haze I didn’t really notice. Then the nurses started to raise their eyebrow at my mental condition. My midwife stopped my husband in the hall and said “watch her, I am worried…” I was a mess…my mother came to my side and begged me to rest but no, I had to get this nursing down, I had to it was vital. Everything else had been ripped from me; I had to get this right.

A new nurse came in the last day I was in the hospital. She was pregnant and so sweet. She took one look at my situation and suggested we “supplement.” I had been warned of this phrase, RED ALERT! NO! My husband was beginning to get angry and he is cool by nature. He made the call, he gave my son his first bottle of formula. My son sighed and cooed and drank it up like his life depended on it, which it may have. Meanwhile, I had not gotten a weight on my son since his birth, and we were about to be discharged. I asked the nurses to weigh him and I heard gasps from all of them. “That cannot be right, weigh him again.” Silence. “Oh, my, god.” The lactation consultant came over and said he had dropped 20% of his body weight to 6.4lbs and we had to alert the pediatrician right away. The pediatrician who had signed our discharge papers, the one who SAID we could go home. My poor baby, he had morphed from a healthy glowing bundle to a yellow, eyes clenched shut, stiff, stressed infant that was not happy…I decided to give in. We gave him formula the rest of the day and they let us go home, and we had a follow up the next day. I snapped a picture of him at the hospital on our way out in his going home outfit, and to this day it haunts me. He looks terrifyingly unhealthy and I save it as a reminder of how far we have come.

At the follow up they gave me what is called a 3 step plan. This plan means you nurse, supplement and pump…EVERY single time you feed. Around the clock. So, I had my hospital grade pump rented from the pharmacy and that is what I did for 3 weeks. I was delirious, I was so drained I couldn’t even muster up the energy to leave the house, eat or shower. I sat on the couch with my boppy, baby, pump and tiny bottle of formula. The rare times my son was satiated from nursing only gave me small triumphs that kept me going. Meanwhile, my Crunchy Mom Friends were all having their babies and their boobs were turning into Pam Anderson boobies and flowing milk and oxytocin bliss all over the place. Mine were not. Mine were pitifully producing hardly anything and that blissful feeling of drunk love was lingering and then soon gone.

This went on for another 3 weeks…It was then I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. My midwife took one look at me and said here is a prescription and you need to go buy formula, lots of it and use it. This has to stop. You cannot sustain this. I had just come to terms with this on the long ride home when my family arrived to see the baby. I heard a knock at the door and my neighbor bum rushed me and grabbed my son and looked dead into my eyes and said, “How is nursing going?” I quietly replied that I was trying but was having a tough time. “Awe, well don’t give up, it is the best thing you know. You have a good looking husband, a beautiful son why are you so sad?…blah blah blah,” I tuned out after that. My sister in law braced me and I excused myself into my bathroom where I wept for the millionth time, cursed god and grew even further from my son emotionally.

Meanwhile my friends were also giving me the same guilt trip but not a ONE came over to check on me or ask me how I was doing emotionally. I was falling apart. I even received an email from a friend (a man friend) saying I was a child abuser for using formula and that I was setting my son up for failure…this person has a Master’s Degree…and is an asshole.
This was it, I shut down I lost it. I was still 3 stepping my nursing and it was becoming exhausting. The only time I actually saw my son was to nurse him. Other than that my husband would take care of him or me…which was exhausting for him. I would send him to buy formula because I was too ashamed to do it myself. I would hide in my car and mix bottles of formula and hope people would think it was pumped breast milk I was giving to my baby. I started seeing a therapist at this point and taking medication.

I had become a total stranger in my body. I didn’t even recognize myself. I also gained more weight than I had during pregnancy because I was eating all the crap my friends suggested, taking supplements that made me sick and was NOT sleeping or taking care of myself. I was a train wreck for the first 3 months. On the day my son turned 3 months old I sat in bed and looked my husband in the eye and said, “I need you to tell me to stop, I need you to say Chelsea, stop this and it will all be ok.” So he did and I cried and died a little inside.

Later my friends and family would say things like, “you tried harder than anyone I have ever seen! You did your best.” The only people who told me I was a success was my husband my mother and my new friends who were not crunchy. “You did it for 3 months! You did it! You succeeded, not failed!” I still didn’t buy it until around 6 months postpartum. The fog started to lift a bit and I was dried up so my son wasn’t screaming every time I held him and I started to make bottles like it was second nature. They no longer felt like hot torches of failure in my hands, they felt comforting! I thought how amazingly lucky I am…to be able to have access to formula for my son. I am thankful to have the means to afford formula for my son. How thankful and blessed I am for that.
I changed myself forever during this process. I purged the judgmental, know it all person and turned into a humble, kind, grateful person who wants more than anything to advocate for new mothers struggling with mental illness and breastfeeding challenges. That shit is no joke. I was on the verge of being put into an institution and my doctors thankfully decided I was sane enough to go home and safely take care of my baby after they saw me at my 3-month postnatal checkup.

I have made new friends who feel for me and can appreciate my struggle and not judge me for how I feed my child. They judge my character, my authenticity as a person, as a mother and for the love I show when I feed my baby and when I do all the things Mommies do for their babies. I am a mother, I may not be perfect but I fought someone else’s war. I fought a war not meant for me. I fought out of fear, the fear of not fitting into everyone’s ideals of motherhood. That is my only regret. I do not regret switching to formula, I do not regret ditching those crunchy nut job friends and I do not regret the negativity I got from others…I regret the fear and letting that rule my first few months of motherhood.

That is the saddest thing that has ever happened to me. I’ve written it now, and I hope that someone out there reads this and I hope you are not as sad as I was. Know that you are loved, so loving and amazing. You create your reality with your baby; do not let fear create a chaotic, judging environment. I am happy to say that today my son is awesome, in every way possible! He is 18lbs 4 oz and is almost 9 months old and is the light of my life. I am hoping by sharing this story I can shed the last of my pain, let it go…air it out. My son said “ma ma” today and looked at me. I cried and knew it was time to share this.
Now go mix up that bottle Mama, and love that baby.

~Chelsea

World Breastfeeding Week

Happy Sunday Funday! It’s World Breastfeeding Week. This time last year, I had a 3 month old nursling who had become a champion nurser by the time she was 5 weeks old. Those first 5 weeks, though? PURE HELL. It was rough. I was so sore and every time she latched, my toes curled and I winced and did my “labor” breathing through the pain for the first 30 seconds or so. Longest 30 seconds of my life! Anyway, I want to share some of my most favorite photos of our nursing adventure. It was not easy, even after those first few weeks. Breastfeeding a baby goes through many different changes as the baby grows and needs change. I questioned if I was doing the right thing almost every other week it seemed. The number one thing I do know I did right all the time was to listen to Evelyn. I followed her cues and nursed her on demand.

I am asked often where the best places on the web are for answering breastfeeding questions. Here is a list of my favorite resources.

  • Kelly Mom: The ultimate go-to where you can find an answer to just about any question or concern, everything from pumping and storing breast milk to finding out if certain medications are safe.
  • La Leche League: This site will allow you to find your local La Leche League. There you can find monthly or weekly meet ups. Community and support are HUGE in making a breastfeeding relationship last longer.
  • The Breast Site: This site is not just about breastfeeding, but also about breast health and if you have other questions or concerns, this place has the answers.

My hope is that if you are going to be or are a breastfeeding mom, that you have a great hospital with internal resources. Ours has an incredible program which was free. I was able to do free weight checks, go to a weekly support group, and get one on one assistance in person and over the phone by two amazing lactation nurses. I honestly don’t think I could have made it as far in my breastfeeding journey as I had without them!

One of the biggest messages that World Breastfeeding Week promotes is that breastfeeding is NORMAL and NATURAL and nothing to hide behind. We need to encourage our sisters to nurse how they are comfortable-cover, no cover, in public, in private, sitting, side-laying, on an airplane, pumping at work….This link shows statistics state-by-sate the percentage of breastfeeding moms and for how long they have nursed their child.

Image by 2M Photography
Image by 2M Photography

all done

As of four nights ago, Evelyn and I have stopped nursing. It was coming slowly over the last month as I watched my supply tank and her interest fade. I let her do 90% of the leading and followed the “don’t offer, don’t refuse” mantra that many weaning mamas had suggested. I stopped pumping at work when she turned one, which I was so glad to be done doing! Any mama who must pump for any reason knows how hard pumping is!

breastfeeding has been an incredible journey for us and I am so thankful we were able to do it successfully. I can understand why so many women have a hard time getting past the first 3-6 weeks because it is SO exhausting and painful. Maybe not for everyone, but for most. I wanted to share some pieces of wisdom that I learned throughout our 13 month journey.

  • Let baby lead, you follow. Meaning, feed on demand. This can seem tricky, especially as they get older and more assertive. I always let Evie do the leading as to when she wanted and needed to nurse. Just a month ago when she spiked a random fever she nursed all day long! I’m sure it was more for comfort than for anything else, but it’s what she needed and I knew that is what was best.
  • Nursing strikes happen. We only had one true strike when she was around 4 months old and I spent almost two weeks pumping and bottle feeding, only after I’d attempt to get her to latch first without success. Then one day she decided to just come back to nursing.
  • Find a great lactation counselor. We have an awesome program through our hospital and I swear my LC is the Mother Theresa of breastfeeding! I called her often and she was always available to help talk me through any concerns I had. I also went to the weekly check in group where I was able to weigh and feed Evie to see how here weight was doing. We didn’t go every week, but it was nice to be around other moms and get any questions I had answered.
  • Buy good nursing bras and tanks. I lived in these things and found that, at night, a tank was perfect for nursing!
  • You can get through teething without being bit–often! I tell ya, when Evie popped her first tooth at 5 months I thought our nursing days were numbered. I was so worried about her biting me. I’d heard horror stories! She managed to get 8 teeth by the time she was 10 months old and she only bit me a few times, usually due to a bad latch. But we got through it!
  • Surround yourself with support. Make sure your partner is supportive and if he is not, give him a swift kick…no really…he needs to embrace this amazing gift you’re able to give your baby! You’ll also want support from your girlfriends.
  • Nurse in public, cover or no cover, whatever is most comfortable for YOU and your baby. I never had a problem with nursing in public and I used a cover sometimes but Evie hated it. Then, as she got older she became so easily distracted I’d have to go hide somewhere quiet to get her to nurse. Just do what is most comfortable for YOU. 🙂

That’s all for now! I am  sad this is over, but glad to move on from this and to build our relationship in a different way as she grows.

3 Links

Here is a list of links to some great articles around the web right now. If you want something featured, leave a comment! Thanks.

10 Scientific Ideas That Scientists Wish You Would Stop Misusing:  This is a fantastic article. Makes you seriously think about what “proof”, “theory”, “natural” and “organic” actually mean.

The fact that science never really proves anything, but simply creates more and more reliable and comprehensive theories of the world that nevertheless are always subject to update and improvement, is one of the key aspects of why science is so successful.

Dear Pink: Thank You for Breaking the Breastfeeding Mom Mold: I love this quippy little article about how badass Pink is when it comes to breastfeeding. America needs to take a massive chill pill and realize that boobs are for breastfeeding, not sexual satisfaction.

A Woman’s Body is Made for Childbirth: Interesting opinion piece on “natural” childbirth, meaning vaginal and without medication. I have a post coming up soon on what “natural” actually means and how it’s getting lost on all the NCBers.

Have a great day!

let’s get personal

I will be sharing more personal posts. I had a separate blog, but stopped writing there nearly 6 months ago and I don’t miss that space. I don’t feel like it’s a space I can go back to and I feel very comfortable here, in this space, in this area of passion aimed solely at my goal of becoming a midwife. But midwives have personal lives too. My journey there is not just my own. It belongs to my husband who sees me through the struggles I endure through difficult classes and triumphs with me when I get an A on an exam. It belongs to my children who are the sole reason for my passion in this profession. My son’s pregnancy and birth kick-started this adventure. My daughter gave me hope in my body and strength as I birthed her without an epidural. My family is a huge part of this process because without them, I would not be here today, writing in this space.

Evelyn turned one almost 2 weeks ago and a week prior to her birthday, we had the most beautiful photo shoot., capturing our bond together while breastfeeding. I never made it to 3 months with my son, so meeting the one year mark in our breastfeeding journey was huge. For the last few months she has dropped a few nursing sessions and we were mostly nursing before and after sleeps. My supply decreased as she led it. Working nights has absolutely KILLED my supply. It has no idea what to do with being awake and not nursing, then being home sleeping during the day and still not nursing much. And just like that I can feel that we are coming to the end of our breastfeeding journey very soon. I can feel her growing up right before my eyes as she, rather than gaping her mouth open towards me, she pauses and smiles up at me then turns herself to get off my lap. She has said no ever so sweetly to nursing. And I am sad. I am so so sad that this is ending. I am proud, though, for making it more than 12 months. But sad that I knew this would be coming sometime, just didn’t think it would be this soon.

Ironically, I left my pump at the hospital I float to and have no way of pumping for comfort. I will offer when we get home and see what miss E says. I’m hoping she will help her mama out, but she may not that is okay.

What are your tips/advice for weaning?

a month

The last month or more has just been insane! I finished my customer service in heath care class–I admit I didn’t do as well as I should have because the class was cake, I just didn’t plan for it well. It was at the end of the semester for only a few weeks and I let a few things slip. Oh wells. On November 26th I took my state test in which I passed both the written and skills exam and OFFICIALLY became a CNA in the state of Colorado! Pretty awesome! I was worried about the skills, then when I arrived and took the written exam I was more worried about that! No one taught us about foot drop! (what is that?!) Anyway, it worked out great. The following day we headed on vacation for Thanksgiving and since then until last night, our month was go-go-go! Holidays, work, family events, Christmas shopping…you name it, we did it! I also ended up with a horrible head/neck issue that is FINALLY coming under control thanks to a great chiropractor.

This has been a great year and I’m hoping that it ends even better! I have an interview in less than 2 hours for a clinical CNA position in the hospital I am already employed with working nights in the NICU, post-partum and peds units! I am SO SO hoping for this job! Three 12 hours shifts a week (or so), leaving plenty of time for school and family time. This would surely make my year! If you’re the praying type…please shoot some up my way if you don’t mind and if not, send good thoughts! This is the ONLY way I will get any hands on experience working as a CNA as I will not, without a doubt, work as in long-term health. It’s not for me and if you have ever worked in long-term health, even if for 3 clinical days (like myself), then you know what I mean. Bless those who do it every day. The elderly and dying need people like you! It’s just not me.

As always, here are some great links I came across over the last month. I hope that whatever I share is interesting and fun. I do it for two reasons-to share with you all and to save for myself. I know these are things I will keep coming back to over the years as I am in school and maybe even when I’m catching babies. You never know.

Hope you all had a great Christmas! I WILL share before the New Year if I get this great new position.

Links o’ Love:

Labor Nurse: awesome  letter to all labor nurses (and any nurse, really) for all the amazingly hard work it is to be a nurse.

The Gut, Microbes and Poop: post by Holistic IBCLC about food, digestion and breastfeeding.

Lotus Birth: Article about this type of “cutting of the cord”. You preserve the placenta in a basket of sorts with lots of herbs, to keep the stench at bay, and allow for the cord to fall off the baby on it’s own. In other words, you don’t actually cut the umbilical cord. Once the placenta is delivered, it is kept near mama and baby (as baby is still attached) until the cord dries out. Super interesting!

And what’s a link of posts without some amazing birth photography! Incredible births;  incredible photographer!!

Adelaide Birth Photography in Australia