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!
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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

Happy Labor Day!

Cheers to the weekend!

The last month has been a little crazy! But when is it not?! I started back to work 3 weeks ago and started my CNA certification class two weeks ago. Both are going well so far. Pumping at work is hard and I’m still trying to find my groove with it. Class is a hybrid class so I do a 4 hour lab once a week and the remainder of discussion and lectures are online, which I love! I really enjoy the online learning environment. Lab has been filled with learning different “skills” like proper hand washing, taking BP, respirations, pulse, measuring urine, washing dentures…nothing too exciting! However I am really happy to finally be learning how to take someone’s BP.

I WILL be writing over here more. I promise. I always find great articles and birth photos that I want to share. I share a lot more on the Facebook Page than here so be sure to go and “like” the page if you’re a little birth junkie like myself. I will leave you all with a lovely article I feel is too good just to link. Enjoy and have a safe, fun and happy weekend!

~Sarah

(I wish I’d written this!!)

6 Things Every New Mother Should Know to Survive the First 6 Weeks

by April McCormick

I have no doubt that every mother will agree with me when I say that during pregnancy, the only thing worse than the stretch marks and bad gas are the hours of bad parenting advice you get from every source imaginable. Between the always-ready-to-share, been-there-done-that mothers, strangers in the grocery store checkout line, parenting books and online resources, the information available today for new mothers is overwhelming. What’s more, you never know what to believe, since one book will contradict the next, and what one mother swears by, another mother will insist did not work for her baby. Weeding through all of the advice can be daunting, to say the least.

Looking back, I wish I was given more advice on how to deal with becoming a mother, and less on the three million different ways to rock a baby to sleep. I needed to know about the self-doubt and the failures that came along with motherhood, or that having a baby would take a huge toll on my marriage and personal life if I let it. After talking with numerous other mothers, I realized we all struggled with the same issues — things it seemed no one bothered to warn us about in between lessons on feeding, changing and rocking our newborn to sleep. I’ve put together a list of the top six things we all agree are so important for new mothers to know. Things we wish we didn’t have to learn the hard way.

1. Listen to your instincts, not Dr. Google. With so many online parenting resources and “how-to” books available today, most contradicting the next, don’t get caught up thinking these resources know better than you do.

For example: If you know your baby is hungry, feed him. Who cares if it has only been two hours and the book says wait for three? Screw that! Feed your baby. There is no reason to let your baby get hysterical trying to follow the guidelines.

I cannot stress this enough: Trust what your gut and heart are telling you, because 9.5 times out of 10, they are spot-on right. Every minute you second-guess yourself, you and your baby will suffer. Go with your gut first. Always.

2. Listen to your baby’s cues. While babies can only communicate through body language and crying, within the first week, you will begin to notice behaviors and different tones of crying that are clearly trying to tell you something. For example: Babies will give you cues for hunger WAY before crying, including things like REM, finger sucking and reaching with arms and legs. When you notice any or all of those cues, feed your baby pronto, or the blood-curdling screaming will be next! If your baby is tired, some of his cues might be pulling at his ears, yawning and/or quick, jerky movements.

Pay close attention to those different cues and within a week or so, you will easily be able to decipher what it is your baby is trying to tell you, and most likely before he even starts crying uncontrollably.

3. The decision between nursing or formula feeding should not become bigger than World War III. First of all, Breastfeeding is NOT “Plug and Chug!” Nursing is hard. Extremely hard. There is no plug in and feed feature to it. It takes time, a fair amount of discomfort and practice for both you and your baby to get the hang of it. (I mean weeks, not days.) Ask for help. Find a lactation consultant. Be prepared for a possible battle that will take all of your inner strength to make it through.

Second, BREASTFEEDING MAY NOT BE FOR YOU. THAT IS OK! You, or your baby, may have a medical condition keeping you from being able to nurse. You may hate it. It may just not be right for you. This is VERY common, do not think you are a failure.

Plain and simple: You will either nurse or you will not. Regardless of what you do, your baby will be beautiful and wonderful and smart and articulate. Do what is best for you and your child. Do not let anyone make you feel otherwise. You are NOT a failure. DO NOT LET THIS RUIN YOU.

4. Do not get caught up trying to be the perfect mother. There is no such thing. In order to be the best mother to your baby, all you have to do is try your best. Parenting is filled with both triumphs and failures. Do not be hard on yourself or get discouraged if you fail. Just like with everything else, practice makes perfect. If you fall down, stand up, dust yourself off and try something else.

Above all, do not be afraid to ask for help. If someone wants to bring over dinner, let them. If someone wants to come over while you take a nap and shower, let them. Graciously accept all the help you can get, because chances are, the person offering the help has been in your shoes before and knows a little help goes a long way during those first few months.

5. Don’t forget to take time for your partner. It is so easy to lose sight of your relationship with your partner during those first few weeks and months of parenthood. Between the exhaustion from the sleepless nights, the demanding feeding schedule and your normal household or work activities, it can be hard to find quality time to spend with your partner. However, it is crucial that you MAKE time.

For example: Every single day during those first few weeks, make it a point to be affectionate, say “I love you,” if possible eat a meal together and then during that meal, try talk about anything but your baby.

The key is not to build a new life around your baby, but to blend your baby into your existing life together.

6. Don’t forget to take time for yourself. It is absolutely crucial that you take time for yourself on a daily basis. Every day you need to make it a point to take a shower, put on clean clothes and eat at least two wholesome meals. Then aim to leave the house for no less than 10 minutes, at least every other day. Even a walk around the block does wonders. Just get away from that baby to rejuvenate, or you will crash and burn.

If I have learned anything as a mother, it is that motherhood is a journey filled with ups and downs. Just when I think I have it figured out, the game changes, but even still, those six tips I keep in practice to this day. I listen to my instincts and child’s needs, I take time for my husband and while I admit that it is still hard for me to take time away for myself, I do it because I know how important it is. Above all, rather than trying to be the perfect mother, I try to be the best mother, by giving my best.