Thursday, September 8, 2011

Guest Post: How Do You Define Breastfeeding?

I am excited to have a real life friend of mine who was interested (after I bugged her mercilessly) in doing a guest post for us. She is a first time mama to 6 1/2 month old Paisley. I'll let her tell you her story because she does it way better than I ever could. She and another friend have helped me see a different perspective to how we mother and a greater understanding of how blessed I am in some of the things I am able to do rather effortlessly. So much love and respect to them both.

 Hi, my name is Stephanie, and I’m a breastfeeding mom. Not in the traditional sense, though … certainly not in the way that most people would picture a breastfeeding mom. In fact, some people wouldn’t even refer to what I do as “breastfeeding”. I’m an exclusive pumper, an EPer for short. This means that all my milk is produced by a breast pump, and I do not ever put my daughter, Paisley, to my breast. Don’t get me wrong - I wish more than anything that I nursed my child. I just can’t. In fact, she actually refuses to nurse at this point.

Things started off okay for us. She nursed within one hour after birth and latched like a champ, at least that’s what I thought. The problem really started when I got home. Each nursing session would take upwards of 45 minutes, and I would grit my teeth and breathe my way through them. Latching on grew to be more and more painful, and I started to view my child as a starving animal instead of my sweet, fuzzy-headed little baby. Paisley would thrash her head back and forth, snorting, and would literally lunge at my nipple. Within one week, I had nipples that were gaping open so much so that my nurse practitioner referred to them as “the worst she’d seen”. I consulted with a lactation consultant on more than one occasion with a visit and complete nursing session thrown in. One morning, after a particularly painful latch, I found myself looking down at Paisley and starting to say “you little f….”. Thank God I stopped myself, but it was at that moment that I realized that breastfeeding was not the bonding experience that I had wanted it to be. In fact, it was turning into the exact opposite. I was resenting my child because I had to feed her.

Originally, the goal was just to pump for a couple of days – just until my nipples healed enough to put her back on. A few days quickly turned in a few weeks with little improvement. I seriously couldn’t bear the thought of placing my daughter’s mouth on my torn up nipples, not only for the pain that I would feel but for the thought of her little mouth having to touch all of that. After six weeks of pumping, my nipples were finally healed. By this point, I was pumping 40 oz a day and my daughter was consuming 25. Frankly, I had overproduced and would have to pump anyway after she would nurse. After really looking at the situation, I realized that we were both far happier with me pumping. She got her breast milk in bottle that was fed to her by anyone that was willing, and she also got a much more calm and happier mom in the process.

Yes, pumping exclusively is hard. There are parts to wash daily. There’s the fact that you pump, and then feed. It’s a huge pain to be hooked up to a machine five times a day, 20 minutes a session. But seriously? It’s worth it. Paisley is getting the best that I can give her. She’s healthy, thriving, and happy – all thanks to my pumping. I’m not going to lie. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t feel some sort of remorse or guilt over the fact that Paisley doesn’t nurse. I still try once in awhile. Not being able to nurse her is a loss that I still mourn and probably will for awhile. It’s not what I envisioned for us, and it’s certainly not what I would prefer. I’m still envious of moms that can put their babies to breast with no difficulty. I still struggle to identify with being one of them. But the truth is I am one of them. Just not in the traditional sense.

Hi, my name is Stephanie, and I’m a breastfeeding mom.

Note from Jo: 

I'm not going to lie. I read Stephanie's post and just sobbed. I remember when she was pregnant and she talked about how much she was looking forward to and DETERMINED to breastfeed. Since Paisley's birth, she has mentioned often how she wishes that things would have worked out with Paisley and latching onto the breast. I offered what advice and support that I could. When she made the decision that pumping was the best thing for them both, I remember thinking "Oh, that's sad." Reading her words today, I feel such a sense of loss for her and actual GUILT that I've been able to nurse my babies. I wonder why it works for some and not for others and am so frustrated at the unfairness of it all.  I respect and admire her so much for continuing to do what is best for her and for her baby and am so very proud that she trusted me enough to share her story with me and with you today.

 Stephanie can be found on twitter @PaiselnutsMama but does not (yet) have her own blog. Feel free to show her the comment love here and she will check in, especially once I nag her until she does. That's what friends are for, right?

Image and video hosting by TinyPic


Jamie H said...

Yes, Stephanie, you ARE a breastfeeding mom! In fact, I give more respect to you than I do to moms who put their babies to breast. It takes more determination to pump and feed than it does to just feed. Most people would have just given up. You want what's best for your baby and will go to the lengths to do it! Congrats and keep it up!!

TheFeministBreeder said...

Stephanie - for what it's worth, I absolutely think you're a breastfeeding mother. Your BREASTS are FEEDING your baby, and that's that. No matter how the food gets transported into her belly, it's your boobies doing the job.

And I absolutely admire you for being an EP'er. I had to pump while I worked full time and went to school full time with my second baby, and I pump part time now with my third, and pumping SUCKS! I'd rather do just about anything than wash pump parts. So good for you for taking the hard road and giving your baby the best you can.

Ash said...

Thank you, Paisley, for sharing this and to Jo for providing the platform. I know you mentioned this in your comments to me about my breastfeeding struggles and am so grateful for it. It was such an important reminder to me that there are tools to help support women like you and me whose babies struggle to breastfeed and we shouldn't be ashamed or embarrassed to use those tools. We are still feeding our children with the milk from our breasts. Ie breastfeeding! It's definitely more of a hassle for me to use the nipple shield, and I can only imagine the added stress of the pump . I so admire you for sticking with it. Brava! You strong breastfeeding Mama, you!

clhboyle said...

Stephanie - I am in the EPing Boat with you!. I was so gung-ho on breast feeding my baby (who is now 15 weeks old). I read books, went to classes, watched my friends...I thought it would be no bid deal! My baby latched right away, but even after the "it's better after 2 week" mark passed It was so painful I would curl my toes through the entire feeding, and one day the "F" word was also on the tip of my tongue! I called an LC after 8 weeks of torture and found out that we had thrush, which was a big contributor to the pain. It took 2 weeks to get it cleared up (I would not BF because of pain, and I didn't want my torn up nips in her mouth either), and now she won't latch :( I too mourn the fact that I cannot EBF. My sister EBF'd all 3 of her babies with ease, and I am super jealous. But I take comfort in knowing there are many women out there like me that have been able to turn to EPing to feed their babies. I'm thankful that breast pumps exist!! We are breastfeeding mothers, and should be very proud of it!! Thanks for sharing your story (I cried through it :)).

Anonymous said...

Stephanie, thank you so much for sharing this!! I wish more people would feel the way you do, and that so many of us do. EPing is a wonderful gift that only you can give your daughter.

Thank you