Feeding the Baby
Sunday, September 28, 2014
Before I had Olive, I knew that the thing that I was the most scared of was feeding. I knew I wanted to breastfeed, but I also knew that if it wasn't for me, it would be okay to formula feed. My siblings and I were all bf, but my niece and nephew were both ff. My friends were a mix of bf and ff, which meant that I had support to bf, but also support to ff.
I started in the hospital trying to bf. I thought it was going great! I had done ZERO research on it, but the lactation nurse said that all was well, and Olive would get the hang of it while I continued to get more comfortable with it. That was that. We went home, and I realized that maybe we didn't have the hang of it. I was not comfortable, but I carried on feeding. We then went to the 3 day doctor visit, and Olive had lost too much weight for the doctor to feel comfortable. We had to start supplementing immediately.
I was devastated. I'm not sure if that even describes how heartbroken I was the first time that I saw Bruce giving Olive the bottle. I sobbed. I was clearly the worst mother ever, and this would lead to my mothership card being taken away. (Sleep deprived much??)
We continued supplementing while I continued to struggle through breastfeeding for the first week. Olive was gaining weight, and the doctor was pleased. I became much better about bottle feeding Olive, and realized very quickly that the only thing that mattered was that Olive was fed. If my milk was not going to work for Olive, then there had to be another solution, and if that was formula, that was okay. My friend came to visit after we had been home for a full week. She is a bf guru, and showed me how to better support Olive while bfing, and how to use a pump.
Pump = Game Changer.
I started pumping with a Medela swing pump. One breast at a time. It took forever, but I was so proud every time that I got an ounce. YAY! One less ounce of formula that we have to use! Then I upped my game and started renting the pump from the hospital.
Hospital Grade Pump = SERIOUS Game Changer.
Suddenly I was getting 2-3 oz from each side! And all at once! And in less time! My supply continued to improve, until one day we didn't need to use formula at all. And then it happened again. And again. Until finally we weren't using any formula.
Occasionally in the first few weeks of using the hospital pump, I would try to nurse Olive. Every time we both got frustrated, and the session ended quickly. I tried a nipple shield, which worked, but I always felt clumsy with it. Who wants to waste extra time getting a shield on when you have a screaming baby? Not me.
I have been exclusively pumping since July. This method works for us because Bruce can give her a bottle in the middle of the night while I pump. (He actually does waaaaay more in the middle of the night than I do. I lay there and pump while he gets up and changes/feeds Olive. Go Bruce!) It also makes leaving Olive with someone else much easier- not that it will ever be easy, but it is easier. ;)
I recently went to the dentist and the hygienist asked if I was breastfeeding. I said yes, that I was pumping. The hygienist went on about how much of a bonding experience it is breastfeed a baby. Yes, it is. I produce the milk, my daughter drinks it. She continued by saying that her kids never took a bottle, and how it would be hard for Olive to take a bottle when I return to school next month. I finally had to explain that I exclusively pump, meaning that Olive isn't put to the breast at all. This was clearly a foreign concept to the poor hygienist and I immediately felt the cold look of judgment as she realized that *GASP* I use bottles and *DOUBLE GASP* Olive's father feeds Olive as much as I do.
All of these feeding issues have taught me some important things about mothering:
1. What works for me may not work for you. And that's okay. Is your baby being fed? Yes? Cool. That's what matters.
2. Be patient. I had no idea if my milk would ever come in. I rent my pump (no, our insurance doesn't cover it) monthly from the hospital. I liked that I could try it before I bought it. If my milk didn't come in, I knew that formula would work, too. I was patient with myself while I learned about pumping. I am now producing about 35-40 oz a day, and have a freezer stash of over 400 oz and is still growing.
3. Look for help. I am forever grateful for my friend who helped with breastfeeding and pumping. She was so calm about all of it, and also helped to remind me that the most important thing was Olive being healthy and getting what she needed.