Making the decision to feed your baby breast milk, in whatever way and for whatever length of time you choose, is amazing. But, every breastfeeding journey is different, and none are perfect. In this ‘Notes From A New Breastfeeding Mom,’ first-time mother Joy shares her experiences in her own words. Her journey, like other moms’, has its flaws and challenges, but it is a real glimpse into the perfectly imperfect experience of breastfeeding. Read Joy’s post Why does My Body Think I Had Twins? here.
Part 4: Good Gracious the Pressure in My Boobs
I always said I was going to try and breastfeed. Well, more accurately, when asked I always responded, “I’ll breastfeed if I can.”
I had plenty of pregnant friends and heard enough stories that I knew breastfeeding wasn’t a guarantee. And I didn’t want to give myself false hope or put any unneeded pressure on myself – so my plan was to give it the ole college try and see what happened.
Then, my son Grant came, as well as an insane amount of maternal pressure. I went from thinking I’d be okay if I couldn’t breastfeed to stressing over it.
The first couple days as I struggled to nurse him, I tried not to put additional pressure on myself. But that didn’t work too well. Lactation appointment after lactation appointment. Failed attempt of feeding after failed attempt. The pressure to breastfeed started to build up.
I felt a pressure I’ve never felt before.
I felt I was failing in one of my first official mommy duties – to feed my son.
I’ve always heard about the extreme amount of pressure moms put on themselves and each other, but I didn’t think I’d fall into that trap. Oh, how wrong I was.
Rationally, I knew breast milk wasn’t the be-all and end-all. Preferred…yes. Mandatory…no. But at that point, I wasn’t at my most rational state.
Luckily, my husband is a calmer and more rational person than I am, and he was able to talk me off the metaphorical ledge. We came up with some solutions that worked for us and we moved forward.
But just as quickly as that pressure went away new pressures arrived – the pressure to keep my supply up. Then pressure to pump seven times a day. The pressure to eat healthy. The pressure to avoid caffeine. (Come to find out these last two aren’t pressures moms need to worry about.) And the pressure in my boobs! Good gracious the pressure in my boobs.
I’m learning there are a lot of pressures when it comes to breastfeeding. The emotional, coercion type – in which you feel the entire world is judging you purely on whether or not you’re breastfeeding the way “they” deem satisfactory.
And then there’s pressure – the noun – the pressure that physically lives inside of your breasts. The pressure and sometimes pain that comes along every time your breasts need emptied. The good news…this particular pressure can be relieved relatively quickly. The bad news…it never comes at a convenient time.
Grant can’t eat all of the milk I produce and my breasts are on a schedule. If I go five minutes over my typical pumping time, I start to get a little tingle. Go an hour over or heaven’s forbid I go more than an hour over; I’m aching, in pain. My boobs are ready to explode.
So I’ve had to take some non-pleasant and definitely non-flattering steps to alleviate the pressure.
In no particular order, I have:
Pumped while riding shotgun going down the interstate. (More than once.)
Pumped sitting on a paint bucket in a dirty bathroom while watching a spider crawl up the wall.
I have asked clients if they had a “private room” I could step into for a couple minutes. (Wink, wink.)
Toggled my pump and the mute button on my phone back and forth in order to take a conference call but ensure no one actually knew I was pumping.
Pumped in my car in the parking garage by only the glow of my cell phone when we lost power for the day.
I have emptied the girls with a lactation consultant closely watching.
And on more accounts than I’d prefer to admit, I have inadvertently given a “show” while pumping in some type of parking lot. Yes, it’s unfortunate for all parties involved but sometimes even the best planned pumping sessions end with a quick peep show.
Now, while I wish I could end here – I have one more. The worst one in fact. Just a couple weeks ago, we went to visit family out of state. We had places to go, people to see, and I forgot a pumping accessory at the hotel.
Of course, I didn’t realize this until we were 30 miles away from the hotel, and I was two hours past my pumping time. I literally let out a scream as I was sitting in a spare bedroom at my in-laws with my shirt raised high and half of my pumping gear strapped on.
As my husband came rushing to see why I was screaming, tears of pain and desperation flowed down my cheeks.
“Get the baby!” I cried.
“He’s sleeping,” my husband responded.
I did not care. The whole “don’t wake a sleeping baby” saying went out of the window as I tried to convince my son that he was hungry.
He was not.
So instead I sat there – on a step stool in a spare bedroom listening to my family in the other room all having a good ole time – all knowing exactly what I was doing. I sat there with tears running down my face. I sat there hand expressing for over two hours – around four ounces per breast.
This was definitely not one of the better family gatherings I’ve attended. But I did it because of the pressure. The pressure in my breast. The pressure to provide milk for my child (even though he was refusing to eat at that moment). And the pressure to be an unflawed mother.
There are a lot of pressures on moms, especially on breastfeeding moms. It’s not easy. It’s not always pretty. It’s not for the weak.
But I’m learning that there are things that can help. When the pressure builds up, I take a couple deep breaths. I laugh when the situation calls for it. I bought some spare parts for my breast pump that I keep in my pumping bag. And my husband has also gotten into the habit of double-checking…just to make sure I have everything I need.
I’m working on handling all of the pressures of being a mom. It can be tough at times. But just like a 2:00 a.m. feeding, I get up and I do it…’cause I’m a mom and my son is counting on me.
To read more posts from Joy and to follow along her breastfeeding journey, click here.