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 Good Gracious the Pressure in My Boobs here.
Part 5: Just Pumping Away the Fear…Kinda
I read online that a mother can recognize her baby’s cry just days after birth. Mere days after traumatizing her body by pushing out a cute little bowling ball, a mom can pick out her child’s uniquely toned cry in a room full of fussy babies.
That’s amazing to me.
Personally, the only wailing newborn I was around after my son Grant arrived was my son Grant. So I can’t tell you whether or not this is in fact true.
I also read online that a mother’s hormones are so ramped up that when she hears her newborn sob, something kicks in – a deadly sense of fear. Logically moms know their babies are just hungry or tired or wet or just fussy, but our hormones scream, “CALL 911…something’s wrong!”
This little tidbit I can tell you was (and sometimes still is) true for me. Grant would let out a tiny, cranky cry and my heart would sink. When he screamed, I would fear the absolute worst.
It took some time for me to get a grip and realize that crying didn’t mean it was an emergency. And my hormones finally started to straighten out, which I assume helped out a lot.
But to this day, I still raise my son with a fair amount of fear lingering in the background.
One of my biggest fears is my milk supply. While I’m definitely an over producer, I’m also a cup-half-empty kinda gal. Yes, I’m that person – I’m typically waiting for the other shoe to drop.
I’m afraid one day I’ll wake up and my girls will be bone dry. Or that only one boob will produce the liquid gold my son relies on. Or that Grant will decide he only wants fresh milk and not a single ounce of my frozen supply. I’m even nervous that my freezer will malfunction and all of my stockpile will spoil.
My list of fears goes on, but I won’t – I think you get the point. I have realistic and unrealistic milk fears.
So needless to say, when I was ready to drop one of my pumping sessions, I got a little tense. I was terrified. This was too important to screw up. Therefore, I did what I always do. I researched the bejesus out of it.
From what I learned there are a handful of methods women use to drop a pumping session:
- There’s the ‘reduce the amount of time you pump’ method.
- The ‘only pump until you get a certain amount of milk’ method.
- The ‘slowly move two pumps closer together’ method.
- And, of course, the ‘cold turkey’ method.
Now before I share what method I chose, it’s important to know why I wanted to drop a pumping session. I wasn’t weaning my son. And while I did have an oversupply, it wasn’t my intention to reduce it. I did it because it was the best thing for me.
Grant and I had a handful of roadblocks in the beginning of my breastfeeding journey so I ended up not only nursing him but pumping seven times a day. It was physically and mentally wearing me down. Plus, I had several run-ins with clogged ducts and mastitis, so out of fear I was pumping for longer amounts of time. After consulting with my lactation consultant, we determined that only pumping six times a day was the best decision for me.
So when I was ready, I started to carefully plan everything out.
I decided what session to eliminate (my 5:00 p.m.). Chose my method (the ‘slowly move two pumps closer together’). And I cleared some of my calendar – just in case I ended up getting mastitis and needed some time to heal.
And then, things changed.
The Saturday before I was going to get started my husband had me car shopping for a good portion of the day. By the time we got home, my boobs felt like they were dragging on the floor. I pumped and pumped but no matter how I sliced it, I was only going to be able to pump six times that day. So that’s what I did.
Sunday I was feeling horrible and my husband took care of Grant all day while I rested. I slept right through some pumping sessions and could only get six in, again.
On Monday, my ‘I’m going to start moving two pumps closer together’ day, we were again at the car dealership. So six pumps.
That night Grant slept a glorious six hours – and so did I. I woke up ready to burst, but I was overall okay with missing my 4:00 a.m. pumping session. And I really enjoyed the sleep.
As the days were going by, my plan was not panning out. Everything I was going to do – like cut out my 5:00 p.m. session – wasn’t happening.
And everything I wasn’t going to do – like completely skipping a planned pumping session – was happening.
But oddly enough, everything was working out. The other shoe did not drop. And my supply only dipped slightly for a few days. My boobs did not explode. I had no clogged ducts. No horrid illness.
I was okay.
Better than okay actually ‘cause I was sleeping for longer stretches. And come to find out, when you’re getting five to six hours of uninterrupted sleep, squeezing in the 5:00 p.m. pumping session before the end of the work day isn’t that bad.
I had become a six-a-day pumper instead of a seven timer. Success!
Although, please note everything was not perfect. There were definitely times throughout this process that I had to do mini pumps to reduce engorgement. There were times I had to pump longer. Times where I got a fraction of my usual amount of milk. Times the girls felt like 20 pound weights dangling from my chest. And yes, there were times I freaked out, like really freaked out. But all in all, I was fine and so was my supply.
None of my fears came true. (At least yet…joking…kinda.)
For now, whenever Grant lets out the ‘I’m hungry feed me’ cry, I just go into the fridge and grab a bottle or thaw a bag of milk or nurse him. I have options. A handful of them. And the more options I have, the less fear that lives inside of me.
To read more posts from Joy and to follow along her breastfeeding journey, click here.