A Stubborn Perfectionist's Struggle with Breastfeeding: My Exclusive Pumping Story

My family still teases me about something I said in the hospital when I found out that I was going to have to have a c-section with my first-born, Jona. After the initial panic and disappointment faded, I said to Aaron and the nurses in the room, "But I didn't read that chapter [in the pregnancy books]!" Clearly, I like to be prepared.

I thought I had prepared myself for breastfeeding. I did read the chapters, as well as attend a class at the hospital. Just as many fellow moms warned me, however, the reality was something I couldn't prepare for. My milk took several days to come in, Jona couldn't and wouldn't latch, and on top of everything else my supply was inadequate. After weeks of agony, I gave up breastfeeding and pumped and supplemented with formula. After three months I quit pumping entirely, because the amount I was making wasn't enough to justify the time and effort I was putting in to feeling like a dairy cow.

When I found out I was pregnant with Violet, I vowed that things would be different. I'd try to breastfeed, but not stress out if I couldn't and had to give her formula right away. Yet being the stubborn perfectionist that I am, I put every effort into making breastfeeding work. I started pumping right away, which helped my milk come in sooner. When engorgement made it difficult for her to latch, I used a nipple shield to help. I had lactation consultants on speed dial.  

I thought all was going well, until I took her in for a weigh in at 3 weeks and she was 5 lb 13 oz... still well under her birth weight of 6 lb 7 oz. At that point both the doctor and lactation consultant instructed me to begin pumping and bottle feeding (and supplementing, if necessary) to get her weight up. Luckily I was able to pump enough milk to feed her, but at that point breastfeeding went from challenging to seemingly impossible. Every feeding felt like a battle. I met with a lactation consultant, went to a breastfeeding support group--basically, did anything and everything I could to get back to breastfeeding again. 

I knew I couldn't go on trying forever, so I gave myself a deadline (because that's how I roll). When I had to go back to work after my maternity leave (which was about 12 weeks), if Violet still wouldn't breastfeed I would pump exclusively and just accept that. With some tears, some frustration, and (I hate to admit it) some guilt, that's exactly what happened and I began exclusively pumping. 

Once that decision was made, I knew that at any point my supply could plummet and I would have to make the switch to formula. I vowed to take it a month at a time, and at the same time do whatever I could to produce enough milk for Violet. To help boost my supply, I've taken fenugreek supplements and made lactation cookies, and I always make sure to drink plenty of water. Luckily I built up a good supply in my freezer in the beginning; that stash has carried me through the times my supply dipped. 

Currently, Violet is 7 months old and I'm still pumping exclusively and I haven't yet had to supplement. I pump 5 times a day: when I get up around 5:15am, 9:30am, 2:30pm, 6:30/7pm, and 10pm, for 20 minutes at a time. Ideally I would love to drop the evening pumping session, but since right now I've been able to keep up with what Violet eats (which is around 30 oz a day) I'm afraid to make any changes. 

I've learned so much from the different experiences of feeding both Jona and Violet. Being prepared is important and helpful, but it's certainly not everything. At the end of the day, you have to do what works, and give yourself grace when things don't turn out the way you planned. If I've learned anything as a mom, it's that things rarely turn out the way I planned! I'm trying to focus less on the "shoulds" and the ideals in my head, and more on the child in front of me, who is healthy and happy and FED. I hope to keep that mentality as I continue to take it a month at a time. 

While not a sponsored post, this post is in partnership with Honest, a company who is as much of a perfectionist as I am when it comes to their products. 


Before you go, are you an expecting mama or do you know one? My stylish blog buddy Mica of Away from the Blue has written an excellent e-Book, Stylish Pregnancy on a Budget. It's full of tips, worksheets, and outfit ideas to help you look fantastic without blowing your budget. You know that's right up my alley, and I wish her book were around when I was pregnant! The best part is that her book is just $2.95--you get more than your money's worth I think. Click here to visit Mica. (This is an affiliate link. Thank you for your support!) 

1 comment:

  1. I had production issues. Then dealt with some ppd. So I made it about 5 weeks. Which my Dr was proud I made it that far. So was I, wish i could have gone longer but just couldn't and that is ok. :)


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