Breastfeeding Is Not For The Faint Of Heart

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Pumping. It’s a seven letter word that can either make you smile or make you cringe. Or both.

I had always planned on breastfeeding, long before I even got pregnant. I had heard of so many stories about breastfeeding just not working out for moms, so that had always been a fear of mine. I mean, let’s be serious… you’re just expected to know how to nurse 5 minutes after giving birth.

If you don’t, they’ll send someone in that specializes in lactation. And the way they man handle your sore and tired body will make you think otherwise and question how someone so ‘rough’ could ever choose this as an occupation.

While I’m sure not all lactation specialists are like this, the nicest person to help me was just a sweet nurse that happened to be in the hallway at the time of one of my many breaks downs when I asked my husband to please find someone who could help me.

My son came out at a whopping nine pounds and fifteen ounces. He was a big baby and I knew he was hungry. We struggled at nursing, I had at least two lactation consultants come in daily for four days straight while in the hospital.

I was touched by strangers, I was told my son was starving, and even told, ‘If my son didn’t stop losing weight, we’d have to discuss supplementing.’ But I was trying.

Mother in hospital sips drink while holding her baby
Courtesy of Becca Hodges

I tried every technique, every hold, every tip they could give me. I even had my husband by my side every time I tried nursing for both mental and physical support (we’ll get back to that shortly).

I had a C-section. I couldn’t move all that well and I was expected to just know how to nurse this almost ten-pound baby with an incision across my pelvis, and when I didn’t do it the way they wanted me to, they made sure to tell me that I was doing it wrong. Not to mention, each consultant to come in to my room told me a ‘different’ technique and each before that one was indeed wrong.

Because after having a baby, being on a bunch of medications, being asked a thousand questions and being unbelievably tired, you are definitely going to remember all the breastfeeding and nursing information they throw at you.

I remember one time in particular where a nurse came in to check my incision. My breakfast was being delivered and the lactation specialist came in and when I say all of my modesty went out the window, I mean it. I know childbirth is beautiful but most moms would like to remain unseen to at least a few in the hospital after a bunch of doctors and nurses have already seen every part of your body.

Anyway, it’s normal for a baby to lose some weight after birth and my son did in fact lose weight. That one specific nurse that told me, I’d have to ‘discuss supplementing formula’ made me feel like a failure not even 24 hours into being a new mom.

I cried in the hospital. I cried a lot.

I felt like I was failing my baby and my body wasn’t doing what it was supposed to or that I just wasn’t getting the hang of nursing like other moms did. I felt like a failure.

We had to go to his first pediatrician appointment and he continued to lose. The feeling of disappointment was overwhelming. This is where my husband comes in.

My son was hungry and I needed to feed him; gosh did I dread that cry. I knew I wasn’t giving him enough and by this time I was so uncomfortably engorged, it made it even harder to hold him and feed him.

My husband held my son as I positioned myself in a doctor’s office chair while he balanced himself on his heels; he was bending at my level for almost 45 minutes while holding my son up to me as he ate. (Might I add my husband is 6’3 and I’d say not an easy task.)

That’s love, my friends. Holding your baby up to help your wife because she didn’t have her boppy or the 3 couch cushions to hold her baby up comfortably or the nipple shield she so desperately tried to make work.

Nursing. Is. Hard.

After two weeks of mental and physical exhaustion, the crying (on both ends) became too much and I decided I couldn’t do it anymore. I started to pump. And that night, I decided that I would exclusively pump to make sure my baby was still able to have breast milk.

Infant in gray jumper sips bottle in mother;s lap
Courtesy of Becca Hodges

This is the day I decided no matter how hard it was going to be, I’d do it for him.

And guess what, nurse who rudely told me my son was losing weight? He gained a pound in 3 days after I started pumping. And now at 4 months old he weighs over twenty pounds.

I asked the questions and I tried all the tips and tricks. I put myself out there and I never felt like I had the support that a new mom, heck, any mom truly deserves after delivering a new baby.

I didn’t know that it can take weeks for your milk to come in, and prior to that the colostrum is hard for your little one to get out because it’s thicker. I didn’t know I would feel so uncomfortably engorged that it would make it harder for babe to latch.

I didn’t know how bad my nipples would hurt and when telling a nurse I was bleeding, she’d reply ‘Yeah, he latched wrong. You need to make sure he’s on right.’

I didn’t know that choosing to pump didn’t mean you were failing as a mom.

And I sure as heck didn’t know that breastfeeding meant nursing AND/OR pumping so when being asked, ‘Are you breastfeeding?’ I’d quietly shake my head and reply, ‘No, I’m exclusively pumping.’ I know now that I am, in fact, breastfeeding. I’m just not nursing, but my body is still working hard to supply the necessary nutrients for my sweet boy.

It shouldn’t matter if it’s coming directly from my breast or a bottle.

It shouldn’t matter if I’m feeding him or if my husband, my mom, or even a friend feeds him because he’s still getting FED. But what I did know was that my baby would still love me no matter if I nursed, pumped, or formula fed.

I know that choosing to exclusively pump meant a lot of dedication and a lot of time consumption, but it wouldn’t be like me to not choose the harder, much less traveled path.

I can proudly say since those two weeks of nursing, I have been exclusively pumping my son for eight months and he is happier and we’re both less stressed. It’s hard, it’s extremely time-consuming, and a lot of the time I dread leaving the house with my 3 bags packed so I can pump every 2-3 hours.

You have to clean more parts, you have to use a lot more bottles. You have to be connected to the wall a lot, and don’t even get me started about the pumping schedules and ALL the issues that come along with pumping (sizing, suction, clogs, mastitis, etc.).

While out, you have to make sure your milk stays cold, and you have to find a place to pump and not feel awkward while your pumps suck (what it feels like on most days) the life out of you.

All of this is worth it though, because I have not only been able to make sure my son gets breastmilk, I have been able to help other mamas by donation and have donated roughly 3,000 ounces to other babies.

Freezer full of frozen breast milk
Courtesy of Becca Hodges

It takes a lot to be a mom. It’s hard work and it’s exhausting.

It’s okay to quit nursing. It’s okay to stop pumping.

It’s okay to give your baby formula.

It’s okay to do what makes you mentally sane because you are already going crazy from all the hormones being sucked out of you after childbirth.

Regardless if you breastfed for 12 hours, one day, two weeks, six months, or a year, you deserve a gold star because this is not an easy task.

You aren’t going to know how to do it all at first. It doesn’t just happen the moment you give birth. You’ll learn, and once you feel like you’re getting the hang of it, you’ll get a curveball like me, and at four months your baby will start getting his teeth earlier than most.

But until then, take it one step at a time and love your baby because soon they won’t be your baby anymore and they’ll be walking away from you and all you’ll wonder is, ‘How did the time fly by?'”

Mother holds newborn baby against her cheek
Courtesy of Becca Hodges

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Becca Hodges.  Subscribe to our free email newsletter, Living Better—your ultimate guide for actionable insights, evidence backed advice, and captivating personal stories, propelling you forward to living a more fulfilling life.

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