“On July 13, 2017, my life changed forever. On that day, I became a mama for the very first time! I was instantly hit with a whirlwind of emotion. What was to come? How was my life about to change? What should I expect taking care of a tiny, newborn baby girl?
Meeting her was love at first sight. She was the most perfect little baby and we started figuring each other out right away, getting into our own rhythm. We created routines and did what we had to do to be successful in all things breastfeeding.
From the moment I knew I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I was absolutely set on it. I had read so many articles and stories that encouraged me. To me, I knew my breastmilk would be the best source of nutrition for her, and I wanted so badly to be her provider in that way. I had a Pinterest board full of breastfeeding articles, tips, and tricks. I registered for everything I would need to have a successful breastfeeding journey. I had nursing bras, reusable nursing pads, a Boppy pillow, nursing cover, nipple cream, everything you can think of. I thought I had all the knowledge, and essentials needed to have a successful experience, but it sadly did not turn out that way.
At the hospital as soon as my daughter was born, they put her on my chest for the ‘golden hour.’ I was in love right away, and I attempted to breastfeed her shortly after. She nursed for a few minutes and then was asleep. Our golden hour turned into three and before I knew it, they were coming in to get her cleaned up so we could head to a different room. By that point, she still had not nursed very much.
As the hours passed, I continued trying to breastfeed her. I noticed she was having issues with her latch, so a lactation consultant came in to help us. The lactation consultant noticed right away she had a tongue tie and that is why she was struggling. She taught me some tips on how to help my daughter latch, but it was really no use. Every time I would try to feed, she would get extremely frustrated. She would lock her neck and not want to turn towards my breast. She would scream, and it would take forever to calm her down enough to get her to latch. Despite all this, I kept at it and hoped she was getting enough milk out for the short periods of time she would nurse.
After 24 long hours in the hospital, we were getting ready to be discharged. My husband was on a plane from South Korea to finally come meet her. He was stationed overseas and did not get to experience her birth, so I was so anxious to get her home so they could meet!
We got home that evening and I remember the last time I was successfully able to nurse her was around 1 a.m. After that, my husband told me he would stay up with her so I could get a little sleep. A few hours later, he woke me up telling me she was hungry. I tried to feed her, and she just refused to latch.
Now fast forward to about 8 a.m. and we were getting ready to take her to a doctor’s appointment for a checkup. She still had not eaten by this point, and I can remember just crying my eyes out because I did not know what I was doing wrong. She had to be starving, it had been hours since she last nursed. I felt like I was failing her. My mom tried to help me latch her, but she just still would not do it, so we ended up going to her doctor’s appointment. Once we got home, I gave her a bottle of formula so I knew her tummy would be full. After all, I did not want my baby starving.
Giving her formula is something I swore I would never do. I did not want my babies to have formula. I have nothing against formula, fed is best at the end of the day, I wanted my babies to be exclusively breastfed, so giving her formula made me feel terrible and like my breastfeeding goals were being washed down the drain. I felt like all my knowledge and research were for nothing. From that day forward, I knew I only wanted her to have breastmilk so I did the only thing I could think of and I started using my breast pump.
When I first ordered my breast pump, I thought it would only be used every now and then, but it eventually turned into my best and worst friend. I started pumping every 2 hours on the hour, even through the night. It was truly exhausting. By the time I would pump and feed her, it would be time to pump again. I was running on little to no sleep and my life revolved around my pump. It was truly a love-hate relationship. I knew I was doing what was best for my baby, but the constant struggles and pain made me want to quit almost daily. Exclusively pumping is not an easy thing to do. A lot of women end up taking that route for their own reasons and they deserve the biggest praise for doing so.
When I first started, I got no more than two ounces at a time, and eventually, she started eating more than that each feed. This realization made me feel greatly discouraged. I put myself into a panic thinking I was not good enough and I would never be able to keep up with her demand. I had to figure out how to increase my supply and quickly. Giving myself time and being persistent brought me success. My supply eventually increased, and I was pumping enough to feed her exclusively and eventually be able to start a small freezer stash.
It was not easy, but it was worth it. Every drop of breastmilk counts and I reminded myself of that on the days I wanted to quit. I was able to exclusively pump for 14 months. To this day, that is still one of my biggest and favorite accomplishments. Pumping is not for the faint of heart and I am proud of myself for sticking with it for so long. It became my life, and I was so happy when my pumping journey came to an end. I was free and my life no longer revolved around a 2-hour time frame. I barely knew what to do with myself.
Fast forward and here we are, 3 years later, which brings me to my second child. I found out I was pregnant in May of 2020. It was a little surprise, but a sweet one nonetheless. I prayed I would get to breastfeed this time around. I was so excited to have a second chance, but as you would have guessed, it did not work out that way. My son was born on January 14, 2021. He was put on my chest immediately after birth and a nurse asked me a while later if I wanted to try feeding him. I remember trying to guide him to my breast so he could feed but he was not interested. The nurse told me boys are a little lazy so it might take some time for him to get the hang of it. I remember just going with it and hoping later I would be able to get him to feed.
We were taken to a recovery room for the rest of our stay, and I tried again to feed him, but he would just cry and scream or show no interest at all. Almost 24 hours later, he still had not had anything to eat. A nurse came in early that morning and offered me a breast pump and formula so he could eat. Again, I felt like I was failing for the second time. I was so discouraged and felt like something was wrong with me to have such complications when it comes to feeding my children.
I ended up feeding him a bottle of formula and he downed it, so I know he was hungry. After he ate, I started hand expressing my colostrum. It was not much at all and would take me a good 20 minutes just to fill a teaspoon full, but when I did my husband, and I would spoon-feed him and then alternate his feeds between colostrum and formula. His feeds in the hospital consisted mostly of formula as I was trying so hard to get my milk to come in. I felt shame in this, but I have come to realize it does not matter how you feed your baby, as long as they’re fed.
We stayed in the hospital for 2 days with him. Over that time span, I was able to hand express more and more and then started using my manual pump. By the time we got home from the hospital, my milk had come in, so again I did the only thing I could think of and started pumping. I continued to try to breastfeed, but he would get extremely frustrated and scream. Getting him to latch was impossible, so exclusively pumping became my life for the second time. After being home for one day he was exclusively bottle-fed breastmilk.
I am so proud of what my body has accomplished to feed both of my children. I may never get the breastfeeding experience I hoped for, but this one I will cherish forever because it is our journey. It is special and unique, and it is us. All the struggles are worth it for my babies.
Here we are 3, almost 4 months later and I am exclusively pumping. I have an over-supply this time and for that, I am so grateful! By the time my son was 2 weeks old, I already had 42 ounces in my deep freezer. 42o ounces probably does not sound like much, but is still a huge success, no matter how small. I am relieved my supply is so good. It took me almost 5 months to freeze 200 ounces when I was pumping with my daughter, so it is a big difference between my previous experience. I did not expect it, but I am so blessed to have it.
Just last week my son saw an ENT and I was told he also had a tongue like his sister and a lip tie on top of it. I felt in my gut he did since the day he was born, so I am glad it was caught and finally corrected. He still is not interested in breastfeeding, but I will continue to try. As for now, I pump. I hope and pray to get him to a year old, if not longer. With my supply being so great, I see that being no challenge.
Pumping has allowed me to nourish my children, and now I have been given the opportunity to nourish other little ones. Thanks to my supply, I had a freezer stash of 600 ounces by the time he turned 3 months old. Through Facebook, I was able to find a page of local mamas who were seeking breastmilk for their babies. I got in contact with one of them and was able to supply her baby girl with 500 ounces of liquid gold!
Donating has made me feel so proud of how far I have come. Helping another little baby be fed is such a blessing and I am so grateful I could help. I hope I can continue and get the opportunity to donate again. Donating is always something I wanted to do when my daughter was a baby, we just never had enough to do that.
Some people think pumping is the easy way out, but I am here to tell you it is not. Never judge a mama for doing what is best for her and her baby. You never know the struggles they have faced that have brought them to this decision. A fed baby is a happy baby, whether formula or breastmilk. My family, my husband, and my daughter have all been a huge support to me through both of my breastfeeding journeys and I know for I am lucky. It truly takes a village and I do not know how I could do it alone. To those of you mamas that do, just know you are amazing!
To all the mamas who breastfeed, pump, or formula feed, you are superheroes! Your worth is never determined by how you choose to feed your baby, or by the ounces of breastmilk you produce. If your baby is fed that is all that matters. Always do what is best for your family and be proud of all the things you achieve. You are the best parent to your child, no one else.
I look forward to continuing my pumping journey and hopefully helping another family will be in the cards for me. Feeding my baby is the best feeling in the world! And just a friendly reminder… pumping is breastfeeding too!”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Elizabeth Seaman from Salem, Ohio. You can follow her journey on Instagram, Facebook, and her Blog. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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