[I want to caveat this with saying that everyone has a different story and experience with breastfeeding. Mine was tough and I want to share it in hopes I help other moms who may be going through it right now.]
Breastfeeding was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. When I was 7 months pregnant, I took the breastfeeding class through our hospital and thought I was fully prepared. I had practiced on a fake baby doll--how hard could it be?
Well, you know those photos you see of moms breastfeeding...the ones where they make it look so magical and easy, cuddled up with their cute baby in a beautiful sea of flowers or luxury bed sheets? Not real life (at least for me). Here’s what it was really like:
-Tears (lots of tears).
-Contractions every time the baby latched in the beginning (yep who knew you could have contractions AFTER giving birth).
-Walking around topless because your in so much pain it hurts to have clothes touch you.
-Standing in the shower crying while massaging your boobs because you’re so engorged.
-Randomly bursting into tears to your husband because you feel like a failure as a mother. And have no idea what the heck you're doing.
-Cold gel pads on 24/7.
-Frustration towards the people who didn’t tell you how hard this part was going to be.
-Calling your mom constantly crying.
-Purchasing all of the things on Amazon (pump parts, gel pads, re-stocking storage bags, nursing bras, sports bras, etc.)
-And more tears.
Let’s take a step back to when Olivia was born on February 22. I was still recovering from my c-section and remember the lactation consultant coming within hours of her being born. Before she arrived, I had tried breastfeeding a couple times and couldn’t get the latch right. Cue lactation consultant coming in hot; nothing like a stranger grabbing your boobs to help show you how to get the latch right. Thankfully, my mother was in the room and was able to jump in and help out. I was so frustrated at that point that I don’t think I would of successfully done it without her helping me (thank you Mom).
We were home a few days later and I still remember how painful it was. I sat on the couch crying with gel pads on to help relieve the pain. I was so determined and felt so much pressure to breastfeed that I refused to try formula or pump (yes, I know how ridiculous this is now). I’m proud of myself for not giving up, but I also know that those 10 months I did breastfeed and pump would have alleviated a lot of stress and exhaustion if would’ve just given her some formula.
The majority of my maternity leave was spent figuring out breastfeeding (and then pumping). Every 3 hours I was either breastfeeding or pumping, and even waking up in the middle of the night to pump so I could have a stash once I went back to work. I obsessed over that stash!
My love/hate relationship with the pump began once I went back to work. I would feed Liv once in the morning before I went to work (if I could time it perfectly which was rare), pump 3 times during the work day, feed her once I got home, and then pump 2 more times that evening. I was a hot mess. My mom guilt was at an all time high during this phase; I felt guilty when I was pumping at work--that my co-workers had to schedule things around me and I was constantly running into meetings late. I felt guilty that I was pumping and not at home feeding Liv myself.
To make things more interesting, there were a few work trips I had upon returning. I was lucky enough to have some really amazing, supportive co-workers who helped me through this (especially you Jess--thank you). I could write a book on my experiences traveling + pumping in bathrooms, ubers, restaurants, planes, etc. but I’ll share a few notes with you here:
That time a new TSA agent threw out ~15 ounces of breastmilk while I sat there in tears (yes, poured it out 1 by 1). She was new and didn’t know the protocol. Thank you to the second agent that came in and stopped it halfway through so we didn't lose it all.
Or how about the time I was stuck in a middle seat in between 2 older men who just stared at me the entire time, wondering what the hell I was doing? And halfway through the man in the window seat asked me to move get up so he could use the restroom.
Calling hotels ahead of time to make sure I had a fridge/freezer and that it was plugged in and set up at the right temperature (it never was).
Bringing zip lock bags and asking random airport vendors if they could fill them up with ice to make sure the milk stayed cold.
That time I was screamed at by a woman in the airport for pumping in a corner seat at my gate. “You are disgusting--go into a bathroom to do that!!”
Ever have to pump on a plane next to your bosses bosses boss? Lucky for me she’s amazing and that was one of the easier times (thank you).
Looking back at my journey with breastfeeding, I’m proud for doing it for as long as I did and sticking with it. I got through it with my village; co-workers, parents, my husband, and friends. Thank you all--especially you Mom.
To all of the women out there who have breastfed for 1 day, or 100 days, you’re an amazing mother. To all of the women who have pumped while traveling, you’re an amazing mother. To all of the women who didn’t breastfeed and did what was best for their baby and their situation, you’re an amazing mother.
Thank you to all of the moms who helped me with this piece of the journey. We’re all in this together.
[See our Resources section for some of my quick tips on breastfeeding/pumping upon returning to work].