Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Cheering on the girls

The first time I heard myself “cheering” for my boobs, I knew I’d entered into a strange new world. A world in which I lived and died by how well “the girls” were doing their job.

Hello, my name is Ashley and I am a breastfeeding Momma. Better yet, a breastfeeding Momma who pumps.

Wait, you mean, all breastfeeding Mommas don’t give their girls some encouragement – and admonishments – from time to time? Surely I can’t be the only one.

It’s not something I ever pictured myself doing. I was certainly prepared when I made the decision to breastfeed my baby for obstacles. I had heard stories from both ends of the spectrum, so I told myself to expect the best, but beware of the worst. I had a goal of six months, hoped for a year, would have loved to extend past a year until my guy was ready to be done.

I am currently just over four months in and going pretty strong. Yet, I do live and die – swing my moods – based on the cooperation of my breasts.  See, I didn’t have the greatest start to breastfeeding and pumping (I’m a working mom). My son, Will, had trouble gaining weight in the first few weeks. As a first-time Momma who wanted so desperately to breastfeed – and who had seemingly gotten off to a great start in the hospital – I was devastated to the point of crying in the doctor’s office after a weigh-in. Twice.

We had to do some formula supplementing then I had to start pumping to supplement before I was prepared. Pumping in those first few days was awful. I was already stressed out about my baby’s lack of weight gain and feeling like a failure. I was barely pumping anything and thinking that meant that my baby wasn’t getting much from me when he nursed. That, in turn, stressed me out more, causing my supply to take another hit. It was a vicious circle.

But, we made it through again. Will put on weight and I was told to get on my own nursing and pumping schedule and not worry.

Thankfully, I have a very supportive husband and some great Mommy friends who talked me through. The first six weeks were very rocky, but we eventually got into a good schedule of nursing and pumping while I was on maternity leave and left the formula behind.

But, I still have a love/hate relationship with the pump. While I’m completely confident – now –  in how much my son gets directly from me, I constantly worry now that I’m back at work that I will not produce enough to feed him when I’m away. This is where the cheering comes in.

On any given day, I am calling referring to the girls as rock stars when they are doing their job. I proudly text my husband from work to tell him how productive they’ve been. I am practically giddy when I leave the pumping room at work when I’ve gotten enough to fill one bottle in one session. (I’ve also been so upset and depressed that I didn’t even want to pump because I would just be disappointed.)

I knew going in that breastfeeding would be a time consuming endeavor between feeding my son and pumping as a working Mom. What I did expect was how mind consuming it would be. Well worth it, but a struggle every day.

What feeding struggles (breast or formula) did you have to overcome in those first weeks and months?

Ashley Bearden is a full-time working Mommy to four-month-old son Will after two and a half years of trying to get pregnant.

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