My first time using a breast pump
I remember it well. My son was six weeks old and I took my doula’s advice to introduce a bottle to him at this time. Breastfeeding was going great and I would soon need my mom to bottle feed him so that I could return to work. I learned that this is a crucial time to introduce a bottle. If you do it sooner you may end up with nipple confusion and you could hurt your milk supply too soon in the breastfeeding game.
If you wait too long you may end up with a baby who refuses the bottle. This isn’t a fun option. It happened to my sister with her second born. She didn’t introduce a bottle until my niece was about nine months old and it was a nightmare. She would just cry, and cry and cry and refused every single bottle and nipple that was available for purchase in 2003. This made it really difficult for anyone to babysit her and limited the amount of time that my sister was able to be away from her.
Anyway, I had this idea that on my son’s sixth week birthday, first thing in the morning, I would sit with my manual hand pump and obviously pump out more than enough milk to feed a small village.
I sat down with my sterilized pump that morning and boy did I fail miserably at expressing my breast milk. I can’t believe how blissfully ignorant I was. I thought that it would be so easy. I sat down with my engorged breasts and attached the pump to my right breast and began the rhythmic pumping. I had read the instruction manual many times and was sure that this was the right way to do it.
I got NOTHING. Not even a drop. About 10 minutes later, I think I had collected about three drops. Three glorious drops of liquid gold. (Later on in my breast pumping career I really appreciated why people called it that.) The tears flowed. It wasn’t working. I was broken. I sobbed and tried the left breast. Ten minutes and maybe two drops later, I gave up. My nipples were taking a beating. And obviously they were broken.
I put away the pump and fed my baby the best way I knew how. Breastfeeding was going well and I had a chubby little baby who wet enough diapers to prove it.
My hand pump did work when I tried again later on that week. I don’t really know why it didn’t work the first time. Maybe I was far too nervous about trying something new and my body refused to co-operate. Maybe I wasn’t mentally ready for a change.
I had to pump a lot of milk for my babies. Being self-employed, I didn’t get to enjoy the luxury of a year-long maternity leave. I used my manual pump once in a while so I could go out socially and later moved to a hospital grade electric pump that I could use to pump both breasts simultaneously. I pumped everywhere I could – my office, friend’s homes, even in my car. If I had milk and my baby wasn’t around, I was pumping it and storing it.
It was liquid gold to me because even at my most engorged times I was only ever able to pump out about three ounces of milk at a time – so I spent a lot of time pumping, and collecting, and making bottles that were full enough for my baby to enjoy while I was working.
I always heard about women who could pump out 10 ounces from each breast at a time. My own mother donated her breast milk to a hospital back in the ’70s. Why did I have such a hard time? I still don’t have the answers, but I do have two healthy children. Over six years after that manual hand pump disaster I look back and wish that I could give that new and frustrated mom a hug.
I had a pretty intense breastfeeding experience, collecting every drop I could, and feeding both of my babies on demand, around the clock. It wasn’t the easiest thing for me, but I don’t regret it. In fact, sometimes I really miss breastfeeding. I miss my baby grunting and complaining during feeding (those times where it took too long to get him/her on my breast) — I wish I had an audio clip to share with you. I miss holding little hands while nursing. I miss those little blue/gray eyes looking up at me. I cherish these memories and think about them in awe, wondering how my little eight-pound babies grew up so fast.
|Alexandra and Andreas circa 2008|
Do you have to express and collect your breast milk? How was your first experience?