My breastfeeding journey was unique. It started with pumping because my twins were born and spent time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Neither of my babies took to feeding from my breast and therefore, pumping was my only option to feed them breastmilk. Not deterred, I strapped up and committed to a pumping schedule where I was pumping every 2-3 hours to keep up with the demands of feeding twins.
My Breastfeeding Journey: Defeat
The consequences of pregnancy as it related to pumping – defeat. Three months in, I was producing more than enough milk. However, the abject lack of sleep, nipple pain, my first bout with mastitis, the exhaustion of taking care of my twins, and my declining mental well-being due to feeling tethered to my pump was too much. My initial breastfeeding goal was at least a year. But I could barely see doing it for a couple more months. In an act of pure desperation, I took one more chance with a Lactation Consultant to see if either of my children would nurse. My daughter did and I was relieved and thrilled. My breasts felt much better after nursing and I continued to pump for my son who preferred the bottle.
The good news is that I continued producing lots and lots of milk. My overproduction of milk was a blessing to others. I was able to give milk to an adoptive mom of twins, a new mom of twins, and a family friend whose wife unexpectedly passed away and was breastfeeding her son. I was even able to give milk to my nephew while my sister deployed for her service in the Air Force. Feeding my son and opportunities to give milk to other mothers kept me pumping for nearly eighteen months. I had enough milk stored to exclusively give breastmilk to my son for another two months after I stopped pumping.
My Breastfeeding Journey: Victory
The next consequence of pregnancy – victory. I met and exceeded my goal of breastfeeding. By their second birthday my daughter was weaned from breastfeeding and this part of my motherhood journey was over. While I easily say it’s not a time I long for, it is a time I cherish for many reasons.
Breastfeeding was a bonding time with my children. When nursing my daughter, I knew she used this time to resolve her hunger and to connect with me.
During this time, I made better eating choices because I wanted to be sure that I was giving my best self to my children and other children.
Prior to pregnancy, I didn’t know much about breastfeeding. I didn’t know there was such a thing as overproducing milk. However, my overproduction allowed me to help mothers in a variety of situations help their babies. My work to feed my son also helped parents who needed it. And that was a reward in and of itself.
In addition to the defeat and victory of my breastfeeding journey, there were additional side effects. As a result of my overproduction, my sex drive was very, very, low. Secondly, I was tied to a pump for eighteen months. I don’t mean those cute pumps you can put under your shirt. Oh no. I mean the hospital-grade Medela Symphony pump. Thirdly, my full perky breasts are a distant memory at this point. I’m only aware of their yesteryears with a great bra or pictures from my before-mom years.
My breastfeeding journey is a testimony of motherhood. There are ups and downs, defeats and victories. Through it all, all moms are doing their best for the absolute, end-of-the-world love we have for our children.