In my last post for Medela I was right at the beginning of our Breastfeeding journey & if I’m honest, we were really struggling. I always thought of breastfeeding as the most natural thing in the world, so of course we would master it. I just didn’t think it could be so hard.
I was in hospital for the first few days after Isla was born & ended up being so overloaded with contrasting advice from all the midwives I just felt so frustrated and confused. Getting advice from a lactation specialist was exactly what we needed & I decided to ignore everyone else.
At first we were feeding really well & I thought it was plain sailing from there. I was so wrong… Aside from the bleeding nipples & toe curling pain, Isla started feeding for over 2 hours at a time & then still wanting more. I ended up dizzy, dehydrated and disheartened. Was I not producing enough milk? Am I ever going to be able to? Isla refused to stay latched on for more than a few seconds and only seemed to be satisfied after feeding from a bottle, so I started my expressing journey.
At first I tried the Avent single electric pump & would spend an hour attached to this deafening machine & only get a few sad ml’s of milk… I began to research pumps & found Medela! I started using the Freestyle Double Electric pump & within a few weeks I was able to get 200ml in just 15-30minutes. (Full review coming soon!) I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of myself than the first time I fed her a full feed just from my milk!!
When I told any health visitor or nurse I was mostly expressing and feeding her (with Medela’s Calma teats to avoid nipple confusion) but still trying to keep breastfeeding, they all congratulated me and sounded impressed, like expressing was some great challenge. At first I just thought they were mad… but as the weeks went by I started to understand.
Exclusively expressing is a huge undertaking. Every 3-4 hours, day and night. If you haven’t eaten enough that day maybe you don’t make enough for the next feed & there really isn’t a worse feeling. Psychologically it can’t be good to put that amount of pressure on yourself. The second I finished expressing I had to feed Isla from that bottle as I could never make enough to get ahead to keep a stock in the freezer. By the time we got to month 3 I was struggling to keep going and felt so unbelievably guilty for wanting to quit. There are so many resources & support networks for breastfeeding mum’s but I struggled to find anything for expressing mum’s & I didn’t know anyone in the same situation to talk to. I finally opened up to my other half & told him how unhappy it was making me. A combination of hormones, lack of sleep and pressure led to me hating expressing when it had once made me feel so proud and happy.
We decided it would be ok to start mix feeding her to take off some of the pressure – what a relief I felt. I finally met a health visitor who made me feel like what I was doing was ok! Any breast milk is better than none – so whatever I could get would have to be enough and should be celebrated, and if it’s not enough – topping up with formula really isn’t the crime some people make you think that it is.
If you are reading this and struggling like I was, just know, you are amazing. Expressing can be hard and that’s ok. Even if you manage it for 1 week, 1 day or 1 year that is incredible and as long as you & your baby are happy then that’s all that matters.
If you are planning on exclusively expressing make sure you buy or rent the best pump you possibly can – without Medela I know I wouldn’t have been able to continue expressing for so long. I will write a full review soon but I can’t sing their praises enough – the Freestyle Double Electric Pump is easy to use, comfortable, and so efficient! Everything you could want!
Drink as much water as you can, don’t skip meals and try to sleep whenever you get a second. Most importantly, speak to someone about how you feel.
If you are expressing or are thinking about it & have questions or just want someone to talk to, tweet me, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or leave me a comment!