Its 3 am in the morning and I am awake for expressing breast milk. My LO is sleeping beside me and this is my usual time to express milk. I am not just expressing to relieve engorgement, but this is my daughter’s next feed. My daughter never latched for breastfeeding since birth and I have been an exclusively expressing mother for the last 7 months now.
When a woman is pregnant, she thinks that pregnancy is difficult. I always thought that labor is the real hard part and that half the battle will be won after I successfully deliver my baby. I always imagined a rosy picture of a calmer me and a calmer baby while breastfeeding as it is a very natural process and is also easy for many. Unfortunately, things were not so easy for me. My daughter never latched since birth and loads of efforts were taken to solve this issue. I live in Australia and the midwives took extra effort to refer me to different people. We both even spent few days at a centre where lactation consultants tried to help my baby learn to breastfeed at every feed. But nothing helped and I still had a baby who refused to latch.
The initial few days were stressful as I did not know what is happening. I had to squeeze and pump colostrum in the first 2 to 3 days after birth to feed my baby and she looked unsatisfied. I did not know anything about expressing and I had to look for breast pumps roaming in the shops just 2 days after my delivery. I knew that I had to be relaxed to have an easy let down while expressing milk but that was the most difficult part – to be relaxed. That’s when you need support people. What saved me from burning out was my parents and my husband who were present by my side to help me physically, emotionally and mentally.
And then begun an exceptionally tedious routine of EXPRESSING, FEEDING, STERILIZING BOTTLES everything times 8 in a day. And then in between every feed, I would try to take my baby by the breast to see if she miraculously latches. I was stressed, I would cry, I would scream, I would be angry at myself and my baby and I would be guilty of not being able to breastfeed. I felt like a robot who is doing this act of bonding very methodically and mechanically. My mother took up the role of bottle feeding my LO to take some load off me and that was a huge relief. There was a final try with the lactation consultant at the 6th week where she concluded that my daughter will not latch as she is not taking any efforts at all. She explained to me that I should separate myself emotionally from this problem and not be guilty as I had done everything I could. She said that I should stop expressing if it is stressful and consuming. That hit me hard and I thought that this is not something I want to do. I was lucky to have a good supply and decided that I will express and feed LO until I can. And then I started a strict schedule not with a cringe but with whole heart and a relaxed mind.
It is very different to exclusively express to feed your baby not just for the body but also your mind. It felt as if it was always a time to express no matter how soon I had last expressed. Every single episode of expressing would make me feel like I can’t do this anymore but to see how fortunate my baby was to be getting breastmilk kept me going. I started feeling more relaxed as time went and this helped to have a quick let down and also increased the supply. Same routine of expressing, feeding and sterlizing times 8 became less daunting and I started getting habitual.
Its been 7 months since my LO is getting BM and I feel proud that I didn’t quit. I was very close to doing that but I did not. Every additional day that my baby got the BM has been a bonus.
I have expressed not just in the comfort of my home but also on flights, in the car, in shopping centres and airports. It has not been as easy as wearing a nursing shirt, carrying a stole to cover myself and breastfeed whenever my baby is hungry. For a mother who exclusively expresses its very frustrating to carry the gear and milk storage equipment wherever one goes. I feel like I have accomplished a big task.
I would be lying if I say that I have completely gelled with this routine. There are still times when I feel frustrated with this regime. I have had mastitis, milk blisters and sore breasts making me feel like its time to stop. But looking at my baby’s satisfied eyes as she feeds on the milk is priceless.
Today when I look back, I have no regrets or complaints as to why my LO never latched. In fact she introduced me to a very determined and stronger version of myself. I learnt that it is okay to feel like a failure sometimes, but what matters is how you bounce back. It taught me how strong will power can be. It taught me that I am not weak if I ask for help from my near and dear ones. It taught me that I must know when its the time to stop pushing myself and that its okay to be kind to yourself even after becoming a mother.
Its time to close my laptop and go to sleep as I need to wakeup in few hours again to express.