Motherhood is quite a trip, eh? Its an amazing, awe-inspiring & incredibly humbling experience. It has you daydreaming one moment and then can bring you to your knees the next. Its fulfilling and beautiful, its soul stretching and possibly the hardest gosh darn thing you’ll ever do in your life as a woman. And if I think about it, nothing personifies this more so, than breastfeeding!
Now, as a full time working mom who breastfeeds, with a genetic predisposition for (milk) oversupply, it always leaves me so gobsmacked as to how married to my breastpump I am. We’re like freakin Siamese twins – we go nowhere without each other. In fact, there are times when it feels like my life depends on that gosh darn pump. Ok, fine, maybe not my life, per say – dramatic much(?)- but my life definitely revolves around it. I mean lest I want my breasts to turn into two painful, hard rocks on my chest with mastitis just lurking around the proverbial corner, that pumps goes everywhere with me.
And I mean everywhere: work, movies, date night, family lunches, girly brunches – attached at the hip! And Lawd have mercy on my blood pressure levels if I ever forget it at home and only realise this 10 minutes into the drive! Hashtag screeching brakes! Hashtag U-turn!!!
So could you imagine the sheer and utter panic that took hold of my body when my old faithful pump of 8 years kicked the bucket recently?! I was hand pumping and manual pumping till my fingers wanted to fall off in the mean time, but I knew this wasn’t sustainable. It honestly felt like breastfeeding armegedon was upon me- complete with falling skies, rivers of lava and milk stains everywhere – when, out of the blue, my knight in shining armour, aka Tommee Tippee saved this mom’s butt (and boobies) in the most kind and generous way. They gifted me a brand new pump after hearing about my “situation”.
In the days that followed, as this new pump and I got acquainted, it made me reflect on my breastfeeding journey so far. Not just this current one with Remy-James, but all four of them. And trust me, there have been some real doozies along the way.
Those who’ve been reading my blog for sometime, know that I make no bones about the perilous paths I’ve walked with each of my children’s breastfeeding journeys. You also know I full bloodedly support and promote breastfeeding, and do my utmost to provide support for those moms who choose to breastfeed and are seeking such help and support. As well as providing enlightenment for those moms who didn’t know what they didn’t know, and would like to know, and so help them make more informed choices. (Because it will always be that mothers choice). (For latch support see here and here) But I believe one cannot offer such kind of reliable& genuine support lest one keeps it real and be vulnerable about your own experiences. I mean, I’ve been through the full gamut of the fun that is breastfeeding!
I’ve had my own personal slice of hell with mastitis and the surprisingly, even more horrific healing process that was to follow. I’ve had latching sagas after latching sagas, complete with cracked nipples that would spray blood across the floor, as I tried to keep my best poker face and not crumble into the dark, and poorly-placed thoughts of failure.
As mentioned before I have an oversupply, which means my breasts not only over produce milk but also release more milk than what baby can handle. Fast milk as I call it. As a result my kids are always choking and spluttering at the breast in the first few months- so it’s not quite the calm picture of Serenity for us. But what’s worse is that my babies,as a result, always have terrible winds and cramps. Which is fun for no one. And also means sleep for no one.
And then the pumping…ohhh, the pumping. Can we talk about pumping? It’s the lesser photographed scene, the less glamourous stepsister of the breastfeeding we so often see in glossy magazines, isn’t it? Well it’s that same fast milk /over supply that is actually the very reason I am married to my pump. I have to pump. That and the fact that im a full time working mom who really wants to let her children self wean. So lest I want this journey to end prematurely, it’s me and that pump for life! Or at least till baby decides he’s done.
But man, let it not fool you. This pumping business ain’t for sissies! The amount of mental commitment and endurance required is staggering. Nothing I do or plan can be done without factoring in pumping time somewhere. Meetings with CEO, off site Strat meetings, training sessions, the rare date night with hubbels, whatever. Where will I store my milk? In what will I store my milk? Will someone use it in their coffee.. is the care provider at home defrosting the milk safely n correctly? Is she understanding that she is not to spill one drop of that liquid gold? (Cause, by gahd, the sweat tears and time that went into expressing it is pretty priceless! ) Now all of that includes some serious planning n timing for some QT with my pump.
All I can say is, exclusively pumping moms,: you have all my respect!
I’ve also spent many a lonely cold dark night, alone in my dimly lit room holding baby, in those early weeks. while everyone else sleeps, my head throbbing from exhaustion, eyes pouring tears down my cheeks onto my newborn. Just quiet sobs so that no one else hears, of course. Because you no longer have energy or patience to explain what it is that you feel. I know what its like to feel the despair when you think how much more can I offer of myself to get this right. How much harder can I try. Is this not all of me already?!
And yet somehow the next day, there we are again. We show up, don’t we? Us, moms. Ready to give it our all again. Like Rocky Belboa getting the beejeezus knocked out of him the first few rounds, but still standing. BUt some day you may find yourself asking, whats the point? It is really worth all that toil?
Well, I’m here to say yes, it absolutely is.For all the paths that breastfeeding has taken me down, through the deepest, darkest trenches and right through to the sweetest victories it absolutely is worth it. There is much of its worth, that my words would never ever be able to amply describe to you. It’s worth reaches far beyond the endless health benefits of it for mom and baby; Well past the nutrition and the immunity. Instead it’s one that will be etched deep into both yours psyches. One that will be felt and pressed deeply into your bones. It’s in the bond that has sweetly been fostered through the exquisite cocktails of hormones at play. It’s in those blissful stares between you and baby, as a thousand conversations of love are exchanged without a single word being said. Its in those precious twinkling eyes that light up as they flash a milk filled smile over your nipple. And it’ll be yours forever, even well past the days that their warm body nestles safely against yours. No matter how long or how short your journey was, no matter how rough or easy, it’ll be yours. And it is so worth it.
Fortunately, by the grace of God this journey with Remy-James has been far easier by comparison. And now four children deep into this breastfeeding and pumping thing, I think I have a bit of wisdom to share:
1.) Through it all, aside from my hubby,my pump has always been there to make magic happen. In the beginning you’ll have no idea what lays ahead of you, but you also don’t want to be caught with your pants down if suddenly you need a pump. So be sure to invest in a good one! And if you’re mulling over whether you should buy a manual one instead of an electrical one, let me help you here: DON’T! Just get the electric one. Yes, it’s a little pricier, but your sanity and the time you save with the electrical one is worth far more. This is especially true for working moms!
Tommee Tippee has a pretty good offering on the market, that I just started using. Now, whilst Im still trying to get the hang of it after EIGHT years of using another make, there are quite a few merits of this pump I’d like to point out:
a) It is quite easy & simple to assemble.
b) There are three variations of speed and strength of pump, along with a stimulating setting to get your let-down going.
c) Holy crapballs, this pump has a great stimulation for milk let down. I mean, the pump itself, in my experience is quite average, but that stimulation factor has three thumbs up from me.
d) It has both electrical and battery operation options – perfect for the Eskom sagas our country sits with, or just being able to take your pump show on the road.
e) It comes with SO much more! (think breastpads, storage pot, etc)
f) It’s pretty easy to use and clean, and even comes with it’s own sterilizer
2.) There is always a way through, no matter how hard it may be. And there are always people who can help you along your breastfeeding journey. Lactation consultants in particular – the good ones – are freakin GOLD! For a list of the “good” ones, head on over here (scroll to the bottom). And every day is another chance – you get an endless supply of those second chances, by the way! 😉
3.) Don’t underestimate the importance of milk storage options and how much you’re going to need. It was only until this year that I discovered the beauty of storage bags. Up until then I was using these large storage pots that have taken up SO. MUCH. SPACE. in our freezer. in fact, so much space, we can barely fit in our food. But these Tommee Tippee storage bags have swooped in to save the day. With bags, no matter how much (up to 350ml!) or how little milk is in the bag, it can be stored laying flat, thereby taking up only a thin slice of space.
And aside from it being BPA-free, it comes pre-sterilized, so you can pour milk directly into without worries or having to sterilize it first. (Also perfect if you’re going to donate milk) What’s more is that they have a double fastened seal, to make sure that liquid gold is kept absolutely safe from leaks – despite your tired self. I also found them very easy to pour the milk into, and the gusseted bottom makes it more secure for pouring. I’m always nervous about that transfer – the stress is possibly akin to that of the bomb squad – so this does help.
Another thing that may seem like a small matter, but makes me really like these bags even more is the fact that label area is NOT ON the bag area. Thereby, making writing on these bags a breeze even after you’ve poured the milk into them, and reduces the risk of you piercing the bag and letting all your hard work go to waste.
But, ps., if bags are not your thing, they also have storage lids which can turn their baby bottles into convenient storage containers.
4.) Speaking of milk storage and space: If milk bags are not your thing, or if you’re just looking for more options for milk storage that WON’T dominate your freezer space, Tommee Tippee’s breast milk pots are perfect! They’re quite tiny(60ml), thus making them perfect storage options when you have limited space in the fridge or freezer.
But what’s even greater, is that they’re perfect for cup feeding! (which is an excellent option to help avoid nipple confusion – trust me, you don’t want to have to deal with that as well.)
5.) Now, if expressing milk is the path you find yourself in, try investing in a complete system. It’s not essential that you do, but, hot doggity dog, does it make things a little easier. And in this #pumplife where we can so easily feel drained, we grab all the conveniences where we can get them! Tommee Tippee, for instance, has a great system where the pump works wonderfully with the bottle, that enables you to feed immediately from that bottle, or just pop a storage lid on it for storage. Or pop a storage pot inside the bottle used for pumping, if you know that batch is going straight to storage.
The Tommee Tippee system seems to be designed essentially to reduce the risk of you spilling any precious milk (and tears). Also having all the parts being interchangeable, means not a single drop ever needs to be lost in the transfer – which personally I freaking love!
6.) Mindset is everything. It can carry you over coals if you really put your head in this game. This is so true with both breastfeeding and pumping. And trust me, when going for long haul in pumping, its absolutely more about the mind than anything else. For there may be alot of challenges you might incur along the way, unforeseen pitfalls, and general life obstacles which may have you wondering if its worth it. But if your head in is the right place, and it’s what you want, you’ll make it through to your and baby’s goals. Just decide what you want in this journey, and then go for it.
7.) Take lots of photos, mamas. Take that brelfie (still hate that term). Or have professional shots taken of you and little breastfeeding. This is a beautiful, precious and fleeting time in your life. Share those shots. Or don’t share it. Keep it just for yourself (and your child one day), whatever. But just do it. For, I assure you, you will never regret it. (and it’ll be a treasure for your child one day) But if that’s not your thing, remember there are so many other milestones in your babe’s life to capture. Or if you use Tommee Tippee’s fun milestone cards, you’ll get to capture hilarious and very real moments in your baby’s life that I can guarantee will make you smile about one day.
8.) A lesson I took a long time to learn: there is no failure here moms. This is not a test. Therefore you Can. Not. Fail! Just give your best, mama. That’s all we really can do.
This post is sponsored by Tommee Tippee, but please note, as always, the words and opinions are all my own.