Anyone following my story over the last year knows my gorgeous baby Kayla Rose was born in March with an undiagnosed cleft palate. She has a very severe cleft, missing all of the roof of her mouth, hard and soft palate. This meant separation at birth, a SCBU stay and set me on a new journey of full time pumping. (You can find my blogs and videos on DoulaCare Ireland social media & on our website under Jen's Pregnancy Diary
I am 3 months into my pumping journey now and while I have gotten over my loathing of the pump, I am still struggling to find my “place” in mothering labels. Many a nurse and doctor have been made to feel awkward when they ask how Kaylas feeding is going, as I erupt into a blubbering mess about not being able to breastfeed. Paul has started to put his arm around me when they start running through the questions, in anticipation of the dreaded question.
At all of Kayla's hospital appointments I am asked “breast or bottle fed?” I mean, after my first few emotional break downs I would have thought they’d have it written on her file not to ask me this any more...but alas they break it out each time. I can now calmly say “she is breast milk fed in a bottle” (I tend to follow it up with a “she can’t feed at the breast because of her cleft” like I am making excuses to them or something. Just so they know it’s not that I don’t want to breastfeed, because I really really do.)
Anyway, I digress. It has me thinking where do pumping mothers fit in? Are we breast feeders or bottle feeders? Or do we occupy a status all on our own in some kind of middle ground?
I have worked with many mothers who chosen to pump for different reasons and were 100% happy with that choice and thrived on the set up. I am pumping out of necessity (if you haven’t already got that) so perhaps that is why I am writing this blog. To hear others point of view on the topic and open the discussion.
I have always been a breastfeeder. I am proud of that and enjoyed every aspect and the beautiful bond. I now find I am not sure of my identity any more. I almost want to write “containing breast milk” on Kaylas bottles for fear of breastfeeding mothers judging me. This is of course ridiculous as I never once think anything bad of mothers who bottle feed (formula or breast milk) as it is their choice for their baby. It is a totally idiotic thought process and yet a real one for me right now.
One thing I will say is that pumping is a full time job, the washing and sterilising is unreal and you still have to feed baby the milk in the bottle too. It is no joke. I have supported hundreds of pumping mothers over the years and have always admired them for their dedication and hard work but living it has opened my eyes to the incredible emotional journey and physical exhaustion that comes with it. I am so proud of myself (cringe I know) for getting this far and giving Kayla 100% breast milk to date. While it is not the feeding journey I longed for, it is ours - and we are finding our way. My heart still longs to breast feed but I love cuddling her into me and gazing into her eyes while she has her bottle. Feeling her little body tucked into mine and knowing she is getting all the goodness of my milk – that is tailored to her needs.
So I open up the discussion. Where do us pumping mothers fit in? Remember to be kind to all feeding choices – you never know the journey that family is on or why they chose their feeding method.