Our sponsor for the month is Sarah Wells Breast Pump Bags. Sarah would like to introduce you to her products…
My Breastfeeding Story: Two Paths, One Journey
“Keep going. Keep going. Keep going.” This was what my breast pump said to me on good days. “This sucks. This sucks. This sucks,” was what that square yellow milk box said most of the time while exclusively pumping for my daughter, Maddy. My first breastfeeding journey was a tough one. Born just shy of 42 weeks, Maddy came out resistant to latching (fussy at the breast, sleepy at the breast, generally disinterested with my breasts). Five years later, not much has changed: she still just eats to live. Her interests lie far more in imaginary play and talking with me, than sharing a meal together.
Back in the newborn days, I was beyond frustrated, disappointed, confused (and maybe even a little off-put by Maddy’s lack of interest – did she not want to be close to me in this way?). I also had a labor and delivery nurse who dashed my confidence from the get-go (“No, you are not doing that right,” she said in response to my excitement to show her I was breastfeeding; and then she walked away, while I unlatched Maddy and sat there confused). I sought professional lactation support in the hospital and at home. The IBCLCs that visited with me were fantastic, but it just wasn’t working out for my mental health. So I turned to pumping. For six long months I fed Maddy solely breastmilk from my pumping efforts. It was exhausting, tedious, boring, and a proud accomplishment.
Along the way, as an exclusively pumping mom running a national healthcare organization, I found myself daydreaming of ways to make pumping easier. And one particular idea – a better breast pump bag – gained interest from friends and colleagues alike. A member of my new moms’ group, who also had significant experience with building businesses, suggested I explore a functional, designer breast pump bag as a real path for myself. Fast forward two years of prototyping, legal paperwork, a trip abroad to find a manufacturer, and lots of conversations with other pumping moms, I launched Sarah Wells Breast Pump Bags. I’m now coming up to my third anniversary in 2016; it’s been an incredible ride. The absolute best part of this job is supporting other moms in their pumping experience, however much or little pumping that entails. And these moms support me too, by becoming amazing loyal customers of my bags, and also this past year as I welcomed my second child.
In August 2015, Abigail was born. I’ll be honest — even with a great bag, and all the other products that have come out over the last five years to make pumping easier, I’ll be the first to admit that pumping isn’t easy. I was dreading being an exclusively pumping mom again. I think pumping of any amount is a mixed emotional experience: “proud and determined to do it” meets “really, I have to do this again…and again…and again?” This time around I did do things a bit differently in terms of my approach to breastfeeding. First, I relaxed. This is a benefit of second time motherhood — far fewer unknowns, and far greater ability to chill out about everything. I did some research on breastfeeding where there were gaps in my knowledge from the first time around (for instance, I watched YouTube videos like crazy about more natural breastfeeding positions since, with Maddy, I let my Type A personality take over in trying to be very regimented in how I did it). I also surrounded myself with support. I am lucky to have gained a few lactation professionals as friends and colleagues through my business venture, and I had them on-call via text and phone throughout the early days with Abby.
Abby was born on her due date, and after delayed cord cutting and attention to my medical care, I put her to the breast. WOW! I am here to tell you that every kid has a different personality, even when it comes to breastfeeding. When I lifted Abby up to bring her to my chest she was already sucking into the air. The (phenomenally supportive) labor and delivery nurse remarked, “That kid wants to eat!” She latched. Six months later, today, we’re breastfeeding on demand (a lucky situation which results from working from home and being my own boss!) with pumping sprinkled in so mama can have some personal time.
I quite honestly never believed I’d latch a baby. I didn’t admit that out loud before Abby was born, but it was in my head. The joy, the sheer joy of having this nursing experience, is indescribable. But I also want to say here: my experience with Abby nursing so easily and beautifully does not trump my experience with Maddy. Exclusively pumping was MUCH more difficult on every level. And truthfully, it wasn’t nearly as lovely as cuddling a warm baby at my breast. But Maddy gave me something else: she showed me that I can persevere to achieve my goals under very stressful conditions. Maddy and I bonded differently, as every drop of milk I pumped was precious hard work and watching her take those bottles joined us together in a unique and special way. Plus, my breastfeeding journey with Maddy is what inspired and jumpstarted my business of selling stylish, functional breast pump bags, which has totally transformed my life.
Thanks, Maddy and Abby. One of you may still not enjoy eating and may have caused mom some gray hairs over all of this, but both of you being who you are, and me being who I am then and now, led me to this awesome place as entrepreneur and proud breastfeeding mom by two paths, and I’m forever grateful for all of it.