Friday, 12 September 2014

Diary of an expressing mum: #4

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, but to catch anyone up who might be new to the blog; I pump or 'express' breast milk for my son, Joseph, who is coming up to five months old. I've been doing this since he was four weeks old as I found breastfeeding too painful and, after seeking help it didn't get any better. As my milk supply was pretty good, I found it hard to let it go so I decided to express instead of giving up completely as it seemed like a pain free way for Joseph to get the milk whilst also easing my guilt. However, as the months have passed, I've found that long-term pumping isn't all that common in the UK and it also presents its own stresses - mostly inconvenience and worry about supply - and this weekend I came close to packing it all in and moving over to formula full-time. (Currently 2/3 of his daily feed is breast milk and the other 1/3 is formula.)
"Hurry up, mummy, I want to play"
Ruari, Joseph and I went to Croyde in Devon for a long weekend with some friends this weekend just gone, and my life seemed to revolve around my boobs. It was pretty annoying to be honest. We live a five hour drive away from Devon (on a good run, apparently) and, although we had planned to leave by 10am, we ended up setting off from our house at 11am but had to stop off at the in-laws' before we could properly hit the road. I usually express/pump at around 4pm and I generally find that my boobs get really uncomfortable if I go more than a couple of hours past my usual time slot... I think we arrived at about 8.30pm and I could barely say 'hi' to our friends who were already there, or hold Joseph, for the boob discomfort.

Brica 'baby in sight' mirror.
Joseph was as good as gold considering how long he was sat in his car seat for, which he seems to hate even on a good day. We had to stop a few times to let him stretch out and feed, but he tends to graze on his bottle if he's away from home and this journey was no exception; He'd only take a few ounces at time so his feeding routine was pretty much out of the window from the start. When we eventually arrived at the cottage we were staying at (being a Friday afternoon and thanks to Stone Henge traffic it took way longer than we'd hoped) we promptly gave Joseph a sink-bath, as there wasn't a bath, and put him to sleep in a travel cot we'd borrowed from his Granny. Luckily he went down like a charm considering he'd slept for around 80% of the journey. I then pumped before joining the others for dinner. I didn't get as much as I'd normally get if I'd pumped at my normal times, but I didn't dwell on the fact and just got on with it.

The next morning I missed out on breakfast hang time with the others due to my expressing schedule, but we all went for a nice walk and had lunch to Croyde Bay afterwards. When we got back the others decided it was time to make use of the hot tub but, alas, it was time to express again. I joined them afterwards though and it was awesome to see Joseph enjoy the water so much. In the evening we had a barbecue but I had to excuse myself to express before I was able to get in the hot tub again.

Hot tub hangs!

The next three days continued like that. I'm not usually one who experiences FOMO (fear of missing out) but when it comes to hanging out with friends that I don't get to see that often, it got to me a little. I missed out on morning chats, afternoon hangs (I'm particularly upset that I missed out on a game of Articulate) and evenings in the hot tub. One evening I had my nails painted by one of my friends who needed a photo the next day for her salon portfolio so I had to miss a pumping session that night otherwise I'd mess them up for the photo. But I woke up in the middle of the night with boob pain again so found myself pumping at 5am - luckily Joseph and Ruari are both quite heavy sleepers so the sound of my pump didn't bother them too much but I was pretty sour-faced about being up at 5am.

Watermelon nail art by my friend Emmi of The Wingham Sanctuary
On the way home from Devon, I again had to miss out on my afternoon pump session due to the length of the journey. This time I sat next to Joseph in the back so I could comfort him when he was getting impatient and feed him when he needed it. (On the way there I sat in the front and used our Brica 'baby in sight' mirror but I don't think it really helped when he was desperately upset yet miles away from somewhere safe to stop.)

Service station snuggles.
I came close to just giving pumping up completely- the frustration of having to excuse myself to plug in and sit there for 40+ minutes really got to to me and, recently, each time the time comes, I've noticed myself procrastinating a little bit. I don't really know why I'm starting to loathe it so much - surely I should be grateful for time to just sit and do nothing, albeit in a slightly awkward sitting position (if I could do it laying down I'd have no problem at all). I've also noticed myself feeling insanely tired and lacking in energy. I've never been a bouncing-off-the-walls kinda person, but I do think that pumping and the internal conflict I almost constantly have in my mind is zapping my energy.

But I guess the same goes for with breastfeeding from source - I don't think it's as straightforward as to just decide to stop when your boobs are making decent amounts of milk; when I skip sessions, or even if I don't empty them out as much as I possibly can (i.e. when I'm in a rush or am fed up) they start feeling really lumpy and hard and the thought of getting a breast infection scares me, so I'm pretty sure I'd need to go down the route of trying to decrease my milk supply gradually rather than stopping cold turkey or just not emptying as much as I could.

After discussing the possibility of giving it up with my husband, he said he'd like me to carry it on until Joseph is six months old - which is only five weeks away. My friends are pretty pro giving-up as it means that I can have my life back and I've had a couple of emails from readers who says that it's ok to quit; happy mum = happy baby.

I still can't help but say that I feel so torn about continuing - part of me just wants to enjoy a no-strings maternity leave where I don't have to clock watch, but part of me thinks that this is a relatively short period of time in which to persevere.

So far the 'persevere' part of my brain is winning but, I think I said this in my last post, I am more and more set on giving up at six months, although I know I will be sad when the time finally comes. I think my supply has taken a bit of a hit from missing out some sessions this weekend but, I'm just going with the, er, flow, and not freaking out about it like I used to. I must add that I don't feel pressure from anyone else to continue, it's just me, except now Ruari, but I guess I can blame the Department of Health for the emphasis on six months.

If you pump, I'd really like to hear from you and how you manage it especially when you're 'out and about'.

Nicki x

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Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to leave a comment. It really means a lot! Nicki x