Little M turned three months old last week. I’m proud to say that I’m still exclusively expressing breast milk for her, and still haven’t had to feed her any formula. I know this might not seem like a big deal to some people, as I know that there are others out there who have expressed for eighteen months plus. I know that some people might be wondering why on earth I ‘don’t just stick her on the breast’ as it’s easier (okay, maybe that’s just my father in law) but for me, it feels like a huge achievement.
A lot of the time other mums express (no pun intended; well, maybe a little bit!) their amazement that I pump every single one of Little M’s feeds. Most can’t believe I manage to pump enough milk to keep up with her but, thankfully I do.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all plain sailing. Sometimes I’ll pump and have a panic that I haven’t produced enough for a whole feed, but usually it’s balanced out by a larger yield during the night, for example, if I’ve gone longer between pumps.
It’s also a bit of a pain when I’m out and about, but I’m becoming less concerned about that too. I’ve expressed in the car quite a bit; by the seaside, in motorway service station car parks and in lay-bys on the way to dinner parties. I’ve also expressed in pub toilets (clean ones!) and baby changing rooms in department stores while out shopping.
Fortunately, hubby has been on school holidays for the past six weeks. I’m not going to lie, I’m a bit anxious about what will happen when he goes back to work at the end of this week. It’s made life considerably easier on the pumping front having him around all day most days, as he’s able to see to Little M while I’m expressing.
I’m sure we’ll manage though. Hubby went out the other day and I put Little M on her playmat (which, as an aside, is awesome and you can find it here if you’re in the market for one) then sat on the floor next to her all hooked up. I managed to keep her amused with one hand for the duration of the pump and I’ll be honest, it felt like a minor victory! She’s also getting a lot better at amusing herself in her Babybjorn bouncer (especially now we’ve bought a toy bar for it) so that should help too.
Last week, I took the interesting and perhaps-too-late step of purchasing some nipple shields. I had been toying with the idea of trying Little M back on the breast for weeks but just couldn’t find the strength to overcome what I can only describe as a phobia of doing it.
Recently though, I’ve been thinking about a potential next baby (don’t get too excited, there’s nothing on the cards yet!). I was concerned that if I don’t at least try, I might carry over this boob phobia into the next pregnancy. While I’m managing with expressing this time, I’m not daft and know it would be better for a number of reasons if I could just feed direct from the boob.
So I tried it. I’m glad I tried it. Little M wasn’t having any of it though and I swear she looked at me as though I had lost the plot as I tried to direct her to that area to feed. I’m not surprised really as I think I’d left it too late by a good few weeks. But if I hadn’t bitten the bullet and bought the nipple shields then I would have always wondered what if? At least this way I know, normal service has resumed and Little M is feeding well.
Furthermore, at least now I own a set of nipple shields. So if another pregnancy does happen, they’ll be going straight in my hospital bag and the midwives can do one if they try preventing me from using them like they did with Little M. Who knows, we could be in a completely different position if I’d been able to use them all those weeks ago. No point in whinging about that though; it is what it is and we’re doing ok.
When I started expressing all those weeks ago, in what was quite frankly the week from hell, I told myself I’d just get through tomorrow, see how it goes and stop if I need to. Expressing felt like such a massive chore. I didn’t see how I could carry on for much longer.
But I kept telling myself it was what was best for Little M. So I set myself the challenge, in those loooooong early days, to get to two weeks. Then it was three weeks. Then six. Then three months. Now I’ve done three months I’m thinking six months, because that’s when she’ll start weaning, right? Then it’ll get easier…
In a strange twist of serendipity, we have four bottles of infant formula sitting in the nursery. I bought these while I was still pregnant with Little M as I read somewhere that you have to take formula in your hospital bag (you don’t!).
Those four little bottles have acted both as a safety net and as a motivation. I know they’re there, in case we need them, but at the same time they foster a determination in me that they’ll never need to be opened.
The expiry date on them? Precisely six months from Little M’s date of birth. I’m calling that a sign.