No other baby-having moms saw it that way. Most experienced mom-to-be moms had one very big question: “When I breastfed my own baby, did I do enough to ensure that I raised as much of a milk supply as possible? I thought I was doing my best for him, and not at the expense of the baby.” Then mom-to-be mom Christina E. (she asked that I hide her maiden name) learned that the baby whose breast milk she’d been so proud of had a condition known as “pansy syndrome”. She could only breastfeed her baby exclusively if she pumped until the baby’s head was full, she might be able to feed several babies. Or she might be pumping twice a day and only be able to feed one baby. Or even worse, she might get so overloaded by pumping that she’d need to take breaks. Which was worse: the nurse had to call a nurse to find her baby at the hospital in a heartbeat, or just not have her baby on the breast? And even if the nurse did make the call, what if the nurse had no practice and was only going to meet the mother on a scheduled basis?
Christina’s answer was not well received. “I spent much of the next several months nursing my own baby,” she says. “For what? At the end of the day? If I had any expectations of him feeding that, I didn’t think so. I thought I was taking care of him. I was very proud of my nursing. I didn’t think it was shameful. I thought I was doing my best.” She’d heard people say “breast is best”, but she couldn’t reconcile that with the information that her son had been left to the breast as a whole-breastfeeding (and was not getting any breast milk). “I had heard the same thing from other moms.”
Christina wasn’t the only mom-to-be thinking that way. When breastfeeding was a big issue for some moms, it became an issue for others. During the three and half years it took for me to nurse my son, I never heard anything negative about the process outside of the nurses. And I knew that when any other mom complained they were either being a bitch or not being honest. I had to admit - I probably was trying to make my son feel better. I was also thinking that I should breastfeed as often as possible, so as not to sacrifice my breastfeeding habit and I could continue to feed my son when the pump had more time alone with him. Even my own best efforts had not been enough for Sierra, who was feeling desperate to feed as often as she could. She was breastfeeding her son while she worked. And so, during her day off, she began pumping as often as she could.
Then came the day I knew exactly how bad things were, because I took Sierra to a hospital emergency room, rather than the pediatrician or even the doctor who was treating her. All the nurses there knew that Sierra was “crying over my chest”. None of them had seen any such crying, but they felt the need to nurse her as often as possible. It’s what nurses and doctors do when they’re stressed and overwhelmed, and it worked in the nurse’s favor. The nurses pumped their way to the emergency room, took her to the emergency room, and pumped on their way back out.
On their way out, they stopped by to check on Sierra. She was in tears because, I am sure, her doctor had only just looked at the chart and told her the test results - her baby had an enzyme deficiency - and she had had another drop in blood sugar. It was during these meetings for her that I started to realize that the whole idea of pumping at all seemed terribly silly. For one thing, I wanted my baby to nurse. For another, I wanted to be able to give her the proper amounts for her baby. For another, her milk supply was in excess of what my system could handle and it was going to run out eventually. All of this seemed very obvious, but the moment I asked the nurses how they felt about pumping at all - and that I’d feel better in the morning - they were all stunned by my question. I was told that, apparently, pumping at all was an option - but one with lots of downsides. “It’s like a roller coaster,” one said, “you never know how the hills will ride in an emergency. Maybe you’ll stop and think about it, or maybe you’ll continue pumping.
“I don’t know,” said another. “It’ll be one or the other, I don’t know. Sometimes you give and sometimes you don’t, then you stop pumping as you fall short