Still Pumping

5:56 pm

Washing Up on 365 Project

Last week we "celebrated" reaching six months of "booby in a bottle". I'll be honest and say it felt good to reach one of my goals, I'm glad I can at least provide breastmilk for Ernest, even if it is in a bottle.

I've become accustomed recently to making the best of things, for being thankful for what I do have, but oh how I long to breastfeed.

I remember being pregnant with India, and knowing I would breastfeed, despite not being breastfed myself, and only ever seeing one other woman breastfeed while I was growing up. She was a hippy friend of my mother's, and everyone said how strange it was that she was still breastfeeding a toddler. I thought it looked wonderful.
I was lucky, breastfeeding India was easy, not without tears, and a bout of mastitis, but easy, and so it was with Eden,Angus and Sid. By the time Florence was born I had been pregnant and/or breastfeeding for 13 years.

Florence didn't breastfeed. I wished she had.

I remember as I held her in the hospital telling the midwife I wanted to donate her milk. They offered me drugs to dry up the milk, and I reeled in shock. My baby couldn't have my milk, but I needed to see it,to know I was a mother of a newborn, and I hadn't imagined it all.

I donated my breastmilk for six weeks before it dried up, and while I know and understand that for many many bereaved mothers that would not be an option, it was right for me.

In those early days I would bargain with the universe to let me have Florence back, I would say "even if I've missed her life up until now", "even if I can't breastfeed"...."please I just want her back."

There was no question, Ernest would be breastfed, but that hasn't worked out despite our best efforts, and believe me it's been an effort.
I've only just stopped crying every day for the loss of our breastfeeding relationship. I'm only just getting into a rhythm with this new way of mothering.
I don't think of myself as a breastfeeding mother, my baby has breastmilk provided by me, but he's missing out on so much more.
There have been so many times he's needed comfort and all I've been able to offer is my arms, because the breast is not a place of comfort for him, it was painful for him to try and breastfeed, and I'm afraid this mother's breast has not been a happy place.

I found this photo on my phone,taken back in August, Ernest trying to breastfeed.

I was forwarded this wonderful blog post recently, it made me sob with recognition.

I haven't been trying Ernest at the breast very often at all over the past few weeks. I hate that I haven't,but also I recognise that I'm calmer and more able to enjoy our time together. Ernest's babyhood was whizzing by in a fog of pumping,feeding,washing,sterilising,trying nipple shields,biological nurturing,nursing weekends,finger feeding....stress stress stress. (Not to mention grieving mother, and four older kids who need me too.)

The breathing space has been welcome, Ernest and I do have lovely skin to skin times, we co sleep, we babywear, we shower together, and he is always with me, maybe it's not too late, maybe he'll try to breastfeed one of these days, but I'm also much more accepting of the fact that maybe he never will breastfeed.
I'm still bargaining with the universe, "just a comfort feed at bedtime", or "please let me be able to provide milk for him until he's two."

I don't take anything for granted anymore, and I don't expect anything from the Universe, except maybe another kick in the teeth,so we'll do what we've been doing for the past eighteen months, we'll keep on keeping on, and I'll try not to feel like I've failed.

Don't be shy, say hello!


  1. Mama, go gentle on yourself! You have done so much for little Ernest, and I admire you for managing to pump and produce enough milk for him for all of these months. It is a testament to your great love for him, your strength of character and your determination that you have done this. Be proud. I'm sorry that you haven't managed to forge your bond by breastfeeding, but you have been able to forge it with breastmilk, and there is a lot to be said for that.

  2. Yes, breastfeeding is so much more than food.
    I remember with my third, how we struggled, and I'd cry just at the sound of him crying, knowing that I would have to feed him, and I so wanted too, but it felt like razors. He only had to go on the bottle for a week, till we got sorted, but oh my, the tears we both shed. And he gave up totally at 10 months, we tried everything.
    my youngest is three, and I shamfully say she hasn't given up on comfort feeding of a night. No rhyme or reason, you just can never tell.
    I am sad for you and Ernest, but keep going.

  3. you should be incredibly proud of yourself! I know it's not what you would have ideally liked but it's a massive achievement to have got him all the way to six months. What a great post on that site, just goes to show it's worth not giving up hope xx

  4. Hi Jeanette,

    Thanks so much for linking my post and sharing your story. I remember getting to 6 months pumping and I was so relieved. Something about getting to 6 months was such a huge milestone. So was getting to 12 months, but something about 6 months was more important, it was like I finally realized, I can do this. I can keep pumping for as long as I want to, everything is going to be ok.

    I am so impressed you are not a puddle on the floor, with 4 other kids to take care of, still grieving Florence AND grieving the loss of nursing Ernest. I have always told my husband that not being able to breastfeed felt like somebody died, somebody close like my father. The grief was that strong. Not to de-validate your grief with Florence, but it was just a way for me to describe how much pain I was in. And I do think our body responds similarly to how it would be to have milk in your breasts and no baby to nurse. Do you feel like that? In those early months, when she would cry and my milk would let down, I felt like the signals were all so mixed up in my brain and body. It was like my body was screaming at me to nurse a baby and when I didn't, it was like my body was saying "oh ok, there must not be a baby around anymore to nurse."

    If you have any specific questions, please feel free to email me.

    Lots of Love,

  5. What an achievement to pump exclusively for this long and still be going strong Jeanette! Not crying every day and getting into this new rhythm - it was bound to take time - you needed to come to terms with things being so different from how you thought they would know the loss having nursed before....Ernest has the comfort of your arms, your constant presence, your skin on his skin. And you never know, now his physiological issues are fixed he still might - I've heard of adopted kids who've learnt to nurse relatively old!

  6. Thanks all, I do feel like maybe I've moaned enough about this on here,but then not enough too!
    Stephanie, yup, it is a grief of sorts. Going against my instincts to nurse is actually physically painful.x

  7. My 2 have been very different feeders. DD1 was a struggle to latch on, never fed well, and self-weaned at 13 months. DD2 however, is 2 tomorrow (!) and still feeds several times a day/night. I'm hoping to train as a breastfeeding supporter to help other mums who are struggling - as it's soooo much better when help comes form someone who KNOWS, rather than has just had easy feeders. Every baby is different. Every child is different. Don't beat yourself up - you've down more than far far many others have. Well done you.

  8. I'm so sorry you and Earnest can't experience the bond of breastfeeding. He feels loved and nurtured despite of it, I'm so sure he does. I understand your need to breastfeed, any mama who breastfeeds or who has breastfed understands. I do so hope that he will learn to latch on properly at some point.

  9. The physical thing of breastfeeding is so important to how we feel I guess. I never felt I had breastfed Fran, even though I gave her all I could make for the first 13 weks of her life. But when she said "I'm the only one of us that wasn't breastfed" the other day, I instantly said "yes you were!"

    But I don't feel like I breastfed Freddie either, even though he only had my milk. NG tube fed just changes things and I guess a bottle would have too. Somehow breastfeeding is about the act, the motion and the connection. It isn't only about milk.

    But then actually, bottle feeding isn't only about the milk either. I had lovely eye to eye bottle feeds with my eldest two, regardless of what was in the bottle. It was always connected, loving time, not milk for sustenance and a bottle propped up on a pillow.

  10. You're amazing for getting this far, I am envious of that :)

    I bottle fed my twins propped up on pillows many a time - it was far better than one screaming in hunger whilst the other got fed ;)

  11. I've said it before but I'll say it again: I think you are amazing.

  12. No failure Jeanette... it's your steely reserve that has got both you and him this far.

    You only have to take one look at him to know he's thriving on liquid gold.

    Hugs San xx

  13. Such a wonderful mama you are - fighting so hard to give all you can to Ernest. Not being able to nurse is a big loss and understandably so. I would be heartbroken over it, too, even knowing it was out of my control.

  14. I breastfed for a year and am so glad to have done so. Sometimes I wish I went even longer!
    And that picture is precious!

  15. wow! 6 months is amazing! :) well done! you should be very proud. the picture of earnest at the breast is lovely, the way he is gazing up at you...
    You may not have the breastfeeding relationship you hoped for but you have so many other wonderful things and look how well you have done! he is chubby and happy and healthy and its all down to you! :)
    I am still hopeful for you, that he will do it one day, even if it is just for a comfort feed or a dream feed, he still has plenty of time and your hard work expresssing in those early days have paid off and I am sure you will still be providing milk for him for a long time yet! I hope the blog helped you, I read it and thought of you immediately. gentle hugs and milky thoughts your way xxxx


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