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An Exclusive Pumper Nurses: An Update from Cana

by Cana Hartman

Many of you may have heard the tale of the most stubborn baby ever, my son Jackson. He refused to latch, and so I chose to EP (exclusively pump) for 12 months. Well, here I am, three years later with another extremely stubborn baby, my daughter Rosie. My children have taught me so much about myself: my body’s capabilities, my want for control, and my own stubbornness. They have broken me, and healed me, in so many ways, and I know that this is just the beginning of the journey. I love being a mom.

Before Jackson was born, I met with Katie to “plan” to breastfeed. This visit secured my safety net that kept me from falling down throughout my struggles to breastfeed Jackson. When I was pregnant with Rosie, I felt comfortable knowing that I had that support ready at hand. When she was born, she wriggled right up and attempted to nurse. Not having been successful with latching Jackson, this was a new realm for me. I am blessed with an oversupply, so I began pumping and spoon feeding Rosie right away. It’s a good thing I did, because it became evident, once I came back to earth the day after her birth, that something was not right. The latch was painful, and she was farting like an adult.

It turned out that Rosie had severe lip and tongue ties, and I had literally been just squirting milk down her throat. When Rosie was four days old, we were at Dr. Panerello’s office, getting her ties cut with a laser. I cannot say enough nice things about this man and our experience at his practice, but I think that is another story for another day. At the end of that story, within 10 minutes actually, she latched beautifully. But the retched gas persisted. I mean, the foulest stench coming from such a sweet little angel. After coaching from Katie, I started block feeding and the level 10 stink bombs dropped to a manageable level three. Another blip overcome. Then the roof fell in. I got sick.

Not just normal sick; I got mastitis with a fever of 104+. I cannot remember a time when I felt worse. It was the greatest blessing to my breastfeeding relationship with my daughter. I hadn’t even realized it, but I had major “boobie baggage.” I had been so ginger with Rosie, being way overly worried about what position she liked, identifying the exact moment she wanted to nurse, trying hard to identify and give in to her every desire. I was secretly terrified that I would do something to upset or even slightly annoy her, and she would stop latching. I kept that secret from even myself.

When you have a fever of 104, everything comes undone. My feelings spilled out. It felt amazing. I was desperate to feel better for my own sake, and for the sake of my family. I wanted to get back to enjoying our new baby bliss bubble. So, caution was thrown to the wind. We nursed in every position you can imagine: me on top, Rosie on top, upside down, sideways, etc. We nursed as often as we could stand it. It was wild. We made an amazing team, and together we broke that fever and beat the mastitis. Since then, we have found our rhythm. I have breastfed all over the place, from church to a Blue Rocks game. I even accomplished a goal that I set with Katie at the beginning of my journey: I breastfed with Rosie in the carrier. Actually, not to brag, but we do it all the time now, all over the place. I even did it while playing mini-golf.

When I was an EPer, despite being proud of breastfeeding my child, I had a deep longing to be able to nurse. With Rosie, that wish came true. I am so fortunate. But let me keep it real. I had painted it to be a beautiful, magical, rainbows-and-unicorns experience. It is hard, and it is painful sometimes, both physically and mentally. Rosie refuses to take a bottle. And yes, I have tried many different brands, had several different people try to feed her, left the house for six hours… We have given it the old college try. But like I said, my girl is stubborn. I have gotten her to take a few ounces from a cup with a straw, but only fresh milk, not frozen or even chilled in the fridge. A bummer for us since I am a bit of a milk hoarder, and had frozen gallons, literally. All that milk has become someone else’s good fortune. So, where my husband shared feeding Jackson and waking up with him in the night, every feeding for Rosie has been and continues to be all me.

I have missed plenty of social events and have sacrificed work opportunities, and my husband and I have yet to go on a date since she was born, but we know that this is just for a short while. The past seven months have flown by; every day takes forever but is gone in a second, if you know what I mean. And let me tell you another secret: I love being tethered to my baby. I am a WAHM (work at home mom), and I am living my dream. I love being with my kids all the time. Jackson started preschool two days a week, and I know it’s just a matter of time before they are both gone all day every day and before I know it, the vacuum lines in the carpet will stay longer and longer. I am soaking in every moment I can with my precious babies. My breastfeeding journeys with each of them have played a big role in my growth as a mother, in parent partnering with my husband, and in bonding with my loves.