Pumping and how I failed

They say that each pregnancy and baby are different from one to another. Boy is that true! This of course makes sense, as we are all our own being with our own set of needs and eventually personality.


I had a relatively easy first pregnancy and breastfed my daughter for 6 months. I considered myself a pro on all things baby. Wrong! My second pregnancy was so different that I had to hit the books all over again. From dealing with morning sickness to sex drive or lack thereof.  All of which were very strange to me.

Both of my children were born naturally, but the accouchements were the total opposite of each other.  After a good fight, loads of cursing, moans and groans, my gorgeous little boy was born and I fell in love for a second time.


Experts say skin-to-skin contact should be immediate after birth, as this helps to bring in your milk, among other benefits. Unfortunately that was not the case with me and that was just the start of a very stressful feeding journey. My little guy didn’t want to latch. I didn’t think much of it, as he was so new to this world, that I thought we would have loads of time to figure things out. He was taken away for an overall checkup, injections and a proper cleaning. During his checkup, the pediatrician noticed slight tongue tie.  

Tongue-tie happens when the string of tissue under your baby’s tongue (frenulum), which attaches the tongue to the floor of the mouth, is too short. The image indicates a severe case and we are lucky that our little guy just has it slightly. However, it was enough to cause the issue of latching to my breast. 

During our stay in the hospital, my efforts to get him to latch and feed properly was tiring. After 30-45 minute struggle to get him to latch, he would be too tired to drink. He would get a firm latch and as soon as he gets comfortable he falls asleep after 5 minutes and there was literally nothing that would wake him up. Knowing he hasn’t had enough milk, I would let him sleep for 2 hours and wake him to try again. I was determined to make it work, I mean how hard could it be. I’ve done this before. It should come natural.

The nurses were not entirely satisfied with his milk intake and said he had to have a wet nappy before we could get discharged. After three days of no sleep, getting extremely frustrated and longing to get home to my daughter, I decided to give him formula. I sobbed for hours. I was so disappointed in myself and of course the hormones still causing havoc in my body didn’t help.


We reached our house and I finally felt more comfortable and hoped that this would assist the breastfeeding process. Unfortunately that was not the case. The frustration, sleepless days/nights and tears continued and my poor baby was hungry. He would drink and straight after I would express milk, in the effort to keep my milk supply. This went on for weeks and ended up feeding him from my breast and then feed him from the bottle. Eventually I realized that the little guy is just not getting enough food drinking directly from my breast. The latching issue continued and then of course him falling asleep after a long struggle. I then thought of the best way to keep him on breastmilk, I switched over to exclusively pumping. The stress levels went down and his weight went up. Yeah high fives all around!

Let me just say that exclusively pumping is not for the faint hearted. It takes dedication, routine and Netflix. I was very fortunate to have family living with us to assist with, well, everything. There was no way I could have done anything, let alone take care of the house and a toddler with the pumping regime I had. We started joking that my middle name is Express. After a while, I felt that being locked up in the house is not healthy and would go out for short trips. We would do the typical touristy stuff with the family and wouldn’t leave the house without my little bag of pumping essentials. Things were working well.


My support system aka family left and real life kicked in. It became more and more challenging to keep up with the pumping and feeding routine. It simply took too much of my time and I would fall behind. Not to have my son hungry, I would give him formula from time to time. Majority of his feeds would be breastmilk with 5% being formula. That is great with all things considered. However, slowly but surely the ratio would change and eventually he had only 30% breastmilk and the rest formula. Finally my milk supply reduced so much, that I changed to formula completely. He was a little over 4 months old when I made this decision. My decision was not done without alternative efforts ie eating all kinds of cookies and making smoothies. Drinking this and that kind of tea including the 4 liters of water each day. I even took a large amount of Fenugreek, just to keep my milk supply going. The fact of the matter is, your baby drinking directly from you is what will keep your milk supply going. I am not saying the alternative doesn’t work, it certainly helps, but it’s not the same.


I struggle with my decision till today and my son is 5 months old. Have I made the right decision to stop? Will his immune system be as strong as his sister’s? Could I have done things differently? All of these questions keep coming to mind and make me feel guilty as hell. My husband says that I’m being too hard on myself. He’s right! No one is perfect and we can only learn from our experiences. The guilt will dissipate. I hope that one day I can offer my advise to my daughter when she is faced with such struggles.


No matter how or with what you feed your baby, you do what is best for both of you. A mother’s instinct is the best. Use that instinct to guide yourself and you will find a way to make things work. Yes I failed at pumping, but feel relieved that my baby is happy and healthy today.

by Odette van Jaarsveld

I am a Mom to an independent, beautiful little girl and a strong, cuddly baby boy. I also have the privilege to be a wife to a very intelligent, handsome man. My life is filled with so much love, joy and very busy days....sometimes nights too.

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