This story may be one of my favorites! Meet Trillitye. She posted in The Snap Mom Community about pumping milk in a humvee and I just knew we had to know more about her and her story…
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by Trillitye Paullin | guest writer for The Snap Mom
At only 17 years old, I raised my right hand and swore to defend and protect the United States of America. I saw the Army National Guard as the best opportunity to continue my education. After ten years of serving and a year-long deployment to Iraq, enlisting in the military has become so much more. Shortly after joining, I graduated from high school, and today I am proud to say that I am a doctoral candidate and will soon be completing my PhD in Molecular Biology as a Pat Tillman Scholar at the University of South Florida.
Since being in graduate school, doing cancer research, teaching undergraduate courses, serving in the National Guard, and being a wife to my amazing husband wasn’t quite enough, we decided to start a family as my graduate program drew to an end (hopefully). Our daughter was born March 18, 2015, and the past five months have been a whirlwind.
My husband and I agreed that if at all possible, our daughter would be breastfed. I realized that there were circumstances that could ruin these plans and just tried to keep an open mind. Breastfeeding was difficult from day one. It was so PAINFUL! My daughter had a shallow latch. Eventually my nipples were bleeding and I cried every time she fed. I REALLY wanted to quit. There were bottles in the cupboard and sample formula that we received in the mail that I just couldn’t bring myself to get rid of. It would be so easy.
I had all of the usual fears, “Is she getting enough?” “Will it ever quit hurting?” “Why have we been nursing for three hours?!” “Am I doing the right thing?” and so on. I was so sure that it would never get better. That’s when I started leaning on others. My husband got up to change her diaper while I did a warm compress before every feeding. My mother came to visit her first grandchild and would sleep with her for a few hours when I needed to crash. My friend who was also breastfeeding checked in on me daily to see how we were faring. I was a lucky gal, and eventually it DID get better.
Then everything came crashing down. The day my mother flew home, baby girl was up all night screaming bloody murder. The next morning her face had broken out in a horrible rash and her diaper was FULL OF BLOOD! She was admitted to the hospital and they began tests. After 24 hours of starvation and several tests they decided that she has severe allergies. My inner mom voice immediately screamed, “YOUR MILK IS KILLING YOUR BABY!” I was devastated. The doctors said that the only option was to put her on a formula called Elecare because it is allergen free. I cried for a long time over this decision that didn’t feel like a decision at all. I was comforted by our nurse and pediatrician that feeding our child formula wouldn’t make me a bad mother. She started the formula, and I started asking questions. If they can make formula that is allergen free, can I make breastmilk that is allergen free too? The answer was a hesitant “Yes.” I was told over and over how hard it would be to remove all allergens from my diet. Then I discovered how much this fancy new formula was going to cost and my mind was made up. I saw it as an ultimatum: Either go on an allergen free diet and continue giving my baby the best I could, OR get a second job to feed her. Done deal. I removed dairy, soy, eggs, corn, wheat, nuts, and oats from my diet.
Once I decided to keep breastfeeding, a new obstacle loomed up ahead. Since I’m still in the National Guard, I would need to leave my family for two weeks for the mandatory Annual Training while my daughter was only four months old. It hurt my heart to even think about leaving my family for that long. But I made a commitment, so my husband and I began planning for it.
How I Did it
I’m a list person, so the first thing we did was sat down with a list of things we would need to accomplish to make these two weeks a success.
1. So. Much. Milk.
I started crunching numbers. I would need two weeks’ worth of frozen breastmilk, which happens to be a lot! So I read all of the articles I could get my hands on, like http://thesnapmom.com/breastfeeding-increasing-supply/ and http://thesnapmom.com/getting-the-most-out-of-your-breast-…/. I began creating my stash and was not happy until I had well over 500 ounces safely tucked away for my husband.
2. Doctors Appointments/Bills/Errands
I made sure to get all of these things done ahead of time so my husband didn’t have to worry about them.
3. Packing everything short of the kitchen sink
On my end, I had two basic issues. First, I needed to pump like a crazy person. So I packed my pump and two sets of ALL of my pump parts. I also put a used onesie into a plastic baggie so I could smell her while I pumped. Top that off with a million freezer bags, a bottle brush, and dish soap, and my booby kit was complete.
Second, I had to continue my allergen free diet. I planned on saving the milk I pumped so it needed to be “clean”. Additionally, anything you eat can stay in your system for over two weeks. While I was meal prepping for our daughter, my husband fired up the grill and prepped for me. He vacuum sealed grilled chicken, salmon, and steak. This was all loaded up into a giant cooler with coconut milk, rice, sweet potatoes, and some allergen free condiments. I brought some fruit and vegetables, but relied mostly on the chow hall for raw produce (even though I couldn’t eat anything else there).
The Army is all about the mission, or the task to be completed. I took this approach too. As far as I was concerned, our missions should be simple. Mine: Pump enough milk to replace what she was eating and not lose my supply. My husband: Keep everyone alive. This gave him a free pass on everything else. I made it very clear that I didn’t care if the laundry was done or the house was clean. I just wanted him to keep himself, the baby, and our two dogs alive for two weeks. Anything beyond that was a bonus.
Once I arrived and started annual training, I realized how difficult my mission really was. So I thought of some guidelines to help me stay on track.
1. Have pump, will travel
I took my pump EVERYWHERE! Even if I was only supposed to be somewhere for 20 minutes, my pump went with me. The Army is notorious for 20 minutes turning into 3 hours. I only let this happen once before my rock hard boobs taught me better. Since we were in the Florida heat, we were required to have a water cooler with us also which turned into convenient milk storage.
2. Pump every three hours
I made it my goal to pump every three hours, no matter where I was. I quickly learned to swallow my pride and be creative. This led to some interesting pumping locations. Bathrooms, offices, barracks, Humvees, it didn’t matter to me. I took out my daughter’s onesie, watched a video of her, and got my pump on. There’s no shame in my game.
3. Bag twice a day
I didn’t always have access to a freezer, so I made a point to bag and freeze my milk every morning and every night.
In order to keep my supply up, I knew that I needed to get enough food and water throughout the day. I tried to eat something every time I pumped and I kept a water bottle with me at all times. I also found working out to be extremely helpful. I did a group workout with my soldiers in the morning and lifted weights during my lunch break. I was very lucky to have this available to me and I took full advantage. Working out was a great distraction and helped me sleep at night too.
Two weeks of this went by and we all made it! It was by no means easy. At one point I was pumping in the back of a Humvee while I bounced around and shed a few tears because I simply missed my family. My husband had his bad days too, like the morning he woke up to find one of the dogs had pooped in the house and the other dog had ate most of it and threw it back up… all over our carpet. But we tried to take everything in stride.
My heart goes out to all of the women who have had to leave their families for weeks, months, or even years. I am by no means complaining about my situation. I knew what I was getting myself into when we decided to start our family while I was still in the military. I am trying to find a balance between being a dedicated mother, wife, scientist, and soldier. My husband and I have discussed at length what we will do if I deploy again, and it is another obstacle we are ready to tackle if that day comes.
We all try to be the best mothers we can be, in the varied forms that takes. Next time you look into your baby’s beautiful smile, remember what is important to you and keep working towards that goal. For me, that was to continue breastfeeding, and I’m proud to say that we are five months and going strong!