Breast feeding has been a completely different experience than what I pictured while pregnant. I guess that’s true of a lot of parenting experiences.
My milk took 2 weeks to come in, and it took two months before I produced enough to meet WB’s needs. We tried supplementing with finger feeding and a cup, but it was too much to manage and I moved on to bottles. Then I came down with mastitis, then a bad case of ductal thrush, and then it was at the point where I was bawling my eyes out during every feeding session. So I made the decision to pump exclusively.
Pumping took a lot of the pressure off – I was able to see how much my baby was eating, and I didn’t feel rejected every time she refused to latch. But I spent my maternity leave in an endless 3 hour cycle: bottle feed, pump, wash everything, start again. I was tethered to the pump, which meant I was tethered to the house. I had thought breastfeeding would free me to spend my leave in the park or at the beach. Ha. Nursing in public is still controversial, pumping in public isn’t even an option.
But things got better. I got into a schedule that worked and slowly produced more and more. By six months I had such an impressive freezer stash that I was planning to stop pumping before she turned one.
And then WB was diagnosed with a dairy allergy. That freezer stash was useless to us, and ended up donated to another family through Human Milk For Human Babies. My supply crashed when I gave up dairy, and I had to start supplementing again. We discovered her other food allergies, and ended up supplementing with prescription formula. And late this summer I developed a cracked nipple that took a month to heal.
I’m now down to two sessions a day, and I expect to be done for good in the next couple weeks. So why have I hung on so long? Most women don’t breastfeed past 12 months, let alone pump exclusively.
Part of me likes the control. Managing food allergies is such an anxiety-ridden process, and this is one of the few things I can do to make sure WB is exposed to a healthy range of foods and nutrients, and encourage the development of a diverse microbiome. I also read something about how children who are formula fed, especially the very bland, highly processed formulas that are allergen-safe, end up having very bland palates. Maybe this is hocum, and her microbiome and palate are out of my hands, but at least I can TRY. With food allergies, it’s all about AVOIDING things, not actively DOING things. This is one of the few things I could DO.
And the other reason is pure vanity – I’m 30 pounds under my pre-pregnancy weight, and I believe this is entirely due to breastfeeding. I don’t exercise, and I’m eating as much as I did while pregnant. I know that when I stop breastfeeding, I’m going to have to make some major changes or I’ll balloon back up. But that sounds like a lot of work, and I’m lazy. And God do I love to eat.
So these reasons, are really all about me. At her 15 month check up, the pediatrician said that I’ve done a wonderful job. But at this point, WB no longer needs the nutrition provided by breastmilk, and we can switch to formula only. So I’ve cut down on the pumping, and cut back on the amount of bm in each bottle. Today, it’s 1.5 oz, later this week it will be 1 oz. And then in a week or two, it will be none.
And then I will go out and stuff my face with edamame and fried rice and froyo and all the things I haven’t eaten for the last year 😀
- Amazing stats and a bit about being a pumping working mom (mamaslittlebits.com)
- Pumping Is Beautiful (thepumpingmama.wordpress.com)
- Thank you, Breastmilk. Thank you, Formula. (eccentricchai.com)