Wednesday, February 19, 2014

We Had a Great Run

Everyday around 8 or 8:30am I grab my re-usable tote, walk a few steps away from my cube and unlock an office door. I turn the light on and sit in one of two chairs facing the desk, as if I'm applying for a bank loan. The office belongs to "Candy" but she is almost never in the office, so its mine to use whenver she is out. I reach into my tote and take out a small zippered cooler bag and a plastic contraption wrapped in one of my dish towels from home. I unwrap the contraption, double check to make sure I pressed the lock button in on the door handle, and attach a small plastic bottle to the suction device. I unclip the cup from my nursing bra and access my boob. I hold the device to my left boob and quickly pump the handle until I see the drops of white liquid flow down the tube into the bottle. I slow my pace on the handle to mimick the pace of a sucking baby.  I play around on my phone and get comfy to sit for 15 minutes or however long it takes...
I decided long ago, perhaps even before I knew I was about to become a mother that I would like to nurse my child as long as it was necessary. Of course when these thoughts first cropped up in my head, I had no idea what that would entail, or how much of a struggle it would be at times.
As I got older and became exposed to more close friends having babies, I heard all sorts of stories about troubled breast feeding.   Mom's that found they wanted their quality of life back after 6 weeks/3 months/6 months, etc. Mom's that didn't produce enough milk. Mom's that produced too much milk. Mom's stressing about possibly not producing enough milk (but babies were thriving).  Babies that couldn't get the latch down.  Babies that started refusing the breast. Babies that would only take the breast.  When I got pregnant I had ideas of how I would like nursing to go for me, but with all these stories, I really had to revise my expectations and get realistic.  I settled on 6 months. I set a goal for myself that barring any extreme circumstances, I would like to make it to 6 months of exclusively breastfeeding my baby.
...I hear the sound of liquid dripping onto more liquid.  I look at my phone.  It's been 5 minutes.  My hand is getting tired, so I switch hands.  I look around the office that doesn't belong to me and take note of personal items on the desk.  A photo of Candy's girls.  A foam dumbell with our company logo on it.  Books on the shelf, and boxes of clothes that she must hand out on site visits.  The liquid has stopped flowing, but I keep rhythmically moving my hand.  It's been 7 minutes now...
I felt very fortunate that immediately after birth I got to hold my son on my stomach.  I got to feed him immediately, and while it took a lot of learning for me to figure out the best way for him to latch, he never seemed to have any problems.  His weight gain was phenomenal, and slowly during my materinty leave nursing became less stressful, and more natural- like I had always pictured it.  I didn't have concerns about my supply, my son went easily from breast to bottle to breast, wasn't picky with types of bottles, I never once had cracked nipples, or an infection, or any other breast feeding malady.  Things were going great.  When Cyprus started to sleep 8 hours at night I would have to get up and pump anyway, so I began to build a solid freezer stash. 
...a few more minutes go by and I see the liquid start flowing again.  I can feel the slight tingling in my breast and I watch the many different pinhole spots squirt milk in all directions before it melds together into a large drop and rolls down into the collection bottle.  Even though I've done this 100's of times, it's still weird.  11 minutes has gone by.  I check the side of the bottle to see how many ounces I have, and I see about 2 ounces...
Breast feeding was working for us. By the end of my maternity leave, I was thinking maybe I'll just keep this up as long as possible, past 6 months!  But, I still had to return to work and see how the whole being away and pumping his food for the next day was going to work. When I returned to work, there was a little bit of an adjustment to be discussed with the hubby about not just feeding him everytime he cries, and explaining he can get milk faster from the bottle than from me, so please try to use the milk sparingly.  Once the hubby figured out the pacifier, our pumping/feeding arrangement was working out.  I had an upcoming business trip to Texas, and would be away for 4 days.  So I really wanted to make sure I had enough milk in the freezer for that.  There would be a few days when I wouldn't be able to add to the freezer stash (either I would choose sleep over pumping, or baby would eat extra), and I would get nervous.  I counted and re-counted the frozen bags, as well as the potential days left until my trip.  I knew it would be close.
...2 ounces?  Are you kidding me?  I'm normally at 4 ounces at this point.  Then the thoughts start- Should I keep pumping?  It's already been 15 minutes.  I don't want to be missing too much work.  But, next time I pump, it will be on my side that normally produces 2 ounces.  Will I get 2 ounces?  Then I'll only have 4 ounces for the day when I normally have 6 ounces.  I text the hubby- "kid eat yet?"  His response- "Yup, he just downed 7oz like it was nothing."  Crap...
After Texas, it seems I just couldn't match my pumped ounces like before.  I don't know if it was the 4 days away?  Or a coincidental growth spurt?  Or my supply dwindling?  Or just my perception?  Either way, I was only getting 1/2 of what I would normally get during a day at work.  That means we need to keep dipping into the freezer stash.  That means my body won't get the message to "ramp up" since I'm not nursing during the more eating times.  My 6 month goal is only 5 weeks away!  5 weeks! 
...nothing has come out of my boob for 5+ minutes, so I stop pumping, put my boob away, and place the bottle/pump on Candy's desk.  I carefully unscrew the pump contraption and screw on the yellow bottle top.  I look at the total ounces- the milk line is just barely at the 2 on my "good" side.  Crap.  I place the bottle in the cooler, wrap the pump in the dish towel, and gather my phone.  I put the towel wrapped pump back in my re-useable tote, and carry the cooler in my other hand.  I walk to the work kitchen and put the cooler in the fridge.  I walk back to my cube, note the time and make a mental note to head back to Candy's office in 2 hours for round 2 on the other side.  I typically pump 3-4 times during a work day. 
It is constantly on my mind that I may not be able to pump enough milk to make it to 6 months.  I'm already pumping 4-5 times a day, M-F, and once a day Saturday and Sunday.  Our baby is happy, sleeps well, and is meeting his milestones, but he definitely is not a chunky baby.  I decided to weigh him yesterday, and found that he weighs nearly exactly the same as he did 3 weeks ago at his 4 month check-up.  Breastfeeding is entirely a confidence game, and I'm definitely losing confidence in my abilities.  I am slowly coming to grips with the fact that it might be time for formula and/or formula-nursing combo.  I had no idea I'd feel so strongly about wanting to avoid formula, especially since I have no problem or judgement for moms that choose to go that route.  But for ME...I just was hoping to skip the whole formula thing and go from breast to real food.
Today as I was nursing baby at 3:30am, I had a thought.  Perhaps I was being short sighted with this "goal" in my head.  Here I am stressing and straining to squeeze blood from a stone, and what if my baby is hungry?  I mean, he's a good, happy, baby but what if he could be even better with a little more food in his belly?  Maybe he would sleep all the way through the night (8+ hours instead of the 7ish?)  Maybe he would go longer than 2-3 hours between feedings during the day.  Maybe he would start to chunk up a bit.  Then I thought about how much my quality of life would more trips to Candy's office.  Leaving baby won't be a problem since I won't need to be so protective of my stash.  Besides, he will be eating real food in a few months anyway, so what is a few months of formula in the big scheme of things?  I need to get over myself. 
Saturday baby will be 5 months.  I'm going to start giving him formula/breastmilk mix after that.  I still have a few bags of breastmilk in the freezer, and I will still have to pump/nurse during this time, but I'm guessing that my supply will start to dwindle and the weaning will begin.  We had a great run, and I'm so, so, so, grateful for that.  As much as I will miss the closeness, I'm pretty excited to get my boobs/life back. 


  1. Love the honesty! and He is beautiful.

  2. If you want to try and keep up the nursing you can try one of those nurse in things. Not the protests. LOL I cannot think of the official term though. Basically you sit at home all weekend and do nothing but nurse to prompt your body to make more milk. Also you might want to price formula and how fast a can will be burned through. I wanna say min $9 and 2-3 days. Good for you on feeding this long! :) I can make them and bake them but I cannot feed them (Even on a script- My boobies just don't make crap) Formula is $$$ Have all your friends sign up for coupons on your formula of choice.

  3. You are awesome so don't stress!!! Here to support you! He is happy and healthy so don't stress! Also you know I love avocado for fattening a kid up so try that too! Formula is expensive but its only for a few more months. Love you!

  4. Thanks for sharing your story. He is growing up. Great stuff. :)