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Also, please check out the kickstarter campaign for this awesome, women-run, company.
I sat down to feed Sonny the other day and felt that wave of excitement that comes when you’re close to completing something you set out to do but also couldn’t wait to be over. That much defines my relationship with breastfeeding. And so I’m here today to write about the excitement with being close to done with breastfeeding before we’ve actually called it quits because we all know that if written after-the-fact, it ain’t nothin’ but a hormone induced slide down a slippery slope of sentimental memories of a bobble-headed baby that needed you, only you, desperately in a way that he will never need you again. So, you see, I’m writing this now so that my future self, who’s sure to be drowning in some sort of sea of anguish, has a reminder that it’s okay to move on and it’s okay to celebrate the newfound freedom that comes with not having a child attached to you, and only you, several times throughout the day (and for many, but thankfully not me, night).
Some I-can’t-wait-to-be-done-with-this ramblings:
I can’t wait to get rid of my nursing bras. They’re like glorified sports bras with snaps. For the past month I’ve been wearing an underwire and have been suffering the inconvenience of getting totally undressed to feed him simply so I can have the appearance of well-lifted bosoms.
I won’t miss the time suck that is pumping; especially at this stage in the game when I’m literally taking the same amount of time I was to pump 5oz but only now yielding 1-2oz for the mere purpose of keeping things afloat. All the while, skipping breaks and relying on fellow nurses to care for my patients in addition to their own patients. Oh and getting up extra early to pump before I even leave for work. Not to mention the cleaning and the storing and the lugging shit back-and-forth. I hate pumping. I want to burn everything right down to plastic little valves.
Smelling like maple syrup. Adios, fuck-u-greek.
That feeling that I’m being touched all. the . time. I truly am touched out and am ready to yearn to be touched again instead of shrieking inside every time someone reaches for me.
How about being able to wear a dress that doesn’t have buttons or a a neckline that can be pulled down? A shirt that I prefer tucked in that can, well, stay tucked in.
More even breasts. I mean, thanks leftie, I do appreciate the greater output but really, let’s be fair and practice equality.
“Sonny’s up, you gonna feed him?”. Nope, fucker, you’re turn.
And while I’m all about keeping to a schedule for my own benefit, I mean it’s the only time I get to work with one less distraction, and a substantial one at that, I can’t wait to not be tied to it the way breastfeeding ties me to it… to have to be there for each waking and each put down… no mas.
Date nights with my lovely husband, who I just teasingly called a ‘fucker’ because we love each other like that. But really, nights away, with no (less) guilt and dammit, maybe even a weekend getaway (mom, are you reading this? — my birthday is in July. Friendly reminder). I should also add that there is an inherent stress, in my opinion, put on a relationship when the mother is breastfeeding; it’s a true sacrifice for all involved.
Currently we’re down to just two feedings a day; morning and night. And I no longer feel the sadness that truthfully was tormenting me when I thought of calling it quits before. A reminder to myself to not be forceful in decisions that don’t require force. As we’ve steadily dropped to two feedings, I can feel my milk supply diminishing. The pump is of absolute no use and there are times sweet Sonny’s patience for my let-down gets the best of him and we both throw in the towel before any really gulping takes place. And so, the end is near. I know it, he knows it, and we’re all good with it. In fact, the only real reason I’m holding on at this point is because we’re in Maui and I’m hoping for a miracle on the plane ride back and hoping my magic mother goodness may just do the trick. With a little patience, anyway.
And then, I think* we’ll be done. For good.
And I’ll try not to be sad about it.
There isn’t a lot many can say when it comes to having three children and drawing any sort of similarities out amongst them. I mean, leave it to being the mother of three to prove to you that each one, cut from the same cloth or not, is bound and determined to be their own being. And yet, there are just a few similarities I can say about all three of my boys: each of them came in the 41st week of gestation. In fact, I think damn near 41 weeks and 4 days if we’re being precise. All three waited until their 9th or 10th month to cut any teeth. All three were early walkers, Hooper and Van both in their 10th month, Sonny in his 9th. And breastfeeding; all three have followed the same path.
You would think that by the third time, I’d have it down. In actuality, it’s quite the opposite. For starters, time has passed. Older people joke that they can’t remember their grown children as infants. I joke back that I can’t remember my 4 and 6 year olds as infants. And it’s only a partial joke because there is truth embedded in that statement as well. I’ve forgotten.
My experience with Sonny up until a month ago was seamless. Not without effort, but certainly without bumps in the road. He’d eat when I offered and I’d offer often. If it was before a nap or before putting him down for the night, it would put him to sleep.
I’m seeing things more clearly now from hindsight and I can pin our latest struggles down to the following: he’s far more aware of his surroundings than he once was. He’s easily distracted and half of the time I feel like I’m forcing him to eat which seems silly having always prided myself on ‘on demand’ feeding. Some days I feel like I need a basket filled to the brim with various toys and knick knacks that I can dangle in front of him to keep his attention. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I fed him without holding something on my chest. I suppose I wouldn’t care so much about him refusing feedings if I weren’t so worried about maintaining my supply.
You see what’s happening here? It’s a cocktail I’m mixing.
I wouldn’t even know about my supply if it weren’t for working so much lately. I worked three days in a row in the hospital (which is the only time I pump) and became growingly concerned seeing just how little I would get from the pump. Sure, it’s argued (and presumably true) that baby’s are more efficient than a pump but instinctively I cannot help but be concerned when I used to pump a combined 4 ounces and now, only 1, maybe 2. It’s also stressful to take time out of my day when I’m working as a nurse to only bag a mere ounce (leaving my patients, walking to another unit, pumping, cleaning, storing, walking back… Point being, it’s a process that takes time and takes me away from my patients).
And now, from the position of hindsight, it’s beginning to dawn on me that the same thing happened with both Hooper and Van, around the same age. While I’m blessed with good sleepers, the 9 or 10 hours of consecutive sleep at night causes my supply to plunge.
It’s also right around this time, with all three, that my body begins regulating itself once again and my period returns. I mean all three, at or damn near the 10 month mark. And I know menstruation has ill effects on milk supply. Or can, anyways.
Combine all this – working more and therefore pumping more, the return of my period, and a baby who is distracted by everything and loves solids (and is eating those like a champ) and who is sleeping through the night and then some – and it’s clear to see why my supply is suffering.
I was beginning to talk myself into the idea that maybe he’s just weaning and while, sure, he probably is to a certain extent (definitely transitioning into the world of solid foods) he’s not done with breastfeeding. And nor am I. It’s my goal to make it to a year and now that I’ve gotten over this hump, I know we will.
So how did I get over the hump, you ask?
Well, I reached out and heard back from so many of you via instagram. Sometimes you just have to talk yourself through something to be able to understand the issues.
The consensus was this: the distraction at the breast is normal for this age. Several suggested feeding in a low lit room. While I find this to be helpful during feedings he needs/wants, the reality is that we’ve simply had to cut out some of the feedings we once had… which is fine. I try to cram in as many daytime feedings as I can because I know not feeding at all throughout the night has had an effect on my supply. I’ve also given up on multitasking, gone are the days I could send a quick email or scroll through instagram while breastfeeding. And I’m fine with that, it’s nice to give him my full attention.
My next realization is that we all have limits. At least one person that responded mentioned getting up in the middle of the night to pump which, I agree, would be helpful in breaking the 10 hour hiatus I take from feedings while he sleeps. But, with working two (sometimes three) jobs and wrangling three kids, I need a full nights rest. And I feel very fortunate that I get it. I do, however, wake Sonny a couple hours after I put him down for the night, before I go bed myself (around 10pm or 11pm) and feed him one last time. And I will continue to do so to alleviate the long lapse in not feeding him. That particular session is my favorite; it’s the only one that doesn’t require the extra effort. Very rarely does he even open his eyes. It’s sweet, the kind of feed breastfeeding cliches are made of.
I’ve also increased my water intake. Or at least most days I try to. The amount of water we should all be getting each day is kind of baffling and I firmly believe so many of us – breastfeeding or not – are walking around partially dehydrated. On the days I work in the hospital, I make it a point to down two glasses of water every time I walk into the patient nourishment room. At home, it’s a little harder to come up with something similar because I’m distracted and multitasking with no organization about 90% of my day when I’m at home. I could probably stand to eat more greens too, but hey, we all have limits. I’m trying.
I’ve also started taking calcium + magnesium as well as fenugreek. I tried putting it off for as long as I could because I don’t necessarily care for walking around and smelling like a pancake house. Please tell me there are others who agree that fenugreek makes you smell like maple syrup? I was sitting in a class and thinking that someone near by smelled weird only to get home and have Willy point out that that somebody was, indeed, me.
I’m back to my regular work schedule for the most part and in the past few days I’ve had ‘off’, I’ve found comfort in the fact that he is still taking a significant number of feedings. And while it’s hard to ignore the pump, he does seem to be more efficient and able to draw out more than the pump.
And at the end of the day, he’s healthy. And there’s loads of comfort in that. I worried so much when Hooper was little and his weight percentile dropped all the way down to the 10th percentile. But not the case with Sonny. He’s chunky enough, with thighs that demand to be pinched. All in all, if it weren’t for pumping and attaching a number to the issue at hand, I wouldn’t even second guess anything. And the realization that I’m not alone, not in my worries or in my hatred of pumping, is something too (I’ve enjoyed reading some other breastfeeding stories, here, which have made for a nice late-at-night-oh-hey-look-at-that-I’m-not-alone time suck).
The breastfeeding relationship changes so much in the course of a year and it’s as if you’re constantly having to adjust and re-assess. From the early days where it felt like I was a slave to feeding him to the current days where the anguish derives from just how little time he’s willing to sacrifice to eat. It’s enough to make my head spin. In any event, wish me luck this week as I’m scheduled for a couple 12 hour shifts and will be returning to the dreaded pump to learn my fate as if the pump is some magic 8 ball determined to tear my confidence down. Trying not to let it.
Would love to hear from others in regards to the changes in the breastfeeding relationship and how feeding your 9, 10, or 11 month old and so on is different than when they were younger.
I initially started pumping to build a small excess supply of milk for times I would be away from my babies, namely for return-to-work purposes. As my excess supply started pouring out of every crevice of the freezer and exceeded the amount I needed to return to work, I donated. I kept up with pumping for the purpose of keeping up my supply and donating was an added benefit. It felt great to be able to give to someone else who wanted to provide the same but was not able to. It also felt good to have a plentiful supply.
Because I had to return to work in the hospital, just after Sonny was a couple of weeks old, I started pumping once a day. I would pump just after his morning feed, when my supply was most abundant. On an average day, I froze anywhere between 3 and 5 ounces. And when our freezer started to swell, once again, I found someone to donate to. Win, win.
Looking to build a supply as well? Here’s what has worked for me:
-Start pumping early, when your supply is still calibrating to your needs. I started when Sonny was two weeks old. I vaguely recall reading advice from lactation consultants saying to wait longer. For me, starting earlier produced the best results. A reminder, I suppose, that any post I publish that may seem like it’s advice-giving is in actuality just a personal account of my own experiences.
-Use a double electric pump, as they’re most efficient. I use a hospital grade pump when I pump at work (Medela Symphony) and honestly notice no difference in the amount of milk I produce. It does, however, seem a little more efficient in terms of time, but not enough to justify the price tag of a hospital grade pump (it retails for nearly 2K — you would think for that price that it would be able to magically turn your breastmilk into straight cash. The kind you could fold.). At home I use the Medela In-Style double electric. It’s the same pump I’ve used since Hooper was born and I have no complaints.
-Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated is key when breastfeeding, even more so if you’re pumping in addition to breastfeeding.
-Pump in the morning, as your supply diminishes throughout the day. Pumping after Sonny fed first thing in the morning worked best for me; as there was no need to feel guilty for ‘stealing’ milk when he already got what he wanted / needed, first. If I were to add another pumping session, I would do so one hour into his morning nap with the knowledge that I’d be able to make more by the time he awakens to feed again.
-Stimulate multiple let-downs. There are two settings on the pump, one that is quick and intended to bring on the let-down and one that is slower and pulls the milk from the breast. When my milk more-or-less stops flowing, I switch it back to the quick setting and try to stimulate another let-down. More times than not, it works, and I’m able to draw out another ounce or more.
-Bottle training. No sense in pumping milk you hope for your baby to one day drink if your baby is unable to take a bottle. Think it’s a matter of it-they’re-hungry-enough-they’ll eat? I thought so too and the fact it’s actually a learned skill for newborns caused a lot of stress and turmoil and tears when Hooper was a baby. I have Willy give just an ounce of pumped milk once a week or so to Sonny to keep up on his ability to take a bottle. We also found that giving him this ‘recreational feeding’ works best first thing in the morning, before he feeds and just after he wakes, as he’s not as aware of what’s going in his mouth.
I’m no longer pumping. Sonny is 5 months and sleeping through most of the night (on and off) and I’ve found that my milk has calibrated to such. Slowly I stopped having any excess. But I still have a freezer full of frozen milk, so the relief lives on.
What was your experience like with pumping? Did you pump in addition to breastfeed? Any tips or tricks others would like to share?
And if anyone in the LA / OC area has a plentiful supply of stored breastmilk they can donate, I have a local mom that I’ve given my excess to that I know would be grateful to have more.
Image by Tish Carlson.
I had a post written, ready to share, about the good that has come out of social media in terms of breastfeeding and the whole ‘normalize breastfeeding’ hashtag that may better be classified as a movement; because hot damn there’s a lot of moms out there sharing – what truthfully is – a significant part of any new breastfeeding moms life. Breastfeeding an infant is pretty damn close to a full-time job. But then I was talking to a friend who confided that she shared different feelings about all these moms sharing about their dedication to breastfeeding and flashing images left and right of them feeding their babies; an over-saturation of sorts with a message that may have gotten lost in the abundance, the point – possibly – distorted. Where perhaps an innocent message of comradery somehow started to translate into a ‘my way is the best way’ message of inferiority. Hard to say if seeing it in a context such as this is produced from the images themselves or through the eyes of the one viewing them. I thought it was an interesting debate so I figured I’d bring it here, so others could weigh in.
How do you feel about moms sharing images of themselves breastfeeding their young? Do you feel that the message ever gets misconstrued; that perhaps some of the authors of these images have a pretentious air of inferiority? Does the author behind the images you see impact the meaning you derive from the image’s content? In other words, maybe it’s not the subject matter at all but perhaps the voice behind an image that may lend to a less-than-desirable translation?
Seeing so many images of moms openly breastfeeding has made me less shy about breastfeeding – especially in public – this third time around. I stressed much more about breastfeeding when Hooper, and then Van, were babies. Staying home felt most comfortable in terms of avoiding having to feed them in public. I remember wandering the flea market with Hooper as an infant and asking a vendor if I could use his car to feed him in. I was there the other month with Sonny and I fed him on the stairs in the middle of the bustling food court. It wasn’t that I yearned for anymore privacy when I chose to use the vendor’s car with Hooper, it’s more that it simply felt more socially acceptable; I wasn’t doing it for myself, I was doing it to protect everyone else.
I can’t say for certain whether it’s different because Sonny is a third-born and my cares have gone with the wind or if the movement of normalizing breastfeeding has spread visually so abundantly that I feel, well, comfortable. I’m even comfortable with others feeling uncomfortable.
I used to think of breastfeeding as such a huge commitment and, sure, it is. But this third time around it doesn’t feel like such a ball and chain; it feels like a privilege. Maybe that’s because I know it may be the last baby I breastfeed. I’d like to think it has at least something to do with this “normalize breastfeeding” movement because, dammit, I need to feel there is some good coming from social media and not just one rolling instagram feed of picturesque kitchens, sponsored posts, and curated mumbo jumbo.
Anyway, curious to know your thoughts. And for those that don’t breastfeed or didn’t breastfeed or aren’t going to breastfeed – for whatever reason – do you feel like an image of a breastfeeding mother is a back handed judgement on you? Do you take images like that personal? I suppose ‘fed is best’ could be a separate post on its own, but worth a mention here anyway. Because, really, fed is best.
Images by Tish Carlson.