Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Approaching 1 Year Breastfeeding: Stubbornness- and Support- Needed

It occurred to me this evening, as I was painstakingly pouring the 7.5 oz I painstakingly pumped at work today into 4 separate plastic baggies that I painstakingly labeled with date, ounces, and my baby's name... that trying to breastfeed for a full year takes stubbornness.

In the early days, I was stubborn when we almost tried some formula when the baby nursed and nursed and nursed from 10 pm to 1 am. We made the bottle, then I said, "Just one more nursing session."

I was stubborn at 5.5 months, when after the baby had a weeklong stomach bug and didn't nurse much, my supply really dropped (despite renting a hospital grade pump and pumping whenever I could get time), and I had to nurse the baby almost every hour or two for two weeks straight to get my supply back up. (Thank God I was not working, or I'm not sure I would have had the time and energy to get the supply back.)

I have always stubbornly stuck to the idea that breastmilk, and what I can make, should be good enough. (I must say I have been influenced by my fabulous and stubborn lactation consultants, who I simply adore. Holla, Stamford Hospital Lactation!)

At 9.5 months, when it came time for the baby to go to daycare, and it didn't seem like 7 or 8 oz of breastmilk would sate the baby, I consulted my LC (you can imagine what her response was), my baby's pediatrician, and my BFF who is a doctor and who is currently nursing and pumping at work for her 2nd baby who's just older than mine. They all said 8 oz should be enough since he's on solids, so I painstakingly drew up directions for daycare about how much and when to feed him (maximum 8 oz in 2-3 bottles of 4 oz size). Daycare said I should bring larger bottles, because one time the milk they put in was a little over 4 oz, but I said, no, I want him to have smaller bottles because that's more typical of a breastfed baby. (I also did not want to give the message that he should be fed more than that on a regular basis, because I simply cannot pump more than 8 oz at work, no matter how hard I try.) They didn't seem to really believe my plan would work, but I explained myself a couple times, and now they agree that if he has a breakfast and lunch of solid foods, 8 oz is enough. I don't even have to rush to get him at 3:30, which is nice- he seems fine until 4 or 4:30. Other babies younger than him drink three times what he does... the price I pay is that he wakes at least once to nurse, but I'm ok with that.

I still have to squeeze in a few extra pumping sessions in the week mornings or on weekends, because I usually do not pump 8 oz at work; I pump 6.5 or 7, and on bad days, 6. Those extra sessions are a bit of a pain, because I'd rather be going to the gym, but I tell myself, just two more months. (Even if it ends up being more, I still tell myself that to keep myself positive.)

At work, to try to get the most milk, I drink tons of water, snack or eat before pumping, and leave plenty of time to pump. It takes a little over 10 min, twice a day, plus time to set up and break down the pump and parts and wash off the one part I don't have a duplicate of. At the end of the day, I lug the heavy, rented hospital grade pump home in a bulky backpack (I was afraid my Medela Pump in Style wouldn't be good enough), where I then store my milk and wash out all the pump parts and pile them on the drying rack. In the morning, I repack my little breastmilk cooler, put the pump parts in a plastic baggie, and haul the giant backpack to work along with my lunch bag and work bag. I must look like a really hardworking teacher with all that work I take home-not just a bag, but a HUGE BACKPACK full of papers to grade!

I wasn't sure I'd make to a year of full-time breastfeeding, but I think I'm going to. We thought we might need to add formula if he needed more than 8 oz, and even if 8 is good enough, if I couldn't or didn't want to make time to pump on the weekends, we could add some formula to his breastmilk... but I think with the week off I have in February, I'll be able to pump enough extra so I can build up a surplus of milk to last us through his first birthday on March 21st.

The end is in sight, and I am feeling optimistic.

(At one year, we can probably put him on cow's milk during the day, as long as he's lost the dairy protein allergy we are pretty sure he had at one point. I'll keep breastfeeding him in the morning, evenings, and weekends for as long as he wants and for as long as it works for us. I mean, the end of PUMPING is in sight. The end of worrying if I can make enough milk for him. The end of me needing to be there every few hours, or provide pumped milk.)

I really want to believe that a working mother can breastfeed for a full year. Even for me, who did not go back to work until my baby was over 9.5 months old, it's been challenging to keep the baby only on my milk. Anyone who pumps from 3-12 months... wow. That is a lot of work. I can't say with full confidence that I could do it. I would try. But that's why I do not judge any one's choice to use formula. My job is the perfect one for pumping, because as a teacher I have built in breaks that happen to fall at just the right intervals- 10 am and 1pm- and still it is SO DRAINING. My boss and staff are fully supportive. I have it easy, and yet it's not easy at all.

Pumping is a huge pain in the butt, but I feel like I am doing something good for his health by giving him immunological protection, and I like sitting down and thinking about him twice a day. And plus, I'm stubborn, and I want to say I fully breastfed for a year. I have a goal. I don't feel like it's just a goal for me. Certain people have implied that I care more about the breastfeeding for me than the baby. But I don't see it that way. It's ok if other people see it that way, because at this point, I'm just gonna plow ahead to my goal anyway. In the words of my youngest sister, "Whatevs."

Props to the husband, and my coworkers, and all the people who have helped me on real life and on twitter, for making this goal possible!!!! Oh- and my family, especially my sisters, who got me through that week of the baby being really sick.


Dionna @Code Name: Mama said...

You are AMAZING!!! I know I couldn't have pumped for Kieran. My milk just does not flow for the pump. I know this because 1) I had to pump b/c we were supplementing him w/expressed milk via tube in the beginning and 2) I thought I was going back to work so I was working on a freezer stash for the first couple of months. I could barely pump 2 ounces with 15 minutes on each breast. It was horrible.

So let me reiterate - you are AMAZING! Thing about what you are doing for your baby! I am in constant awe of pumping moms. You keep telling yourself that every ounce pumped has been worth its weight in gold, and every ounce he continues to get is priceless. Do it as long as you can, and when you're done, know that you are a rock star.

astuebe said...

Kudos on closing in on the one year mark! My oldest will turn nine this March 21 -- I remember reaching the magic one year mark for him all those years ago. Leaving the pump behind was a major milestone, but for me, it's also been a little wistful with each of my three boys. A little part of me loved knowing that, for a few 10 minute stretches every day, I was connected to my baby.

Nevertheless, kudos on finding the passion and the sheer strength to keep going. I agree with Dionna - you are a rock star!

Always Home and Uncool said...

My Love lasted 6 months on Thing 1 and 2 months on Thing 2.

During his therapy, she will definitely take the fall.

KOR said...

Thanks Dionna and astuebe! I don't feel like a rock star- but I AM proud of myself for working to overcome obstacles! Really my husband is the rock star for busting his butt so I could stay home for almost ten months- if that's not a huge start to making it to a year of breastfeeding...

AHUC, you know I don't mean to critique shorter-term breastfeeding! There are so many reasons that can make it hard to continue, esp. if a mom is working! I have not walked in your wife's shoes, and I am sure she (and you) made a good decision for your family. With what I know of her demanding job, it's pretty damn awesome that she got in as much as she did.