So judging by the load time on this site, if I did another picture post today, people’s computers were going to start self destructing! SO let’s take a break from the adorable-ness and talk about boobs. This turned into a novel, so don’t feel you have to read it all – I wrote it more for me to remember this crazy journey than for you to suffer through. I’ve never had the gift of brevity!
On Mason’s birthday, we celebrated one year of breastfeeding and on Sunday, one year of exclusive breast feeding! For those who didn’t play Truth and Lies with us, the hospital gave Mason formula while he was out of my care because my breast milk wasn’t “good enough” for his jaundice. But that’s a post for another day. I’m not anti-formula, but being told I was a failure as a brand new mom was a rough way to start this whole process!
Anyway, back to this special anniversary celebration! It’s been a long long 12 months and we’ve fought many battles. The first several weeks were awful. I’m so glad that I had went to a breastfeeding class where they straight out said that it would hurt and it wouldn’t be all sunshine and rainbows and that was totally NORMAL. Yes, if the latch is proper, the actual act of breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt, but engorgement and the rawness caused by a tiny being stuck on your previously un-abused boob 20 hours a day definitely is an adjustment! Due to his jaundice, we were under strict instructions to wake him every two hours AROUND THE CLOCK and feed him. This led to one very tired momma! We were suppose to keep this up for 6 weeks, but quit long before then. If little man wanted to sleep 4-5 hours, SO DID I!! Every day I repeated in my head “We have to make it six weeks, we have to make it six weeks!” and that seemed forever away!
When Mason was in the hospital, he stayed under the bilirubin lights 20+ hours a day, so I became very familiar with the hospital pump and pumping. Mason also became familiar with a bottle (which we hadn’t planned on introducing until 4 weeks) which ended up being great because SuperDad was able to start taking over some of the middle of the night feedings after a while. Becoming familiar with the pump was also a great way to establish my milk supply. By the time I went back to work full time after 8 weeks, I already had a good month supply of milk in the freezer!
Unfortunately, early on Mason showed a definite preference for breastfeeding on one side. No matter what we did, he didn’t seem to latch well or eat well on the other side. Not wanting to dry up or become lopsided, we soon established a routine of me feeding him on one side and then pumping the other. My one boob soon made enough milk to feed him without having to bottle feed the expressed milk and my freezer stash grew and grew, but having to spend double the time dealing with milk every time he was hungry was not my ideal world by any means. In hindsight, giving up fairly quickly and always having him feed on one side probably contributed to his tort (tight neck muscle) which played a big part on the flat spot on his head that led to him being in a helmet today. *sigh*
When we made the 6 week milestone, I silently celebrated and set my sights on three months, which seemed so very far away. I had read over and over that “something clicks around 6 weeks and it becomes easy” and I just hadn’t had that experience. I was filled with resentment nearly every time I had to feed him and still having issues with pain and rawness. But I’d set my mind and heart on it and I was going to do it.
Going back to work full time meant two pumping sessions at work every day. I pumped once at 10:30 and once at 2:30, trying to mimic his feeding schedule at daycare and space them out enough that I could still get my morning work done and take a lunch break without feeling too guilty. Lucky for me, despite working with ALL men, pumping at work was great. No one batted an eye about the 40 minutes a day that I spent in a closed up office, everyone was happy to cover for me, and “Going to the parlor” jokes were laughed at by all.
By the time we hit the three month mark, things were going a little bit better, but I set my sights on the 6 month mark. By the time that 6 months rolled around, we’d finally settled into a groove. I was still pumping on one side AND getting up between 3 and 4 am to pump (it was my most “profitable” pumping of the day and I didn’t want to give it up!) even though Mason was sleeping. But finally, breastfeeding and pumping didn’t feel like torture. I wasn’t feeling totally tied down and any sort of associated pain was a distant memory. Mason dropping the after school feeding (and me the after school pumping) really seemed to help. I set my sights on one year and stopped counting the days. I was still pumping before I went to work in the morning, twice a day at work, right after I fed Mason at night, right before I went to bed, and once in the middle of the night.
In November, I took a trip to visit friends in Michigan. I had mailed my pump there, but it got stuck at the post office due to Veteran’s Day. That was definitely an experience not to be repeated – let me just say that there is a REASON some breast pumps cost $70 and others cost $280. Having to find time to pump with no baby around while I really wanted to be out having fun with my friends was a bummer, but we managed! I don’t think they expected to have a casserole pan full of bags of breastmilk in their refrigerator, but they were good sports! On the trip home, I transported 175 oz of breastmilk in a lunch bag and spent half the flight thinking that my soggy dripping bag was a serious breastmilk leak (but didn’t want to draw too much attention to myself and my bag of liquid gold while crammed on a tiny airplane). Fortunately, it turned out that the frozen bags of milk were just shedding moisture as they unthawed. Whew!
When Mason was around 8 months, I decided I was really sick of pumping as part of my morning routine and tried again to see if he would latch on to the pariah boob and he did! Within a few days, I was able to stop pumping that side in the morning before work and during his bedtime feed since he was eating so well. That added an extra 15 minutes to my day (and my sleep!) which was awesome. I also started cutting out my middle of the night pumping since I had enough milk in the freezer by this point to last until he turned 1.
In early December, I caught pneumonia and was nearly hospitalized. While I fought to breathe, my body decided to start focusing on making me better and stop focusing on making milk. My supply nearly entirely dried up and I was absolutely crushed. So, I became a crazy person and started pumping 8 times a day again, attempted drinking mother’s milk tea (made me gag), eating oatmeal (hated it) popped 9 fenugreek a day, and ate lots and lots of booby cookies (cookies made with lots of flaxseed, brewers yeast, and oatmeal, all supply increasers) and after about two weeks of living and breathing nothing but “Must increase my supply” it was finally back to where it was before I got sick. I wrote about this time here and here.
Once my supply was definitely back for good, I cut out my middle of the night pumping AGAIN and started sleeping through the night. In January, I started skipping a pumping session at work and in February, I started skipping both pumping sessions at work. By early March, I was down to just breastfeeding the first thing in the morning and the last thing before he went to bed. My supply has dropped A LOT and Mason now gets freezer stash breastmilk during the day on weekends instead of me breastfeeding. At first I was sad about this, but then I realized that being able to hand him off to SuperDad or a Grandma and do whatever I wanted without having to feel the need to be home or available at a certain time is awesome.
While I plan on breastfeeding as long as Mason wants to, once the freezer supply of milk is gone, he’ll be switching to whole milk in the day. At night, he’s feeding for 5 minutes or so instead of 10-15, so I’m guessing that either he’s losing interest or my supply is waning more than I thought. Part of me wants to drag out the pump and start popping fenugreek and keep going but part of me is whispering “It’s time… let it go….” I made it a year, I made every goal I set for myself and for us. I’m so proud that I managed to sustain ANOTHER HUMAN BEING off of my body alone for 6 months and be 90% of his nutrition for 6 months after that. So I keep telling myself that if we stop tomorrow or if we stop 4 months from now, it’s fine. Because? It is fine. Actually, no… it’s great!
Happy One Year Breastfeeding, Little Man!!