Posted in Amelia, Amelia on parenting angst, Blog, Breastfeeding, Featured, Mother

Breast feeding woes, part II

Picture this: A sunny summer morning in the Pacific Northwest, a family barreling down the freeway in their wagon-class car, the start of their road trip vacation. Father behind the wheel, chubby baby girl strapped into her car seat, mother sitting next to her, electric breast pump attached to her front wheezing away as milk drip-drops into plastic bottles. (Thanks to my wonderfully geeky husband, we have a device that allows us to have AC/DC power in the car.) Yep, that’d be me.

This is the story of how I became Crazy Anguishing Pumping Lady.

I went back to work part time when E was about six months. I was of course nervous about it, but thought once I settled back into a routine, it could be a good thing. The first day, pump in tow, I settled back into my digs. I put a sign on the door that said “do not disturb” and included a picture of Elsie the Cow on it. (I know, I’m hilarious.) My yield that day was roughly 12 oz., which also happened to be the amount E consumed while I was gone (natch; supply = demand).

Everything was more or less fine until a few weeks later–The Day I Yielded Less Milk. This set me off on a track of what I’ve taken to calling milk dysmorphia–my perception of my milk supply triggered a world of anxiety, which in turn actually affected my milk supply. Not only can stress lower your milk supply, but it also can affect your milk-ejection reflex (the “let down”), so it takes longer for baby to access milk–which can mean they are less likely to nurse, which (infrequency of nursing) can make your milk supply tank even further. And of course I knew all this so it made it that much more stressful–I wound up putting a lot of pressure on each individual nursing session. If it didn’t go right this time, it was a very slippery slope to my milk drying up and me being the Worst Mother In The World Because I Couldn’t Feed My Baby. Or if I didn’t yield a certain amount of milk with the pump, then (see previous sentence).

To make matters worse, E started biting my nerp to the point of blood on occasion, especially when she wasn’t getting a letdown fast enough.

Thus, given the threat of injury and being a control freak wanting to keep my supply up, began my v. close relationship with my breast pump. For about five months, I would dutifully put on the pump every two hours so as to keep my supply up, no matter whether at work or at home (or in the car!). This wasn’t particularly convenient or fun, but I didn’t care. I was also taking a buttload of fenugreek, as well as this herbal nursing supplement.

In hindsight, with all these challenges, I can’t believe I persisted. But I really felt I had no other option. I was determined to get to that one year mark, at least. No matter than milk was slowly amassing in the freezer because I was routinely producing more milk than E consumed in a day. I had to keep going! I was kind of nuts! And I knew it! But I persisted, lest I be a Bad Mother. (Please note the sarcasm.)

During this time, I had also spoken to my medical intuitive and she had told me:

  1. Relax
  2. Relax
  3. Relax and watch silly movies (“go to your ‘no brain’ place” was specifically what she told me)
  4. Make sure to stay hydrated (being an overachiever/perfectionist, I made sure to drink 4L/day)
  5. Drink non-alcoholic beer with high hops content
  6. Eat fatty foods like peanut butter, coconut, tahini, and avocado, as well as sweeteners like honey and maple syrup (i.e., go easy on the sugar)
  7. Don’t do anything that over-works you (i.e. RELAX)
  8. Nurse as much as possible
  9. And pee ehs, relax

At one point when my milk supply was particularly low, I sent out an email to a bunch of my mommy friends asking them to help me make a list of things to look forward to in being done with nursing. I’m including it here in case my story resonates with you and you need some things to look forward to:

GOOD THINGS ABOUT NO LONGER NURSING:

  • Not sole responsible feeder.
  • Will have more energy.
  • Can wear regular bras.
  • Won’t get nipples bitten anymore.
  • Don’t have to stress about milk supply issues.
  • Your hormones will begin to return to normal.
  • I just have to reemphasize the regular bras.
  • No more leaking in public.
  • Your breasts will begin to return to their pre-pregnancy shape and size.
  • You can now start worrying about other things.
  • No more rock hard nipples poking through all of your shirts announcing to the world that you have breasts.
  • More free time to spend loving on your adorable baby.
  • Can eat and/or drink whatever you may have had to drop while breast feeding.
  • You can wear dresses again without worrying about how to make the top work.
  • You do not have to be the only one to get up in the middle of the night!
  • You don’t have to pump any more, which means no sterilization of supplies, no freezing of milk, etc…
  • Baby will forget what she is missing in no time. Now […] sees my breasts and pokes at them, no recollection of what they used to be.
  • If you have any saved in the freezer you can continue to give her your breast milk, or save it for a sick day.
  • You won’t have to survey restaurants, other peoples’ houses, or parks for the most private and comfortable nursing spot.
  • You won’t be in the position of having to nurse in a public toilet.
  • Things won’t smell like milk, whether spoiled or not.
  • You won’t have to schedule your life around her nursing times, if, for instance, you need to be away from her for more than a couple of hours.
  • You won’t have your breasts and nipples pummeled and scratched by the growing strength of your baby’s fists and sharp fingernails (that are somehow never short enough).
  • You can wear clothes that don’t pull down at the neck, or unbutton.
  • You won’t have to worry about weaning her in the future.

ALSO…

  • You will have the opportunity to nurse again when you have another baby, and every experience is unique.
  • She benefited from your milk for many months and you nursed her with love.
  • She will still be fed in loving arms and embraced all the same.
  • Although you’ll be sad at first, and you’ll spend the next year and a half saying that you miss it, it feels a little bit like being yourself again.

After all this, at about 13 months, E suddenly started nursing again, nursing like it was going out of style (it almost had). My milk supply went back up. I had quit my job and no longer had to mess with the pump. Things returned completely, if inexplicably, to normal, and I finally quit worrying, going on to nurse E up to the present.

And now E and I find ourselves nearing the end of our nursing relationship. We nurse before nap and before bed. I really don’t think there’s much in there, it’s sort of habit for both of us at this point. A sweet, snuggly habit. I will be sad to see it end, but I know I worked hard(er than necessary) and will be happy to completely have my body back.

If I could go back to the beginning of E’s life and give myself one piece of advice, it would be this: DON’T WORRY, SERIOUSLY, IT’S GOING TO BE FINE. Just relax and enjoy this amazing time with your lovely sweet girl.

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