Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My Breastfeeding Journey

With the exception of a handful of those I'm closest to (and a message board full of "internet strangers"), I don't talk much about breastfeeding. But as Ben and I are approaching the end of this journey, I feel compelled to share our story.

Part of the reason I don't talk about it much is that really, there's not much to talk about. Breastfeeding has been fairly intuitive for both of us, even from the start. Despite the fact that Benjamin was born in distress, and I didn't see him for the first 45 minutes of his life, as soon as he was handed to me, we had our requisite skin-to-skin contact, and he latched on like a champ from the get-go. We never faced any of the issues I hear so much about - poor latch, inadequate supply, cracked nipples, etc. My milk came in early in the morning of the Friday after he was born - he was only about 36 hours old at that point.

Even when things got hairy with Ben's severe jaundice, our pediatrician never once suggested that I supplement. Instead, she just urged me to feed him every two hours, like clockwork - which I took seriously. The night he was on the bili lights (here at home - another point for the pediatrician for not sending us to the hospital), while he laid in the tanning bed, I sat a few feet away in the recliner. I dutifully woke him every two hours. Our routine went something like this - wake, pick up, make sure the "bili blanket" paddle was positioned under him, feed for 30 minutes, reposition under the lights, sleep for 90 minutes, repeat. All night long. It was, to date, the hardest night I've faced as a parent - especially when my husband woke up refreshed from a night alone in our bed. I might've thrown some choice words his way that morning in my sleep-deprived, hormonal state. After all, it had only been five days since I gave birth at that point!

But we weathered that storm just fine - Ben got rid of the jaundice, and started putting on more weight (he didn't gain much at all that first week due to being too sleepy to eat - a side effect of the jaundice). I continued to feed on demand.

Things went swimmingly throughout maternity leave. We quickly settled into a routine, and I began to actually enjoy breastfeeding my son. It was (and still is) our special time together - something no one else gets to share with him. I started pumping sporadically when Ben was a few weeks old, though in hindsight, I wish I'd been more dedicated. I never did build up a very large freezer stash, and there were times when my lack of stash really caused me to worry. I can say now that we made it through, but it was by the skin of my teeth at times that we got through without having to resort to supplementing with formula.

I went back to work when Ben was almost 3 months old. I lugged my trusty pump to work every day - and still do. Day in and day out, I sequestered myself three times a day to pump. For a while, I was pumping in a spare office - thankfully, one with a lock on the door. When that office was taken over, I was moved to a different space for a while. Finally, I was sent to the IT storage closet - a very private space, again with a lock on the door, on a separate floor from our main office space. This was totally fine by me - the more private, the better!

Pumping was never my favorite pastime, but I did it (and do it) because I am determined. Because it was my goal from the start to breastfeed to at least a year, and avoid giving my baby formula if at all possible. I have absolutely nothing against those who choose to feed their babies formula (I was a formula baby), this was just my personal preference.

The one big obstacle I had was a recurrent plugged duct on my left side. In case you've never experienced this, let me just tell you - it hurts. Bad. Really bad. Oh, the pain. I think I had 3 or 4 recurrences of this. It seemed like, for a while there, I'd just about get it under control, and then it would plug back up again. Finally, I managed to get rid of it once and for all - though I lived in fear of it returning for many weeks afterwards. I panicked at every twinge, fearing the worst. Thankfully, I've managed to stay plug-free for several months now.

So for six months - from June until December - I fed Ben on demand any time I was with him and pumped three times a day at work. In early December, I had surgery, and I used my recovery time to drop down to two pumping sessions during the day (plus my first-thing-in-the-morning pumping session over breakfast). I kept that schedule up from mid-December until...today.

Tuesday was, inadvertently, the start of the next phase of the weaning process. We've already given Ben whole (cow's) milk twice - straight up, in his sippy cup. He drank it right down both times. I'd been planning to continue to pump twice a day while at work until the last week of his first year (next week!), when I would go down to once a day. Then I would cut out pumping altogether starting Monday the 14th. However, Tuesday morning, for some unknown reason, I simply forgot to pump. I have no idea why or how it happened, but it did. So I made the decision then and there to go ahead and cut it down to once a day. Wednesday, I sent a 50/50 mix of breastmilk and whole milk in his sippy cups - which meant he's now off bottles!

And today - just a couple hours ago - I pumped for the very last time (for this baby, anyway). I have enough freezer stash to continue to send the 50/50 mixture through next week. After it's gone, the only time Ben will get breastmilk is first thing in the morning or right before bed - I've decided to continue nursing him at those times, at least for the immediate future. I haven't made any decisions yet on how long that will continue. I'm going to play it by ear.

So there you go...our breastfeeding journey. If you made it this far, you deserve a prize!


Leslie said...

I came here from The Spohr's site after replying to your comment on Heather's latest post. I said that our Grayson was like Ben in his preference for me over my husband at this age and that we always contributed it to the breastfeeding bond...sounds like I might be on to something. :o)

I was also determined to nurse my son for the first year and then see how I felt. Grayson went down to only nursing at night soon after his 1st birthday, and continued that routine until just days before his 2nd birthday. That night when I took him upstairs to bed and to nurse he said, "No. All nine." (nine=done in Grayson-speak at that time) And that was it! He never nursed again. It was both the easiest and hardest thing ever!

Congratulations for making it to your year mark! Good job, Mommy! I know it's hard work!

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