Friday, April 12, 2013
Breastfeeding: A Year in the Life
I'm finally done! When Bates turned 1, I got the green light to start cow's milk with him. We did a few weeks of mixing breast and cow, and now he's completely off the breast. After a couple more weeks of weaning myself off the pump, I'm done, too.
(Well...sort of. The pump has been put up, so that portion is done. But just last Friday, I felt a duct fill up that I needed to express in the shower. My pre-pregnancy bras are fitting a little snug, still, and there's definitely some milk still in there. BUT - I'm done for the most part. I've heard from friends that milk can stick around [even if you aren't expressing it in any way] for quite awhile, so I think what I'm going through is normal.)
But anyway - what a year! It's crazy to think that almost 2 years in the life of my body have been dedicated to Bates. I have a thousand different reflections on the experience...they might be better said in a bulleted list.
1) I'm really proud of myself for doing it a full year. Bates never had a drop of formula. I don't think formula is bad (I was 100% formula fed), but I think breast milk is best if your body can produce it.
2) My main motivation was financial. (Are you judging me now?) Of course I wanted him to have the best, but I wouldn't have felt uncomfortable, I don't think, switching to formula after 6 months. But I just couldn't justify the cost of formula when my body produced such an abundance of milk.
3) I exclusively pumped for the majority of the year. We had a few weeks in the beginning when I fed him on the breast - and then the random breastfeeding session here and there - but for the most part, I was hooked up to the pump. And that made for a sort of interesting year.
4) Exclusively pumping was awesome in some ways. I was able to leave him for more than a couple hours when he was a few weeks old to, say, go out to dinner with Jonathan (because he could be fed while I was gone). We were also able to sort of manipulate the timing of his bottles so that we could give him a big one before bed - ie, we could all have a longer stretch of sleep. And given our latch troubles, it was a lot more comfortable for me to pump.
5) Exclusively pumping sucked in a lot of ways.
a) Even though, in theory, having a pumped bottle would mean Daddy could get up with him in the night while I slept, it didn't work like that because I needed to get up and pump.
b) When he got older, it was hard to pump when he was awake and Jonathan wasn't home. I had to put him in his exersaucer and he didn't like being in it so long.
c) Jonathan got annoyed a lot because he felt like he was doing so much childcare when he was home (since I tried to pump when he was home [to avoid the exersaucer]).
d) This might be TMI - but my boobs would get really engorged if I stretched the time between pumping sessions. I don't know if this is just an individual woman's thing (that is, maybe the same thing would've happened if I fed him on the breast), but all I know is that after a night of sleep (once he was sleeping through the night), I would wake up and pump 14 ounces. Every. Morning. 14 ounces is not comfortable to sleep on.
e) It wasn't easy to quit breastfeeding. I'm going to do a separate post on this. But basically, it took a lot of planning. When I talked to my sister in law about her weaning experiences with her kids (3 of them), she said when she was ready to switch to formula, she just did. Like, she breastfed one day and then never did again. That wasn't an option for me.
6) One of the worst parts of pumping was in the beginning (maybe months 1-3?) when Bates would wake up twice a night to eat. Jonathan would feed him the first time (while I pumped), but the second time I would get up, feed Bates, put Bates back to bed, then go and pump. I would get back in bed around 6am. Those were a hard couple of months.
7) Washing bottles and pump parts sucks!!
So it's been a busy year. I'm sort of curious how breastfeeding will go with any subsequent children we have. On one hand, I want to try to make feeding on the breast work for us. But at the same time, it's so hard in the beginning (maybe months 0-2?) because if you feed on the breast, you can't be away from your baby for very long. Also, it takes them so long to empty the breast when they're little. A baby's first couple weeks of life they eat every couple hours. But that's every couple hours from when they last started eating. So, let's say they eat at 1am. They'll be hungry again around 3 (even if they were eating from 1-1:45). After you get past those first couple months, I think feeding on the breast is probably easier, though.
With other kids, I also want to be more comfortable using a nipple shield in the beginning. Bates and I did well with the nipple shield, but I was terrified to use one exclusively because I heard my milk supply might not come in completely if I did that. Now that I've met more mothers, I've met a few people who only nursed with a nipple shield for months before they were able to go without one. Their milk supplies were just fine. (It's funny how important your milk supply is in the beginning - it was one of the main things I thought about for a couple months. I drank and ate things that were supposed to boost it, I read internet articles about it, I talked to other moms about it. I was obsessed.)
But all that to say, I'm glad to be done. It's so nice to be able to do whatever I want, whenever I want and not have to think about my pumping schedule. It's so nice to be able to sleep on my stomach again! I'm happy I did it a year - but man, for the first time in so long, my body is mine again. I'm going to enjoy this while I can!