When I became pregnant, I knew I would breastfeed. It was a given, for me. I knew it would be hard, but like any worthy pursuit, I thought I would be up to the task. I never envisioned the reality of breastfeeding: the constancy, the smell of slightly sour milk on my clothes, the drag of hunger and exhaustion on my body. I never knew.
In the early days of establishing my milk supply, I had hints of how hard it would be. I struggled with learning how to position myself and my floppy newborn. I worried that we weren’t doing it right. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to sustain her, on my milk alone. Then, around week 3 or 4, it felt less arduous and insurmountable. I relaxed into my groove as a full-time breastfeeding mama.
When I started work, I had to learn a whole new skill set. I struggled with pumping, learning how to best use my machine, and how to say goodbye to the ease and bliss of feeding my daughter directly. I also struggled with the loneliness. Breastfeeding during my maternity leave was a communal experience, an event that I engaged in, again and again with my daughter. Breastfeeding while working is a mostly solitary experience. I spend most of “feeding” time in a room, hooked up to a noisy pump. But then, a few weeks into working, I fell into the groove of supply and demand. For months, I made more than enough milk and froze the excess.
Now, almost seven months in, I’ve had another struggle. Somehow in her sixth month, my daughter suddenly began eating much more than I was supplying. My supply dipped a little – rather than making 12 ounces over 4 work pumping sessions, I was making 8 to 10. She began consuming 15-20 during the day. My freezer stash began dwindling. As of this week, we were down to only half of a freezer bag.
My husband and I didn’t know what to do. We were accustomed to feeding her whatever she ate, knowing that I would be able to freeze the excess from the week. So, I added another mini-pumping at work and another pumping at home, after everyone went to bed. Coupled with the early morning pumping, I am now pumping seven times a day.
This mini-crisis came to a head this week when my pump gave out…again. I have gone through 4 pumps of the same brand. Each of the previous times, the company simply sent me a new pump, because I am under warranty. After this pump gave out, I asked for a refund. I was done with their crappy product. The phone rep gave me the refund so quickly that I wonder how often they are refunding their product.
Now, I’ve got a new pump that actually works and a commitment to build up my freezer stash over my long weekend. So, I’m pumping 2-3 times extra each day, in addition to breastfeeding for each feeding with my daughter. Once I return to work on Tuesday, we are going to do our best to ration the milk I make – the 15 or so ounces that I make each day will have to be the only milk we use, unless there is an emergency.
With all of this drama around milk supply, broken pumps, and the fear of not being able to feed my child, I had my first thoughts of weaning. Originally, I planned on breastfeeding well into my daughter’s second year. But now, I’m just praying to make it to one year. After that, I can evaluate what I want to do. I know this will pass and the breastfeeding relationship lasts only so long, but I just have to acknowledge how hard it can be to sustain it right now.