Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Got Milk?

Let’s get personal for a minute.  Today we’re going to talk about boobs.  And breast milk.  And being topless at work.  And the not-so-simple act of providing sustenance for my baby.  Feel free to skip this post if any of those topics make you uncomfortable :)

For me, breast feeding has been a labor of love.  Sadly, I was never one of the moms who enjoyed it.  I wanted to love it.  I wanted to stare down at her lovingly and bond while my body did this magical thing for her, but that’s not the way it worked out.  From the beginning, I was sore, tired, and miserable.  I resented the fact that feedings were solely my responsibility, and I spent a lot of my day staring at the clock, counting down, dreading the next feeding.  When she decided she was hungry before those 3 hours were up, I would grow even more frustrated that I didn’t get the full “break” between feedings that I was so desperate for.

But I was determined to do it.  I wanted her to have all the benefits of breast milk so I made myself suffer through the beginning when it’s especially  hard.  Pumping helped.  It gave me a break from the constant feedings and helped alleviate the soreness.  Whoever invented the breast pump is pretty much my hero.  If it weren’t for that, I would have given up on breast feeding a L-O-N-G time ago.

We had a good thing going for a while, and then, at 2 months, we found out she wasn’t gaining weight, meaning I wasn’t producing enough milk and we had to start supplementing with formula.  I cried.  I felt like I had failed her.  The doctor casually said, “some women just don’t produce enough milk.”  My friends and family told me that I couldn’t have known (she is almost too good of a baby because she showed NO signs that she was hungry or wasn’t getting enough to eat!) and it wasn’t my fault.  But I still blamed myself.  It’s a mom thing, I guess.

We started giving her an ounce of formula at the end of each feeding and her weight went up.  Ever since then I’ve had a new appreciation for my milk, as it is even more precious now.  I spilled an ounce of it one time and almost had a nervous breakdown.  Every drop is priceless.  Every.  Single.  Drop.

Before I knew it, I returned to work and adjusted to working life as a breast feeding mama.

I’m lucky that my office provides a mothers room.  It’s not the most comfortable or fanciest room in the building (it’s basically a barren room with 2 lonely chairs and some holes in the wall from an old dart board), but it’s private and I can lock the door, which I am eternally grateful for.  Not all working, pumping moms have that luxury.  Leaving your baby is heartbreaking.  Getting back into the swing of work is hard.  When you throw pumping at work on top of that, it just makes everything more difficult.  

Pumping at work is a strange concept.  One minute you’re on a conference call discussing a high spend account, the next minute you’re topless in that little room next the office of the big shot in IT.  The last thing you want to worry about is someone walking in on you.  So  yeah, having a locking door is pretty much the greatest thing ever and my heart goes out to the dedicated moms who continue to pump without the “amenities” I have.

After a while, my milk production slowed even more- to the point that she is only getting a bottle of breast milk every day- everything else is formula.  I’m not sure what caused the drop.  Yes, I’m pumping a lot at work instead of nursing, but I was doing a lot of pumping while I was still on maternity leave too.  I try to nurse in the evenings and on the weekends.  I’m drinking teas with Fenugreek, an herb that stimulates milk production.  I chug water.  I eat oatmeal  every day (another thing thought to increase production).  In a week of desperation, I stuffed my face with pretty much every calorie I could get my hands on (breast feeding moms actually need more calories than a pregnant mom, and add in several workouts a week, I’m sure I need a ton of calories to compensate).  Nothing seemed to help and in one of what has turned out to be many moments of frustration during this process, I told JD that I wasn’t sure it was worth the hassle of hauling my pump back and forth every day, and taking time to pump 3-4 times a day on top of the nursing sessions I could fit in.

I’m disappointed that there isn’t more information out there for mamas like me.  Most education seems to center around the “all or nothing” approach like “most moms don’t have a problem with their production” and “formula is fine, but breast milk is better.”  I did a little digging, and from what I’m reading, even if she was only getting an ounce of milk a day, she would still be benefiting from the immunities (actually, it’s thought that mamas with less milk might actually have a higher concentration of immunities in their milk).  I found forums with posts from moms like me who were doing a lot of supplementing and struggling to keep their production up.  I realized that I am not alone and felt empowered in the knowledge that all the effort it requires to get her that 1 bottle a day is still benefiting her enough that it’s all worth it.  

I have a renewed determination to do this.

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