Did you know it is World Breastfeeding Month? So let’s talk about breastfeeding. And then let’s do a giveaway ;D
I weaned C in December 2012 when she was nine months old. At that time, I had been pumping almost exclusively for five months because my output was slow and she would get exasperated waiting for the milk she wanted ZOMG RIGHT THEN. I simply tolerated the pump. Pumping just was. It was part of my day, and since I was trying so hard to make a routine in my life with Wee Cee, I didn’t shorten or prolong any of my numerous daily sessions with it. Doing so would upset the precarious balance I had found, a balance I was afraid I’d topple if I even looked at my boobs the wrong way. They were a finicky duo.
The pump itself was small, but its size belied its prominence in my life. It droned when it was on and took up space on my coffee table when it was off. There were no breaks from it. When Cee was awake, I was doing God knows what with her. Feeding her bottles? I guess. Reading books and wondering if she was actually absorbing anything from them? Singing “Baby Beluga” 632 times a day so she’d stop crying? I think that’s what I did. Those days have bled together into a mishmash of tears co-mingled with joy. When she was asleep, I was hooked up, waiting for milk to drip into the little bags. I was lucky if I could get eight ounces from both sides combined in the span of 24 hours.
The milk I expressed with that little pump only made up about 30% of the liquid she was getting. All the rest was supplemented with formula. Formula: it’s a wonderful concoction that I totally believe in, but I wanted to have enough breastmilk inside my freezer to feed 32 babies*, not a container of powder on top of the freezer. I knew that the first year was supposed to be hard, but I wanted something other than breastfeeding to be the thing that we struggled with. If breastfeeding could be easy, I’d (sort of) be OK with it if sleeping through the night or spitting up became our pet problem.
*When I first wrote that, it went, “I wanted to have enough breastmilk to feed 32 babies inside my freezer.” Lesson: proofread, but share the happy mistakes. Also, feed the 32 babies in your freezer.
So the pump busted at the end of December. I tried to fix it, but handilady I am not so we eventually chucked it and I took it as a sign from the ‘bove that breastfeeding was over for C and me. Here’s the part that absolutely kills me though: while I struggled with supply the entire time I breastfed C, never making enough for her to nurse entirely off breastmilk, the milk in my left boob just now dried up.
Eight months later.
Come on, Universe. You’re not even funny.
On the first visit we ever took to the pediatrician after Cee was born, I knew her doctor was a keeper because she told me candidly that breastfeeding is not easy and that she has little patience for people who make it out to be an effortless act. Breastfeeding was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done because I read my struggle as a sure sign that I was not equipped to be a mom. It wasn’t just my lack of supply that hit me when I was already down: it was the fact that only I could solve my problem and that I had to solve it right.then. Even flanked by a husband and a pediatrician who supported me, at the end of the day it was still just me pumping and hoping to God that my trial by fire with feeding my child was not emblematic of parenthood as a whole.
Sixteen months into her life, I am learning that it doesn’t get easier.
But that’s OK.
If it’s not breastfeeding, it’s something else that overwhelms me.
But that’s OK.
I’m learning to take comfort in the fact that I’m not in a vacuum. Parenting is hard and getting food in your kid’s gullet is one of the biggest hurdles you may face, but you are not alone. We have all been there with you.
And now you’ve got Michael Jackson in your head. Sorry for that.
I recently read Milk Diaries, a collection of testimonial essays written by women who have also breastfed in one shape or another. In this volume edited by Maggie Singleton, (who has also written an excellent forward AND a great breastfeeding glossary to the book) I found candid stories by women who thought they knew what they were getting into when they were pregnant and still idealized breastfeeding but who, like me, faced their first big obstacle of parenthood when they brought their baby to their breast. No sugarcoating here, which I (and my doc) approve of. The entire time I was reading it, I was thinking to myself that I wish I had had it by my side when I was pump pump pumping away. Would it have made the pinching of the pump hurt less? No. Would it have made my milk come in faster? HA. Reading it at that time, though, would have given me a bit of community. It would have made me know that though it doesn’t get easier, these challenges are nothing new and my worth as a parent is not measured in ounces of milk.
It’s not just you alone with your pump. It’s you and many, many other parents who have been where you are.
Because Maggie is awesome and committed to helping mothers through their own journeys with breastfeeding, she has generously agreed to give away a copy of Milk Diaries! The winner will have their choice of an ebook or hard copy. You have until Saturday, August 12 at midnight EST to enter the giveaway. This book makes a wonderful gift for new or expectant moms, so I encourage you to pick up a copy for yourself or someone special in your life.
Click here to enter the Milk Diaries giveaway! By tweeting about the giveaway, you can enter DAILY until the giveaway closes.