In the past when I have been going through something that I felt no one understood, I have found solace from this community in the advice and comments that you leave. It has taken me a long time to write this post, because a part of me was ashamed and sad. But, I watched my friend Vanessa go through a similar situation very recently and then read the post she wrote, When Losing Your Breast Milk Means Losing Your Identity and it broke my heart. So if you do nothing else, please visit her site and show her some support. It would mean the world to me.
I mentioned in my BlogHer wrap up post that I was very sick leading up to the conference at the beginning of August, throughout it, and am now only coming right in the past week or so. I can’t remember the last time I was that sick – cold chills, bad cough, horrible sinus headaches and a blocked ear for the better part of 3 weeks. After BlogHer I went to the doctors, he couldn’t find anything – just a bad cold with bad sinus blockage, lots of fluids was the only remedy. Til this day, I still can’t believe that’s all it was, but at least I am over it.
Actually, I can believe that all I had was a very bad cold. I was run down and burning the candle at both ends. Not something I recommend anyone do, and especially not someone breastfeeding. Nearly 5 years ago, I nursed my son til he was 13 months. In my mind I was aiming for 6 months, once that rolled around, I felt comfortable enough to keep going. Then around the 12 month mark he and I both ‘tired’ of our arrangement and parted nursing ways amicably. I think because it was sooo tough at the beginning – my milk took what seemed forever to come in with the help of an industrial size pump, then he had horrible projectile reflux for at least the first 6 months, I felt like we’d been through so much, so we had to do this for as long as possible. Plus, for me it was actually a bond that I enjoyed. Of course, it is always bittersweet adjusting to not nursing. It is a common time of confusion, sadness and even happiness over no longer having that bond. I asked a few bloggers and they shared their thoughts about What I Wish I Knew About Breastfeeding Before I Started and many talk about that time when it all ends.
Fast forward 4 years later with my daughter and the breastfeeding experience has been different. My milk came in very easily, muscle memory and all that – my body knew exactly what to do. No reflux either, though in hindsight I do think she was colicky. But, I’ve found breastfeeding while also taking care of a toddler and working part-time to be taxing on my body. I work at all hours, sometimes not getting to any actual work until the kids are in bed at 8PM. So I would end up playing catch up til late into the night and then having to wake early in the morning with baby. She is a great sleeper trough the night now, but unlike my son it’s a bit of a crap shot as to when she will actually wake – it can be anywhere between 5-6:30, thankfully closer to 6:30 these days.
So, back to the time around BlogHer. I had long days taking the subway into Manhattan. Some days I would nurse baby in the morning, but some days I left before she woke up. I must’ve missed at least 4 bed time feeds over that time. I thought I was prepared to keep my milk up by pumping at the conference regularly. But sometime near the end of the conference I noticed I wasn’t pumping as much milk as I should be. Though my breasts were engorged, not nearly enough milk seemed to be coming out by pumping. I even tried to make it home one night so that I could nurse, starting to feel that it was necessary that I nurse. It was obvious that my milk wasn’t flowing as fast as she was used to, and I was even worried that I wasn’t giving her enough.
The next few days were hard. She was restless when she fed, constantly pulling off. And by the time that she was done, she still seemed hungry to me. I didn’t talk to my husband about it much, but it continued to be painfully obvious to me that I was not producing enough milk. I thought that pumping for a couple of days with a few feeds would not disrupt my milk, but obviously I was wrong.
At just over 9 months, I made the decision to stop nursing my baby girl Isla.I had been entertaining the idea, as I knew my body was run down and I was also headed to New Orleans at the end of August. But, it felt strange that it was kinda forced on me and ultimately decided for me. I also decided that changes needed to be made elsewhere in my life. No more burning the midnight oil – my kids needed me and they needed me to have the energy and vitality to keep up with them. I also needed to get back into running – the one activity I have missed oh so much in the last couple of months. I can’t help but think that my milk supply was so easily disrupted not only from being away from Isla more than she was used to, but also because I wasn’t healthy enough to deal. Sure, I eat well, but I hadn’t ran or done any real exercise besides walking in months. The vicious cycle of it all made me really sad, and still does. That ‘cold’ was a sure sign that things needed to change.
But, I got through the sadness by remembering that this is just a blip in her life – I have so much more to give her and to experience with her. I had the ability to nurse, and I did for 9 months. Now, I am focusing on what else I can do to positively impact her life and that of her brother’s. For instance, I know that I have the ability to feed her fresh foods where possible. And I know that I also have the power to take better care of me – I’ve been working on the whole life balance thing and I have to say it has been life changing in a good way.
Generations before us and after us think breastfeeding for 3 months or not at all is fine. It is our own counterparts that are judgmental and try to impose so many rules. Coming up with slogan’s like “Are you mom enough?” and frowning upon a mama’s right to choose how they can best love and take care of their child. I hope that you don’t judge me for just ‘giving up’ or for not knowing better in the first place.