Breastfeeding…what a topic. I’ll tell you right now, if you don’t like the idea of reading about my boobs making a product that nourishes my baby, then you should stop reading, because thats exactly what this post is about.
When I was pregnant I was inundated with information about what to feed my baby. TV commercials, magazine ads and merchandising told me that formula held the key to eliminating gas, colic, and giving my baby more vitamins and minerals that breast milk alone could provide. While every book, podcast and instructor I interacted with preached the holy powers of breast milk and the act of breast feeding. In fact, breastfeeding was pushed so heavily that you’d think that if every baby was breast fed we could end poverty, find world peace and cure cancer. Interestingly enough, real life and “truth” falls somewhere in the middle.
My goal was to breastfeed. Period. For several reasons—I wanted to experience the sensation of breast feeding, I wanted to give that supernatural-bonding-power of breast feeding a chance to work, I felt, and still feel, that breast milk is superior to formula in its sophistication and nourishment ability, and finally the all appealing non-smelling diaper phenomenon of breastfed baby poop.
Going into it, I knew that breastfeeding would be challenging. I heard story after story after story about bad laches and chapped nipples and low milk supply, all of which told me it was not going to be a stroll in the park, but instead, a new skill that both myself and my baby would have to learn. Regardless, I was determined to give it a really good try.
I ended up having a fantastic experience. It was rough getting started (she didn’t eat for the first 24 hours and we finally had to help her learn to latch with the use of a nipple shield for several weeks/months) but my perseverance paid off and eventually I was happily breastfeeding with an ABUNDANT milk supply.
Even going back to work didn’t phase me. Pumping came easily—I could pump 9 ounces of milk in 15 minutes! It was awesome!
At Adelaide’s three month well-baby visit the doctor asked what we were feeding her, which sounded like such an odd question to me. We answered with “breast milk and only breast milk” and then it dawned on me, I’ve been exclusively breastfeeding for three entire months. It was such a huge achievement for me! I could not have felt more proud. At that time I decided that I could do it, I could make it six months without having to supplement with formula. And this became my goal.
Then glaucoma happened.
One of the side effects of congenital glaucoma that no one warned us of was the effect it can have on my milk supply. We were so caught up in surgery and recovery and administering 12 eye drops a day that I completely neglected my boobs. On the day of Adelaide’s surgery, between the pre surgery fasting and recovery time, she went with out eating for eight hours. As a result I ended up going without pumping or feeding for eight hours. I didn’t think to bring my pump to the hospital…dumb, but still, it was not on my checklist. Then the week following her surgery she was not her normal self and her eating schedule was totally bonkers resulting in my milk supply plummeting.
To try and recover I spent an entire weekend doing marathon feedings where I basically offered Adelaide the boob every chance I could get to try and stimulate milk production. It bounced back a little, but a week later I have a hungry baby, empty boobs and an empty space in my freezer where we used to keep the frozen milk supply. Well, we’ve had a good run, boobs.
I’m not discontinuing breastfeeding by any means, no, not at all. We’ve simply had to introduce new food sources into Adelaide’s diet to keep her full and happy.
Last night we tried out some rice cereal. She actually took it really well!! I was shocked! We mixed a tablespoon of rice cereal with four tablespoons of warm water and went ahead with spooning it into her mouth. She did fantastic! The face she made when she first tasted the stuff was priceless, of course, but she got over it and actually seemed to enjoy the new experience. Here’s a video of our rice cereal venture from last night:
Then today, I had to go into the office for a mandatory meeting and with no frozen milk supply all we had for Kate (babysitter) to feed her was formula. I was terrified of how Adelaide would react to the formula. Would she eat it? Would it make her sick? Would she not eat at all and be starving by the time I got home?
I am happy to report that she did great! Kate said that she ate the formula just as vigorously as the breast milk! It didn’t even seem to phase her. I’m starting to think this kid is going to be a good eater (quick knock on wood!).
I guess to sum it all up, I’m disappointed that I didn’t make my six month goal, but at the same time feel very accomplished for the 20 weeks that I was able to nourish my baby purely with the products of my own body.
If you want to read a REALLY entertaining piece on breastfeeding, check out Teresa Strasser’s blog entry, “Are breastfeeding classes for boobs?”