For a sort of prequel to this post, please pop on over to the not-so-NEW-anymore COLLABORATIVE BLOG. I suggest reading that post first!
[Side note: there are also a handful of other breastfeeding stories ranging from cultural differences to switching to formula to inducing lactation to the struggles of maintaining a supply as a working mom…a series that we, the blog creators, ran for World Breastfeeding Week all the way back in August. So go check them all out, if you haven’t already. Go! 🙂 ]
Well, here we are. It’s the end of October, my son is over 8 months old now, and I’m still doing it.
I’m still exclusively pumping.
I have good days. I have days when I feel proud of myself for having lasted this long, and for my body having lasted this long. I look back on the hours upon days upon weeks upon months I’ve just kept going. I’m grateful for my supply, and for another day, week, month, because that means I still might be able to choose to stop on my own. I’m committed 110% to giving Joey the best I can because I am able. These are the days when attaching myself to a machine for anywhere from 20-45 minutes, three times a day, doesn’t bother me. These are the days I even occasionally toy with the thought of trying to get Joey to latch. I remember those early days when supplementing with formula wasn’t a choice, and I remember the sour look Joey would have when he tasted formula coming out of that bottle instead of my breastmilk, and I am thankful that I don’t have to see that face. These are the days I applaud those who are able to breastfeed at all, I rally with my current exclusive pumpers, and I reassure those who were able to breastfeed or exclusive pump for only a few days, a few weeks, a few months, how amazing they are and how well they did and how proud I am of them. I don’t think about all the things I could be doing instead of pumping because this is just how it is. These days, pumping is just a part of my day. It’s a part of my workday. It’s a part of my parenting. It’s a part of my routine. It’s a part of who I am—it’s a part of me.
I have bad days. I have days when I hate the pressure I put on myself to keep pumping. I have days when I hate the pressure society puts on me to avoid formula at all costs. I resent my body for not giving up on its own (crazy, and selfish, I know, but I made a promise to be honest here and so honest I am) and fantasize about it drying up on me and forcing me to quit. I feel like a bad mother for putting Joey in the swing when he doesn’t want to, or letting him sit on the floor with his toys fussing because he just wants to be held, because I simply have to pump before we go to bed for the night (and of course, he’s not sleeping, because teething or night terrors or just because he doesn’t feel like it). I have days when I hate the pain and the sensitivity of my breasts, and I hate the days when I don’t have the opportunity to pump in a timely fashion at work and I come home with pain from engorgement radiating through my chest, under my arms, even through to my back. These are the days I can’t stand to look at, talk to, or even think about anyone who is able to breastfeed, whether they’re struggling with it or not. I look at my current exclusive pumpers and want to ask them, “Why? Why the fuck are we doing this? Why?!” I look at those who’ve packed away their pumps and think, Well fuck, you have it right. You have it right. These days, I think of all the things I could be doing instead of pumping: playing with Joey; sleeping; reading; writing; blogging; relaxing; cooking; cleaning; exercising; and a thousand more. These are the days I hate the pump, I hate that I try so hard, I hate that I ever set out to do this in the first place. I hate this part of me.
I’m facing a busy end of the year at work, through Christmas, and the anxiety over whether I’ll be able to pump on a firm enough schedule to maintain my supply is a dark cloud over my head. Whether or not I make it to my son’s first birthday without feeding him formula remains to be seen. I can only look to the future knowing I’ve committed 100% to doing the best I can for my baby. Whatever happens, happens—and that just has to be enough.
— “Breastfeeding and the Workplace: The Exclusive Pumper’s Perspective”
Things have changed since I posted for World Breastfeeding Week. Forget three to four times a day; I’m down to a solid three times a day, with an occasional fourth “power pump” (which, to me, means a pump less than two hours from my last session in a desperate attempt to scrounge up a bit more) if my daily total that day is meager. When I’ve had a crazy day—visiting friends far away, being a bridesmaid in a friends’ wedding, and so on—I’ll pump twice. Then I’ll spend the following week doing power pumps before bed at night just to get the 3-4oz per day back that I lost because of just one too-busy day.
My daily total has gone down at least 10oz, too. I’m lucky if I can net 40oz every day of the week. My minimum is 35oz, and I usually land somewhere between there and 37-38oz. Still, somehow, despite my growing baby boy, there’s still a steady supply in my fridge. Sure, I haven’t frozen anything extra in months, but I always have several days’ worth in rotation. Even when I have to guiltily “pump and dump” on occasion because I’ve had one too many beers or glasses of wine, there is still a rotation.
I haven’t had to dip into my freezer stash once. Not one time. Though I have to find time at some point to go through it all and organize, because the “best by” time frame of the oldest milk is upon me. My plan is to defrost a few bags a week, and replace them with fresher milk. For as long as I am able.
My updated numbers, from the week after my son was born until today…
…I have pumped 992 times…
…for the equivalent of 19 days, 5 hours, and 1 minute…
…for an amount of 9,563 ounces…
…which is converted to 74.7 gallons of milk.
I don’t know what the future holds for feeding my son. My goal when I had him was until he self-weaned. My goal when we had breastfeeding troubles became three months, at least. My goal when I had success with exclusive pumping became six months, at least. My goal when I hit six months? One more month.
Seven months? One more month.
Now? One more month.