The past four-plus months with Ossie have been wonderful. Stressful, life-changing, full of self-doubt for me...but wonderful. My main source of angst, regret, and anxiety has been breast feeding. I feel like if I recount my experiences here, maybe someone out there struggling will feel like they’re not alone. I hope so.
Once we got home, everything was going pretty well. We downloaded a tracking app and tracked and timed all of Ossie’s nursing sessions. We were feeding him on demand at this point. At his two-week weigh in, he had gained 3 ounces from his birth weight, which is exactly what the LC had told us we were shooting for. Now we really thought we were on the right track!
So we started feeding Ossie about every two hours during the day, and then a couple of times at night. (He has been a champion nighttime sleeper since he was pretty little, so this meant waking him up at night.) We started taking him to the lactation consultants at the hospital for frequent weigh-ins. With the more frequent feedings, he was gaining weight, but not quickly enough for their comfort. So I started pumping after every feeding and feeding him that. Still wasn’t gaining fast enough. So we started adding a bit of formula at every feeding after the expressed milk. I say that so simply: we started adding formula. But at the time it was not simple for me. I was so torn and heartbroken over the idea of giving formula to my baby. We took the breast feeding class and knew all the benefits of exclusively breast feeding for as long as possible. I was afraid that by supplementing with formula, we would start down a path where my supply would dry up and I would no longer have any milk to provide to my baby. I cried in the grocery store when we bought the first canister of formula, and was too embarrassed to take it to a cashier, so we went through self checkout. I cried again when we got home and I fed Ossie his first bottle of formula since he’d been in the hospital.
It was still important to me that he get as much breast milk as possible, though, so I kept up a grueling routine of nurse/pump/bottle around 10 times a day for around six weeks. The 3:00 AM pumping was the first to go, and eventually we were able to let Ossie sleep through that feeding as well. I was trying everything I could to get my supply up too. “Power pumping,” where you spend an hour pumping on and off for 10 minutes; taking goat’s rue and fenugreek supplements, eating oatmeal, drinking beer. It seemed to help for a bit. I was getting a decent amount of milk out when I pumped, and for a while Ossie was getting over 50% breast milk.
A few days later, I decided to drop my 6:00 AM pumping one morning. I had no intentions of dropping it every day; I was just super tired that morning and wanted to sleep through that once and let The Dude handle Ossie’s bottle. Well, once turned into three times in one week, and by the end of that week, I was soooo engorged from skipping those sessions. I couldn’t even get any milk out when I pumped! Ossie could nurse some of it out, and that helped, as well as hot showers. By the time the engorgement went down, I could no longer get anything out with the breast pump. I’m talking literally nothing. I continued for a day and a half or so to try, but eventually decided it was time to retire the pump. From there, it was only a matter of about a week before my milk dried up and Ossie no longer could get anything out.
Ossie during one of his last breast feeding sessions
I officially stopped breast feeding on Tuesday, March 19th, less than two weeks after Ossie’s four-month birthday.
Am I sad about it? Hell yes. Breast feeding, even though it caused me many sleepless nights and tons of stress, was really an incredible bonding experience for me and Ossie. When I wasn’t dreading it or worrying about it, I was actually really enjoying it. And although I feel like I learned a lot, I don’t feel like I ever completely got the hang of it. I’m disappointed that our journey was cut short. But I have photos and memories that I will keep close to my heart.
And there are benefits to having a formula fed baby, at least for me. Since I was never confident in my breast feeding abilities, I never got comfortable feeding him outside our cozy little spot on the bed at home. So I wasn't able to take him places and feed him on the go. Now, we can pop our Mixie bottle into the diaper bag and he can enjoy a meal on the go. Also, now that I'm not pumping, I find that I have sooo much more time to just play with and enjoy Ossie; along those same lines, I'm not stressed about his nutrition anymore, so I'm a happier mama and I feel better equipped to take care of Ossie because of that. Since we can't go back and try to fix what went wrong, I'm trying to see the positive. Part of me is relieved that we're done breast feeding, because it was really difficult, stressful, and (emotionally) painful for me; then I feel guilty for feeling relieved. But I'm working on it.
And most importantly, I know that Ossie is well nourished, loved, happy, and healthy. He could care less where his milk is coming from.