July 11, 2009
**SPOILER ALERT - squeamish men who don't think of women's breasts as anything other than sexual objects may wish to skip this post.
Deciding to wean after 6 months of exclusive pumping is a decision that leaves me with very mixed emotions. I first discovered I had low milk supply with my oldest daughter, though I hoped it was the stress of my situation at the time. My mother was diagnosed with stage four cancer the same week I discovered I was pregnant so I went through my whole pregnancy feeling a mixture of great joy and terrible grief. I figured the stress might have contributed significantly to my inability to nurse. I also had pretty bad PPD (big surprise!). I nursed, pumped and supplemented with an SNS for 6 months, hoping the supply would kick in at some point. My milk dried up completely the week my mom died.
During my second pregnancy, I tried to be very positive about my chances of exclusively breastfeeding my new baby but soon discovered I truly had a low supply issue. With both girls, I used herbs, fluids and galactagogues (foods to increase supply). The second time I tried a drug that increases supply in some women. The drug did the most to increase my supply but it was never a full one. My daughter didn't enjoy breastfeeding but was constantly frustrated with the low flow. I still had to supplement a 3rd of her daily intake. She couldn't transfer a full ounce of milk in a 45 minute feeding. The latter fact was still true after 2 months of trying to nurse, pump (to increase supply) and use a supplemental nursing system to deliver pumped milk and supplement. I decided at this point, for my own sanity, to pump exclusively.
Thanks to the MOBI yahoo group, my wonderful lactation consultant, loving husband and the encouragement of a few friends who truly understood my situation, I have pumped exclusively for 6 months. Now, I have decided to wean for a few reasons.
1. My daughter is starting to eat solids and trying to walk (OMG - so soon??!).
2. She drinks a wonderful, nutritive goat milk formula as a supplement and can transition to it as her main milk.
3. Her activity level has increased so much I need more time to keep up with her.
4. I want to get off the drug because I don't want to be on it long term.
5. I am TIRED of lugging my pump everywhere and pumping 6 or 7 times a day to get a less-than full supply.
Making this decision has truly been difficult for me because I so desperately wanted to nurse my children. If I were nursing, this wouldn't even be an issue right now. Even though I know in my head it's ok for me to let this go, when I look at my little one, my heart grieves. I grieve the nursing relationship we never had and I grieve the hours I didn't hold her because I was pumping. I grieve the nutrients she won't be getting because I just cannot do this for another six months. I grieve because I worked so hard to get this much milk and now I'm choosing to let it go for my own sanity. I have shed a lot of tears over the last 6 weeks as I've considered this decision.
As I ignore the ache in my breasts that reminds me it's time to pump, I am grateful was able to rent a killer pump that allowed me to feed my child when I probably wouldn't have been able to do so 100 years ago. I will remind myself that I am NOT a failure for quitting but that I did a good job. I will remember my lactation consultant's encouragement that the quality of my experience as a mother is more than just breast feeding her. Now I will focus my energy on nurturing my baby with my time and my arms. I am thankful she got the milk that she got and I'm especially thankful for the wonderful people who encouraged me to keep going when so many others made comments that didn't encourage so much. I know she will be ok.