Sunday, June 6, 2010

The End of Nursing

Like I've mentioned before, breastfeeding has been one of the hardest aspects of being a new mom. And almost 5 months in, it continues to be a struggle.

Des and I had a good little rhythm going for a while. It took 6-8 weeks to really get it down. But then it was easy and calm and loving. I grew to truly enjoy that private time we had together as mother and son. At 3 months, I had to go back to work. I was pumping at work and nursing mornings/evenings. Weekends I would nurse all day like before. But the change to our schedules threw our feeding routine off, and Des started refusing me.

One day I popped open my shirt, he looked at the breast (or "the buffet" as it used to be called), turned his head and screamed his head off. Then he tore out my heart and stomped on it. And punched me in the face with his tiny fist. Seriously, a more hurtful rejection I cannot imagine.

Oh, I know he didn't mean it. A bottle is just easier. The boob involves work and time and skill... He was having none of it. This is what is known as a nursing strike. It can happen for a lot of reasons. Ours was caused by the drastic change in schedule, more bottle feedings, and mouth pain from teething. A perfect anti-boob storm.

For two weeks we tried to get him to latch again, exclusively pumping (EPing, as it's called in certain mommy internet circles) and bottle-feeding breastmilk in the meantime. We researched and pulled out all the tricks to get him back on the breast. As the days went on I tried less and less. What was once such a sweet, special time had become frustrating and emotionally painful.

One day Tony came in with Des and said, "He's hungry, do you want to try?" I sighed heavily and thought for a few minutes. I finally said, "Okay. But if it doesn't work, this is it." I needed to not be in limbo anymore. If it wasn't going to work I needed to commit to EPing and be okay with that.

So we tried. And amazingly... he latched. :-)

HALLELUJAH! The heavens opened, angels sang, bells chimed. It was like the first time in the hospital all over again. Joyful tears and proud daddy looking on. He had a full feeding and a big burp after, with that sleepy, satisfied look on his face. I was so excited to be nursing again; I looked forward to every feeding.

Unfortunately, that only lasted about 3 days and he was back to refusing the breast. Sigh... This time it was for good. I couldn't go through it all again. He was still getting the milk he needed, just from a bottle instead of directly from the breast. Really, it's not the end of the world. But at the time, I was devastated. And a part of me still is.

Even more devastating, due to having to rely on the pump, my supply depleted. I was making a little more than half of his daily intake. We had a freezer stash of 250+ ounces of breastmilk. In a matter of weeks, it was gone. And a few days after he turned 4 months, we gave him his first bottle of formula. Daddy gave it to him and I cried in the next room. Such dramatics, I know.. But it really hurt that I couldn't provide my son with everything he needed. Still does.

It's not the ideal situation. But I'm proud to say we made it to 4 months on breastmilk alone. He's a big boy and he's growing so fast. He needs to eat A LOT and I just couldn't keep up. Now he's on about 60% breastmilk, 40% formula... ish. And we'll be starting solids very soon. Every step comes with challenges. We're doing the best we can along the way.

And as my mom always says, "All you can do is the best you can do." I say that to myself almost every day. I'll pass it along to Desmond too.

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