Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Off the ledge

Thanks everyone for your supportive comments, not just on my last post, but on all my woe-filled pumping/breastfeeding posts. I've decided to continue weaning, though it's taken longer than I thought it would, given how little milk I was actually producing. I've cut out pumping sessions one at a time, and slowly acclimated myself to pumping just enough to relive engorgement. I hung out at three sessions a day for nearly a week, waiting for my boobs to adjust to that schedule, and now I'm down to every 10-14 hours or so, depending on when I get painfully engorged. I'm hoping that I can be completely done in the next week and a half, so I don't have to drag my pump to my in-laws' for the weekend, but I've accepted that I might have to pump once or twice there too.

Having finally come to terms with my decision to wean, I'm now impatient for this all to be over, so I can put this whole breastfeeding clusterfuck behind me and move on with my life. A few things have helped me deal (besides your comments, of course). First, realizing that a lot of the mixed emotions I was feeling about stopping pumping actually had to do with mourning the loss of nursing--my (our) inability to nurse is a loss that will stay with me for a while. I really did love nursing, when it wasn't a tear-filled battle--the few times Bat Girl really truly nursed with me are some of my tenderest memories, and I know that if she had nursed more effectively, I would have wanted to keep pumping at work to try to preserve that connection at home. I'm sure I'll find peace with it someday, just as I've come a long way toward healing from the emotional scars of bed rest, just as I've completely accepted having had a c-section. (Being at peace with not being able to nurse is different from being at peace with not giving her breast milk anymore, which I'm dealing with by spending a small fortune on organic formula.)

Second, I realized that maybe the reason I was turned inside out with emotions was partly hormonal. DUH! I finally thought to google "prolactin mood swings" and realized that a big drop in prolactin (such as when weaning or, I don't know, suddenly ceasing to take a medication that is artificially elevating your prolactin levels) is linked to mood swings and depression. Again, duh.

Third, a comment on Julie's post about weaning finally got through to me: Do what's best for your family, not your ego. And in fact, pumping had, in the end, become more about my ego than about Bat Girl's well being. I was so focused on the negative, on my failure to nurse, on my body's inability to produce enough milk--and on my heroic efforts to counteract those negatives--that I was losing sight of what I did have: a ridiculously happy, healthy, beautiful child. I've already missed too much of her first few months thanks to pumping. Now that I'm back at work, I don't want to spend one more minute of the limited time I have with her with that blasted machine.

Looking back, I don't regret having pumped as long as I did or tried as hard as I did. I know that I did the best I could for Bat Girl. But in the end, breastfeeding/giving her breastmilk will not be the most important thing I do for my child. It will not even be in the top 10. Being a good mother is about so much more than that.

I do want to write one more post about breastfeeding/pumping, to gather together all the links, advice, and knowledge I've accummulated over the past four months, just in case it'll help someone else. After that, I'm hoping we can all move on.

Monday, May 14, 2007


I took my last doses of domperidone, fenugreek, and blessed thistle on Friday. Over the last week I've been slowly dropping pumping sessions, and I'm now down to 5x/day, from 8x/day a week ago.

And I'm making more milk than ever.

Seriously, I pumped an all-time high of 11.75 ounces on Friday. I had a little bit of a dip over the weekend, but I've only been pumping long enough to soften my breasts (and you have no idea how hard it is to stop pumping when the milk is still dripping, after three and a half months of conditioning myself to wring out every last little drop). I have a feeling that if I completely emptied my breasts, I would get a lot more. And I feel like crap about it. First of all, because it makes me think that I could have been pumping 5x/day for weeks without any appreciable drop in supply, instead of torturing myself to pump 8-9x/day. And second, because it makes me think that if I'm making all this milk, it's just unbelievably selfish of me to quit. I even think sometimes that I could still change my mind and decide to keep going after all. Maybe I could make even more!

Is this some sick joke the universe is playing on me?

My husband and I got into a big fight last night because he is sick of hearing me complain about pumping and question my decision to quit. (As are you all, too, probably.) He really wants me to keep going if I can, but his take is that if I want to quit, I should just decide to quit and do it, instead of endlessly wringing my hands about it. He got annoyed last night when I was marveling over how much I had just managed to pump, because it made him think, "Well, it's obviously not that bad, why CAN'T she keep going?"

And of course I CAN keep going. I am physically capable of continuing to pump. I just don't want to.

I know quitting is the right decision for me. But that's just it--it is the right decision FOR ME. What I don't know is if it is the right decision for Bat Girl. My OB told me that there's no additional benefit to breastmilk after three months, so I can quit if I want. But I know that's not true--if it were, why would every reputable authority recommend breastfeeding for at least six months to a year?

I keep reading this post and this post over and over again, hoping to find the key that will unlock these chains of guilt I've wrapped myself in.

I would never, ever judge or criticize another woman in my position for quitting. I have told many other women not to feel guilty, that their babies will be healthy and beautiful on formula. Why can't I show myself the same kindness and compassion?

I'm still quitting. But apparently I'm going to beat myself up and feel like shit about it. It's the best of all worlds!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Someday I will write a post about something other than my boobs

I forgot to mention that Bat Girl has recently been nursing less and less, though not for the reason she was rejecting the breast before (the insufficiency of milk). No, I have concluded that she doesn't want to nurse because there is (brace yourself)...too much milk.

What? How is that possible when I am producing less than 12 ounces a day? Well, I have always let down really easily and quickly--that's why I leaked so much in the early days, and why I still leak even now. It's why I could get away with pumping for just five minutes at a time for so long--because what little milk there was came out in the first 2-3 minutes. (Once I mostly gave up nursing, I started pumping for 10-15 minutes just to make sure I was emptying my boobs, but most still comes out in the first five minutes.) A couple weeks ago, when my supply leveled off at around 1.5-2 ounces per session, I noticed that during those first 2-3 minutes, the milk was seriously gushing out, which was kind of cool--I imagine that's what those women who brag online about pumping 50 ounces a day see all the time.

Then I noticed that Bat Girl seemed to be gulping a lot during our short nursing sessions. Sometimes she'd even stop sucking and just take two or three gulps in a row, like it was just too much for her. And I guess she decided it really was too much for her, because now she never nurses for more than a minute or two. The nice thing is that at least she doesn't scream and push away and beat at my chest like she did when she used to reject the breast. No, she'll latch on for a bit, suck, swallow, suck some more, start gulping and choking, then look astonished (like, "Where the hell is all this milk coming from?"). Then she'll pull off and very politely decline to latch back on. No tears, no fussing--she'll smile at the boob and talk to the boob, but suck on it? No thanks, Mom.

I know this post falls in the "boring minutiae" category of blogdom, but I just want to document for future reference: Yes, Virginia, it is possible to have low supply and forceful letdown at the same time.

Monday, May 07, 2007


I have a brutal cold right now. I was complaining, "How could I possibly be sick when I'm the most conscientious hand-washer on the planet?" and my husband pointed out that when you don't leave the house for a year and then go and ride the subway every day, you're bound to catch something.

Of course, Bat Girl caught my cold too. (So did my husband, but he can take care of himself.) It's her first sickness--the first of many, I know, but that doesn't make it any easier--or alleviate the guilt I was already feeling at leaving her to go to work, now double since my going to work is indirectly responsible for her being sick now.

Although she has a sad little cough and runny nose, I'm taking some small comfort in the fact that she isn't nearly as sick as I am, and I'm hoping the fact that she's getting my breastmilk (with the antibodies I'm making against this cold) will mean she'll recover more quickly than she would otherwise. Of course, being crazy, I also can't help thinking that maybe if I wasn't pumping, I'd be better rested/less harassed and therefore less run-down, and wouldn't have gotten sick in the first place.

Again, she had to get sick eventually, and I guess I should just be thankful that it's relatively minor...and that our pediatrician has weekend office hours. I called in sick to work today and Bat Girl is sleeping all snuggled up on my chest in the sling, so there are some compensations.


Dr. G. directed me to take the domperidone for eight weeks, then slowly taper off both it and the herbs (fenugreek and blessed thistle). (Remind me that someday I want to write a whole post about everything I've done to build supply, as well as how I pump etc.) This Friday will mark eight weeks exactly. And I've decided to begin weaning this coming weekend, with the goal of being totally weaned off the pump by the second weekend in June, when we're going to my in-laws' for the weekend. Not sure yet if I'm going to taper off the meds or just go cold turkey--I think I'll taper, but more quickly than I would have if I were continuing to pump.

I love giving my baby breastmilk. But I hate what I have to do to get it. I will probably always regret that I have to give her formula, but I won't regret no longer having to be chained to the pump for hours a day, or having to listen to or see her squealing happily alone on her playmat while I sit three feet away bonding with a pair of plastic cones. Before this all happened, I had always wanted to breastfeed for at least a year. Depending on how long it takes for my milk to dry up, Bat Girl will have gotten breastmilk for 3.5-4 months, which is way longer than I thought I would ever stick with it back from the vantage point of two weeks postpartum.

This was a tough decision. And Bat Girl being sick right now almost made me reconsider (in addition to making me think, on the contrary, "WTF am I working so hard at pumping if she's going to get sick anyway?!?"). But exclusively breastfed babies get sick too, and formula fed babies can be healthy and happy. And I just can't do it anymore. I am done.

Friday, May 04, 2007

And the resounding "@#$%!!!" was heard across the land

This morning, while titrating my overnight pumping output into bottles for Bat Girl to snack on throughout the day, I somehow neglected to put a liner into one of the Pl@ytex Nurs*ers...and proceeded to pour breastmilk all over the kitchen floor.

(Only one ounce lost, thank goodness. Sleep deprivation is a bitch.)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Cubicle jockey

Well, here I am. Everyone was very excited to see me and raved about how adorable Bat Girl is. Not much work for me to do today, as my maternity leave replacement is still working today and tomorrow and lots of people are out of the office today. So far I have: checked my email, gone through files to reacquaint myself with where things are, pumped two times in our company's fantastic pump room, ate a huge lunch without having to gobble down for fear of baby waking up or carefully eat one-handed to avoid dropping food on baby or begin to eat only to have to abandon my plate to attend to screaming baby. So that last one was pretty satisfying, I have to say.

On the other hand, I totally cried last night and again this morning when saying goodbye to Bat Girl. My fancy shoes are giving me blisters. My husband (did I mention my husband decided to be a SAHD? yay me!) called about an hour ago while on a walk wth Bat Girl and I was soooo jealous. And because I don't have much work to do, I feel like I could just as well be at home. I guess it gets easier but today it is really, really hard.


Pumping is fine so far due to the aforementioned fancy pump room. It is a little weird to leave my bottles and horns just sitting there in a cabinet (I put a gallon ziploc bag over them to protect them), so I can just keep pumping into the same bottles as I do at home, but I suppose I'll get used to that too. The other women using the room probably think I'm weird but damned if I'm going to carry extra bottles back and forth (and wash extra bottles and horns) if I can avoid it. Output seems to be same as at home--I always laugh at the advice to look at a picture of your baby to help you let down, since due to my extensive pumping experience I could probably let down anywhere, anytime.


To answer May's question on my last post, I think the domperidone made a HUGE difference in my supply, at least percentage-wise. When I came home from the hospital, I was pumping 2-3 ounces a day. With the help of fenugreek, blessed thistle, diligent pumping, and supply-enhancing foods (I swear, after I wean I am never eating oatmeal ever again), I got up to 5-6 ounces a day, then leveled off there when Bat Girl was about a month old. When she was 5 1/2 weeks old I started the domperidone, and within a week was up to 7 ounces a day, and within another week 8 ounces a day. So that was a 33% increase in 2 weeks. I continued to gain about an ounce a week and then slowed down, and now am pumping about 10-11 ounces a day. So domperidone basically doubled my supply. And Dr. G. said the effects are exponential--the higher your supply is when you start, the more you'll increase. Again, I was really diligent about pumping--always pumping at least 8x/day, always getting up to pump in the middle of the night (prolactin levels are highest around 2-4 a.m., so pumping then stimulates your body to produce more the rest of the day), doing a "power pump" day once or twice a week, so that helped too, but I have no doubt that without domperidone, I would have quit long ago, and I definitely would not still be pumping now--it wouldn't be worth it.

Which reminds me, I forgot to take my lunchtime dose. Better do that now.