On Babies and Breastfeeding

Connor turned six months old yesterday. Ridiculous.

When I look back at the past half year, what I have to consider most is our breastfeeding relationship. I knew, from the start, that I wanted to exclusively breastfeed. I was pretty cocky. I have breast tissue in spades, I thought. It’s no big deal that they’re not growing. And besides, I have other things to research.

MERP said Murphy’s Law. This is what you’re going to have your biggest issue with so buckle in because it’s going to be one heck of a ride.

And it has been. It has been incredibly hard. He just kept losing weight. For three straight weeks, he lost weight. I searched frantically for donor milk but it wasn’t there. I reached out to midwive groups, milksharing groups, and everything I could think of in between. I got a lot of silence and felt like my problem wasn’t even being acknowledged.
I had to use formula (and at the time, wasn’t aware of how to make my own). I cried. Every time. And you may think this is overdramatic. And you may say that you are totally okay with formula. The latter is absolutely fine. That is your story, and I respect your choice. But this is my story and this was my goal and so this was my sadness.

We bought a really expensive pump. I cried. A lot. Connor would wail in hunger and beat my breast. He would claw and look at me and I would pass him along to Joseph where he would settle down and take his bottle. It was one of the saddest moments in my life – that feeling of inadequacy in the eyes of your newborn child.

I had a few donors fall through. They just wouldn’t show up. One gave me milk that I thought was bad (smelled rotten as soon as I dethawed it and I didn’t know about high lipase at the time). After playing tag with a donor who said they had 200 ounces for me, I was given barely 20. Then I met R (name retracted for privacy) who had a huge stash for me. I blended it in, being careful not to use all of it at once.

Then Connor went to the hospital. If you’re unaware, breastmilk is amazing. It is practically magic and extremely beneficial when it comes to health. I decided I would raid my stash. I had a new, upcoming long term donor (we’ll call her B) and was getting a few warm leads via a mothering group on some one-time donations so I felt confident that I could move to just supplementing with milk and be done with it.

I’m so blessed to say that Connor has had a miniscule amount of formula / raw milk since his time in the hospital. We have two dedicated donors and a recurring one that I can count on to provide the bulk of what he needs. But at 150ish ounces of donor milk weekly, Connor really makes it difficult to keep up with.

I’ve traveled as far North as Tulsa and as far South as Ardmore. And as for myself? Well, I am up to 1.75-2 ounces per pumping session from .5. I’m going to call that a win.

My daily routine consists of lactation cookies, a bevvy of herbs, tea, essential oils, offlabel use of Domperidone, and a very strict pumping schedule with plenty of milk-making foods in our diet and the elimination of foods that are known to negatively impact lactation (I MISS YOU SO MUCH, PEPPERMINT). Some days it feels overwhelming. I can’t cut my calories without my production going down. If I exercise, I need to eat back those calories.
Subsequently, I have not lost any more weight though I haven’t really gained. And that’s worth it. There’s time to lose later, especially if I just stay active (which is the most important part of health) and embrace this beautiful body I have been blessed with.

Every four or five weeks, my supply tanks. I have to mix things up and power pump and go in search of some new cure. Sometimes Connor still gets really fussy, though he mostly knows that Mommy is round 1 of food and Daddy is round 2.
Since he sleeps a good solid 6-8 hours at night (and you produce more at night), his morning feeding is always a mommy-solo feeding which is a BEAUTIFUL feeling. Sometimes I’ll get a second mommy-solo feeding in a day. It will be interesting to see if the introduction of solid foods means less milk but we’re not pushing it and we’re not offering it enough right now for me to expect any chance any time soon. Though, so far, they just make him thirsty.

I am proud of our relationship. If nothing else, the morning feeding he has, where he pulls off and looks at me like THANK YOU SO MUCH, THAT WAS DELICIOUS! is worth every tear, dollar, and moment that we (because my husband is the most amazing supporter in the entire world) focus on ensuring that Connor and I have this relationship.

It’s meant that I couldn’t take pain medication while managing a hairline fracture. Or allergy medication when I had a sinus infection. It’s meant that I can’t indulge in wine (because we don’t have the extra milk for me to do so) or coffee night caps. It’s meant a lot of bottle washing and a LOT of time from our schedule since it still takes him 20+ minutes to nurse before he gets the bottle of donor milk. It means money on traveling to donors and buying whatever bags they want. But it also means new friendships (because my donors are the best ever). It means that Connor gets all the benefits of breastmilk and breastfeeding (like optimal jaw development). It means that I am closer to my baby than if I had given up. It means that this did not defeat me.

It means that I’m resilient and I’mma toot my own horn all up in this post. I make no apologies to anyone who’s made a different decision but this is what I wanted for my child and I am so glad that my stubborn personality has made this a reality for him.

I hope we make it until at least a year (and there’s no reason we shouldn’t) and here’s to hopefully doing everything we can to achieve a different outcome the next go-round.