We’ve reached the end of an era. After 15 months of exclusive pumping, we’re hanging up the horns. Talita started to drink whole milk this week so I felt like this was a good time to start weaning. I’m hoping to be completely done in 3 weeks.
It was never my plan to pump exclusively. I wanted to breastfeed. But when Talita arrived three months early; all hopes of putting my newborn on my chest, skin-to-skin, and nurse her right there and then pretty much went out the window.
Shortly after I woke up from the C-Section, a nurse came into my room to seek permission to give our baby breast milk from a donor. Half awake I said yes. She then asked if I was planning on pumping. I hadn’t even thought about that but I said yes (which is pretty much all I said that day: “Are you feeling pain?” Yes, “Are you too warm?” Yes, “Can I bring you more jello? Yes, “Do you want me to increase the dosage of that drug?” YES!).
Not very long after, a lactation consultant came into my room wheeling a big yellow pump. She started to explain why breast milk was important for all babies but particularly for preemies. Turns out that preterm milk is higher in protein content and different in composition than full-term milk- which is exactly what these smallest of babies need. Preemies fed breast milk are also at lower risk of suffering from NEC (a serious intestinal disorder that they can develop) and other complications. The LC added that between 32 and 34 weeks gestational age, my daughter would develop the ability to coordinate her breathing, sucking and swallowing and that I would be able to start to put her at the breast. With that I was sold!
In the beginning, I pumped 8-9 times a day to establish my milk supply. It was exhausting but at the time it felt like this was the one thing I could do for her (an idea CONSTANTLY reinforced by the nurses, doctors, LCs, etc.). It was also the only thing that made me feel like a mother (especially in the beginning when I couldn’t be involved in her daily care because she was so fragile). Every time I would wake up in the middle of the night to pump, I’d say to myself that one day I would have Talita in my arms and I’d be feeding my sweet baby instead of this ugly machine and that it would all be worth it.
At first, Talita could not tolerate large amounts of breast milk so she was fed a special concoction called TPN. As she grew bigger and stronger, she was able to get more breast milk mixed with a high calorie formula through a feeding tube. We called it her protein shake. I’d pump at home, work, and at the hospital and when the nurse told me they had plenty of milk for her in the freezer, I started to store milk at home. When our freezer got full, Tony’s parents got us a deep freezer and when that was full, I started dumping milk but kept pumping. Still hoping that one day I’d be able to go from exclusively pumping to exclusively breastfeed.
At 35 weeks, my little 3 pounder finally was big enough to be put to the breast. She did great!! Although we used a nipple shield and she took less than half an ounce, I was ecstatic! The LC marveled at her good latch and said she didn’t think we’d have problems transitioning to breastfeeding once we got home and she was off her protein shake .
When the time came for her to be discharged, I got the ok to nurse her twice a day and bottle feed the rest of the time. There were two reasons for this 1) they wanted to be able to measure exactly how much she was eating 2) they wanted to continue to add the high calorie preemie formula to the breast milk since she still had a lot of catching up to do growth wise . As she grew bigger, we would be able to increase the number of bf sessions.
The first two weeks following Talita’s discharge were pure bliss! Like all new parents, Tony and I were exhausted but oh so happy to have her home. Tony was able to be home for those two first weeks and between the two of us, we were able to manage feedings, pumping and breastfeeding pretty well. However, once he went back to work, things became chaotic!! Talita was still really small and it would sometime take her an hour to finish a bottle of less than 2 oz. My whole day was spent either feeding her, pumping, or cleaning bottles, nipple shields, and pump pieces. CRAZY!!
Plus the more she got used to bottles the more difficult breastfeeding became. We met with a LC but the week I returned to work what I had fear all along happened: Talita refused to take the breast completely. She developed a preference to the bottle. I was crushed.
I tried for several months to lure her back to the breast with no success. I tried every trick in the book but nothing worked and each time, it was heartbreaking. Every time I felt like she was rejecting me.
Women have different reasons for wanting to nurse. The main reasons I wanted to nurse were for the bonding aspect of it and (this might sound crazy and shallow) to have control.
As much as I loved Talita, I had a hard time bonding with her. I’ll write more about it in another post but for a long time, she didn’t feel like she was really mine. I was hoping that bf would help bridge that gap. I was also hoping that bf would be the one thing I’d be able to control. Everything else hadn’t worked out according to plan and so I was really hoping that this would be the thing that did.
Alas it didn’t.
It took me a long time but I’m finally ok with it. And although I have mixed feelings about quitting, I’m so so so ready for it!! I’m ready to stop sharing my body with a machine, not to have to pump in nasty public restrooms when we travel, and to have extra time to enjoy my baby girl.
One thing is for sure, if we ever have another biological child he or she will either have to nurse well or get formula because there’s NO WAY I’m doing this again! :)