I am my own worst enemy.
I couldn’t successfully breast feed Moo. It wasn’t for lack of trying. There are things I should have done differently, I should have had better support. There were many reasons it didn’t work. And it hurts. Every day I think about the missed opportunities for more help, how I would change things, the experience I’m missing out on. I’d go back and do it again in a heart beat if I had a time machine and a guarantee that it would work out. One of the main reasons I don’t want anymore children is the thought of another breast feeding failure. I honestly don’t believe I could recover from it. My heart aches with loss at times.
And yet I choose over and over again to immerse myself in breast feeding and everything about it. I attend a breast feeding group, I trained as a peer supporter, I read about it, I blog about it, I discuss it with anyone willing to engage in conversation about it. I love breast feeding jewellery, photography, art, nursing covers in pretty fabrics. I love the science of it, the statistics, the facts.
I must be a glutton for punishment, to constantly remind myself of something I don’t have. I’ll be in conversation about it and I’ll get a flash back of those early days. Or I’ll see a nursing mother in the park. I’ll read about breast feeding against the odds. And a little piece of me dies inside. It’s not me. I’m not breast feeding.
But I can’t switch off the passion, the love for it, the desire to tell anyone who’ll listen, the need to support others so that they don’t suffer the same. It’s such a lose lose situation. Do I give up the peer supporting and my blog and try to get over it, never quite forgetting how awful it all was? Or do I keep doing what I love and surrounding myself with what I care about, to my own emotional detriment? I can’t win.
Moo has begun waking in the night again the last few days, she asks for milk. Of course, I oblige. I’m often peckish when she wakes me too. (I often find myself with a finger in a jar of biscuit spread…)
Now she’s started wanting the bottles back at bedtime too, its all that will settle her. The sippy cup and flask have gone out the window. She wants to drink her delicious bedtime milkies laid down on the soft pillow, with her snugly quilt enveloping her, gently suckling. How can I deny her that?
If I were nursing her at the breast, she would be cuddled in, drinking from a soft teat, drifting off to sleep. But I can’t give her that, so the bottle seems the next best thing.
I’m sure health care professionals would pitch a fit. But I’m doing what I can to make bedtimes a wonderful, peaceful, loving, calming, as-close-to-breastfeeding-as-I-can-get experience. So, the bottles are back.
Moo has just gone to bed without any milk.
For the last few weeks her intake has been less and less, I think introducing the cup meant that she couldn’t sleepily suckle any more. I wanted to try to lessen the pumping pressure. This past week bedtimes have been tough, with lots of fussing and indecisiveness about what she wants, standing up, crying when we leave the room. Last night she had a few sips. Tonight she didn’t want any.
Looks like it might be time to give up pumping. I have plenty left in the freezer in case she fancies a cup one night. I’m lost. It is literally the end of an era. I was prepared to keep going for many more months, even years. I have no worries about being the ‘hippy’ mum that breast feeds her pre schooler. But it looks like that won’t be happening.
I’m sad. It’s been a challenging, traumatic, emotional, wonderful ride. I’m damn proud of myself. And it might be over. My ‘breast feeding’ experience is no more. With it dies the hope of Moo magically latching on. A silly thought that never really went away.
There’s also a feeling of relief. No more money spent on prescription Domperidone and nipple creams, my boobs might make a return to the bedroom department, my nipples will have a chance to heal. I won’t be restricted by room temperature timings and fridges. I will never hear that awful buzzing noise again.
Now to implement a ‘winding down’ plan. I’ll shave 5 minutes off my pumping time next week.
I think I’ll have a little cry, too.
ow, that stings!
Must. Keep. Going.
Better turn it down…
Still no let down?!
I’d better turn it up…
I’ve had enough.
I hate this.
I feel at a bit of a loss now.
My goals have changed as time has gone on. My ideal was to breast feed my baby once it was born, then she arrived and that all went tits up so the plan changed. I’m still coming to terms with this, grieving the loss of something I never had (as ridiculous as that seems) and I’m sure I’ll always feel sadness.
So, my new goal was to pump until my supply dried up, which I was told would most definitely happen. But after conducting my own research and learning about the miracle drug that is Domperidone, this never occurred. I began to produce more milk, little by little. So my new challenge was to keep pumping until I could cut out all formula. I succeeded at four months.
So, I aimed for six. The NHS would be happy. Moo would be eating more food, the milk wouldn’t be so important (another ridiculous statement). We smashed six months, I decided I’d go a year. She could have cows milk then. But I got to 12 months and came to the realisation that cows milk is a silly option, when I have plenty of human milk for her. My new aim was two.
Well, two is here. Her second birthday has been and gone. What should my new goal be? Where now? Self weaning is the ultimate challenge, my Everest, my heaven.But Moo can never truly self wean. Can she? Surely any child can drink milk from a cup forever? It feels like I need a smaller chunk. I should take each day as it comes, ticking off each month. But I’ve become a sucker for a personal pumping challenge now.
Is there a Guinness World Record for this sort of thing? Maybe I’ll just pump forever. It’s cheaper than bottles from the milk man and I’m sure it’d make a cracking mac and cheese. I’m slightly concerned I’ll never be able to stop. How do you let go of something that has been an enormous part of your life for so long?
I’m sure Moo will let me know when she no longer wants her milk at bedtime and I’ll somewhat reluctantly hang up the pump. Then I’ll need something else to sink my teeth into, a new challenge to fill the void. I’m sure parenting will continue to bring me plenty of those.
These ads have made me a little sad today. And I’m not one of those breast feeders that thinks that every image of a bottle is bashing me for my feeding choices or brain washing expectant mothers. I don’t feel anger or rage, I won’t be writing to any companies to complain or standing on a soap box in the street ranting about it.
I just think it’s sad. Sad that this image is so normal. We think nothing of seeing a baby suckling on a bottle, or toy bottles sold with dollies, or 20 foot billboards covered in cartons of Aptimil. And that’s kinda sad. I’m so, so thankful that formula exists. Without it Moo would have been starving hungry and emaciated. I relied on formula for four months while I built up enough of a milk supply to feed her breast milk alone. But it’s a shame that bottle feeding and formula are the norm. That breast feeding is the ‘different’ thing to do. That breast feeding in the street is gawped at, while bystanders don’t even blink an eye at a bottle in a baby’s mouth.
In a perfect world, every baby would be breastfed. It would feel natural and normal and beautiful to every mother. No woman would struggle to produce breast milk, no baby would find it difficult to latch. There would be no tongue tie. Any weight gain would be acceptable. Mothers would be overjoyed that babies woke often to feed. Nursing bras would be sexy.
But this isn’t a perfect world, this is a world where infant bottles are used to sell tea and biscuits.
PS: Breast milk is great with tea and biscuits.
There’s something going on with my pump this morning. I can only get the one side to work, even though I’ve replaced the parts on the other and it’s not the tubing. I can feel the suction in the tubing, the parts are assembled properly, there’s no air escaping. Usually taking it apart and back together again works. But not today. It’s a mystery. Hmm.
Sometimes I get a moment of ‘fuck it, I’m quitting’ at times like this. It’s not what I need first thing in the morning. I’ve got things to get up and get on with. Now my pumping time has doubled, I’ll be sat doing this for half an hour. I dread to think how many minutes of my life have been spent sat attached to this bloody pump. Listening to the constant buzzing. I’ve tried pumping hands free, but you can’t bend freely without the milk spilling out. It’s easier to just sit in one place rather than have a tantrum and cry when ounces of milk come pouring out onto the floor. Monitoring a small person whilst attached to a pump is no fun. This morning the rocking horse has been upturned. Half an hour is a long time to hope a toddler doesn’t get up to mischief or pee on the floor.
Thank goodness for my husband. He feeds and dresses my daughter whilst I’m occupied. There’s no way I could have exclusively pumped for this long without a support network.
I’ve been mourning a loss. I warn you in advance that many of you will find this image upsetting.
We were very kindly given a new freezer so I took the opportunity to sort through my frozen milk stash. Much of it was ‘out of date’, some pumped as long ago as 18 months. It had to go.
So here it is, a pile of frozen breast milk, 56 bags all together. Each bag contains a minimum of 5oz, some as much as 9oz. So that’s at least 280oz of milk.
I spent at least 20 minutes pumping per bag. That’s 1120 minutes. 18.6 hours.
And now it’s gone, down the drain. The lesson I’ve learned: better milk management. Bags need to be organised in the freezer in the order they need to be used. I need to use a bag of frozen milk every few days and replace it with fresh milk.
We live and learn.
Things I’m grateful for today:
My home: I have a warm bed at night, shelter from the rain, clean water and nourishing food on the table on a daily basis.
My ability to exclusively pump: I’ve been able to provide the worlds best food for my daughter for almost two years (and counting).
My husband: my rock, my anchor, my friend, my lover, my soul mate.
My ever rewarding job: my colleagues, my young people, the sense of fulfilment.
Health: my miraculous body that keeps doing what I need it to every day. The health of my precious daughter. The NHS, providing my family with all that it needs in times of illness.
My friends and family: always a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen and a hand to hold.
The beautiful planet around me: I live 20 minutes from the beach and am surrounded by endless green countryside and fresh air.
Feeling humble and blessed and thinking of those without these things.
What are you grateful for today?
Haters gonna hate.
Lactators gonna lactate.
You can tease me, insult me, make rude jokes about me.
I will continue to breast feed, and talk about the wonders of breast milk, because it is *amazing* and scientifically the best thing for my daughter. Surely I’d be crazy not to?