Monday, March 30, 2009

Perspective

I've been really really upset about the on-going nursing strike, probably fueled in part by hormones and exhaustion. I've lost all perspective, I think. When I take a deep breath, step back, and calmly assess the situation, the position we're in right now is really not bad at all. Basically, I'm in desperate need of some perspective. So, before I let myself wallow some more in how much I miss nursing my baby boy, here's some purely good news: LL is the cutest and happiest baby in the whole wide world. (I'm being totally objective here.) He smiles and laughs at everything. He loves toys. He loves toes. He loves singing. He loves being sung to. He loves animal sounds. He thinks that robots are animals.

He loves watching me and S get ready in the morning. We have hundreds of little games that we've made up to play with him, and he therefore thinks that we're the most awesome people ever. His current favorite game: the fireworks game. With him laying on his back, I close my hand into a fist and rest it on his chest. I slowly raise my fist into the air above him, pause, then open my hand really fast and really wide like a firework going off. Then I "rain" my hand back down to him with my fingers wiggling, tickling him with them when they reach his body. There are appropriate firework noises along the way. As my hand is going up, he stares at it with intense concentration; when it bursts open, he squeals with delight; he giggles the entire time it's coming back down. Fun stuff. And let's not forget the most important things: he's growing and developing and learning new things.

The bad news is that he has apparently decided that six months was plenty of time to breast feed, and he's never going to do it ever again. In the grand scheme of things, I suppose this doesn't really matter. He drinks formula, it provides all the nutrition he needs, and recent studies are starting to question whether there really is any difference between breast milk and formula anyway. Either way, today is Day Twelve of his nursing strike, and our breast feeding relationship is apparently over. We have ruled out all fixable problems -- it's not my milk, it's not thrush, it's not an ear infection, it's not a sore in his mouth, it's not something different he's smelling on me, it's not the location or the position or the time of day. I do still believe it's the teething, but that could go on for several more weeks, and there's nothing that we can do about it.

We have made some progress. He doesn't arch away from me when I try to hold him now. In fact, he's more cuddly these days than ever before, both with me and with S, probably because his gums hurt and he's not getting nursing cuddling time anymore. He doesn't cry when I lift my shirt. He doesn't scream in protest when I unhook my nursing bra. Instead, he cuddles against me, and he'll even take my breast into his mouth. If I squirt milk into his mouth, he doesn't protest (much). What he absolutely will not do, however, is nurse. Instead, he just bites. Every single time. I offer him my breast, and he obliges by biting it. He actually bites everything that goes into his mouth these days, including bottles -- feeding him anything at all is a chore, because he just chews on the nipple of the bottle. But at least with the bottle, he does get some food.

I'm still pumping, but I'm not driving myself nuts about it anymore. Two weeks ago, I had a post all queued up about the mathematics involved with how much LL eats by bottle at daycare, how much I can pump at work and on the weekends, how much I'm using from my freezer stash each week, and when that freezer stash would be gone. I was driving myself nuts with trying to produce enough breast milk to keep him off formula for as long as possible. (My goal had been eight months, which seems to be kind of a tipping point where babies start getting more nutrition from solids as opposed to milk.) That post is totally irrelevant now. My freezer stash is completely gone. LL eats anywhere from 26 to 40 ounces of milk each day. (He's highly variable, but he averages in the 30-35 ounce range.) Relying solely on pumping 24 hours a day, and being unable to take anything to enhance my supply, I'm now able to produce 16 ounces total on a good day. That's some pretty easy math. And it turns out that pumping 4-5 times a day instead of 8 times a day makes very little difference in output (for now) but a huge, immeasurable difference in my sanity. So I've scaled back the pumping a bit.

I hate hate hate pumping, partially because it's not very comfortable, partially because I'm tired of endlessly washing pump parts (on top of the already endless bottle parts), and partially because I have to be at home or at my office to do it, which chains me to the house in ways that breast feeding never did. Mainly, though, I hate it because as I sit there listening to the rhythmic drone of the pump, I dutifully think about my baby to encourage let-down, and inevitably I think about how much I loved nursing him and how I don't get to do it anymore, and it makes me cry. Which is quite an emotional beating to take several times a day.

I've thought about giving it up, which would free up several hours each day, not to mention freeing me to drink caffeine for the first time in two years and wear normal bras and eat tuna, among other non-lactating perks. But I'm not ready to let it go. (Also, I don't really miss tuna all that much. Except in sushi form, and we rarely have time to out for sushi these days anyway.) I like to think it's because I want to provide my child with at least a few bottles each day of breast milk, which is better for him in unproven, intangible ways that probably don't matter much after six months. Also, he seems to prefer the taste, even if he's picky about its method of delivery.

But the real truth is that I imagine that some time in the next month or two, he's going to come to his senses and say, "Hey, wait! Nursing was so much better than this silicone nipple nonsense! Where is that woman with the boobs?! I'm ready to eat directly from the source again!" And if he comes to that conclusion, and latches onto me, and I've let my milk dry up... well, I think that I'll just want to shoot myself. So I'm still pumping, so that I'll at least have a little something to offer him, should that day come. Which is kind of pathetic, but there it is.

But I really am going to stop at eight months.

3 comments:

Jen said...

I have to hand it to your for keeping up with the pumping. I HATED pumping. It required so much time, and I wasn't bonding with my baby. I gave up admittedly early. So I really admire you for your for your persistence.

ScientistMother said...

you are the most wonderful mother EVAH!. I hated pumping, the triple hated hated hated it. How wonderful of you to keep it up. I don't think its pathetic that you are holding out hope, I think I would too.
Wow, that is some perspective, though it was totally normal to not have that perspective at the beginning.

Fertilized said...

You have my deepest sympathy. I totally blame teething for you ;)

I hated the pump. I pumped ALOT. I am sorry for your feelings. When I was pumping and listening to the noise the pumps maked, I tried to hear/think up motivational chants to the beats. I know..weird
* i haven't pumped in over 2 months. I STILL lactate. I ashamely admit that on several occasions I have tried to get MT to nurse again.

Perspective is good.

I Love the sound of the fireworks game. Creative!