Am I thankful for my experience pumping at work with the girls in preparation for exclusive pumping for Johnny. I had fully intended on being further along on relatching him to work back into nursing, but that just isn't happening. I should clarify that, he is great at latching on, has a perfect latch in fact. His latch beats the girls latches at this point ten times over. But he won't stay on and he won't sustain a sucking pattern long enough to get an appetizer much less a full meal. So we try every day, once a day to get him to breastfeed, you know, the normal way, but have had no progress.
Yesterday I sat in this very spot on the couch feeling utterly sorry for myself in this regard. I had pumped for Johnny and settled in for our morning feeding. The first feeding of the day is and always will be my favorite, still groggy, half asleep eyes and a searching mouth looking for that bottle or other feeding receptacle. Johnny sucked the first couple of ounces down quick to quiet his hungry belly then steadily drew in the last 3 or 4 seeming much more content. Occasionally he would pause and look at me. Content that I was there, he would close his eyes again and take in the rest of his meal. Suddenly out of nowhere, he retched and there went his meal. Milk flew out of his nose and mouth, down his shirt, down my shirt, on to the blanket we were snuggled up in, past the burp cloth (of course), and a little even managed to fall onto the one patch of skin that managed to be exposed on my side where my shirt wasn't covering up my belly. I wiped his face off and tried to do the best I could to comfort him as he looked around with the stunned expression on his face. As I snuggled him close, I blinked away tears and hung my head. Another pumping session to waste. It doesn't happen often, but it is so discouraging when it does. Especially at certain times in my cycle where my milk supply just plummets.
He didn't seem to keen on taking any more milk, nor would I after puking up a meal like that.
Exclusive pumping is hard. Really, really, really hard. I spend almost an hour every three to four hours so that I can feed my son the meal that I feel is best suited for his needs. I need to do that. I know I can switch over to formula at any time, but this is a decision that I have made that most of the time works out ok for us. I have just been hit over the last week or so with how much work this is. Good work, but work nonetheless. I have to plan a lot of things around when I can pump. I often times have to bring my pump with me to other people's houses and step away to get milk for Johnny. I have to be careful of how much I am cutting calories because I can literally see the impact it has on my milk supply and I have no way of recovering that milk supply with extra nursing sessions and hormonal clues from my son. I eat a lot of oatmeal and drink a lot of water. I sit, hunched over our kitchen table more often than I want, grateful that the girls do a great job playing together without me, reading a lot of blogs and forums, begging for one more ounce. I squeeze, try to relax, scroll through pictures and videos of him, and hit the restart button hoping that another round will get what I need. I precariously tap every last drop of milk into the bottle, not wanting to waste any of it. I hold my breath more often than not as Keegan, trying to be helpful, comes precariously close to knocking over half a meal. I wash and scrub out parts to make sure that there is no extra build up for obvious health reasons and to ensure that my old trusty pump is working 100%. I wash bottles and nipples by hand because "Mr. Johnny Do Things My Way" only likes the handful of infant nipples they gave us at the hospital which, of course, only fit on certain types of bottles. And of course there is all the research out there that hangs over my head, the biggest being the statistic that shows that breastfed babies generally have a higher IQ than their non breastfed counterparts. We need those IQ points...
I am tired.
I want to scream and sometimes I do.
I want to cry and a lot of times I do.
But as I sat yesterday, cradling Johnny in my arms, thinking all of these things, I placed my hand lightly on his stomach. I kid you not, he smiled softly at me and placed his hand on mine stroking it in turn. My son is happy with what I am providing for him. He is thriving, he is growing, and little rolls are forming at his wrists, at his ankles, in his thighs, and my very favorite roll, right in his biceps. This is what I work for and all of it is worth it. Tonight as he casually drank his bottle, flashing me gummy smiles to make sure I was paying attention, he stroked one hand on my side and used the other to paw at my neckline, near my chest, so reminiscent of nursing my girls. I want my son to be happy and I want him to grow. He is doing those things. So I continue on.
I have no idea what lies in store for our feeding future. I will pump as long as I can because it is a decision that, despite the bad days, works for us. I feel that I am putting forth my very best and it is obviously working for him. If we make it to 6 months, and I think we will, I may throw myself a little party. I am so grateful that, not only have I been able to keep up with his needs so far, but at times I was able to surpass it and have donated some milk privately. While there isn't a lot of personal milk banking occurring right now in this household, I have what he needs and for now that is pretty good.