Here is the update so far...
The past few weeks have been really hard in pumping. My supply is all over the place and is completely unpredictable. I am pumping more and yielding less. I have had to really sit down and think about my purpose in pumping and if I felt it was still worth it. I am spending 3 hours a day pumping and somedays only yielding 10-14 ounces (where I was pumping between 22-28 before). My freezer stash has been such a comfort to have, but at this rate will quickly diminish. We knew we would probably have to formula supplement at some point, that part wasn't as worrisome to us, my bigger concern was if I could turn this around so it could be on MY terms. Because having to exclusively pump was not my original plan, I kind of wanted more control over seeing it through or deciding the stopping point. I know that I should probably go ahead and realize that I am not in control over much in my life, but what can I say, old habits, even ones that frequently get smacked down, die hard.
So I mulled over it a lot. I prayed about it. I talked to others about it. So many people have been super encouraging and supportive. I have really felt blessed by the cheerleaders I have on my side. I am really proud that we have pumped this long and I am really proud he hasn't gotten anything past that first bottle or two of formula besides breast milk to drink.
This pride and satisfaction doesn't diminish the time invested in producing/extracting that milk though. Right now it is three hours (minimum) of pumping, two and a half hours of bottle feeding, plus time to wash pump parts, that is a considerable portion of my day! Although the three hours of pumping are sitting hours, they are by no means relaxing. Sitting hunched over a table while trying to distract MacKenzie and Keegan and praying that Johnny stays asleep/content/not too upset can be challenging and pretty tiring. It is so easy to spend those hours when you are getting all the milk you need. But when you sit and pump, cycle back through, cycle back through, take a ten minute rest, drink more water, and cycle back through and get little to nothing, those hours start to weigh pretty heavy on your heart. Then doubt starts kicking in. Am I eating enough? Am I eating the right thing? Should I be supplementing my diet with ___? How much does ___ supplement cost? At what point does the cost of supplements outweigh all of this? Should I have just spent that time with my kids? Should I be resting more? Should I snuggle Johnny more? Should I have not worked for my mom the night before, messing up my pumping schedule? Should I add more sessions in, reducing the time I get to go out and do things with the kids? Should I drop all of my sessions but two and just throw in formula from there? Should I just go cold turkey and we will start formula right away?
At the end of the day, I sort of released myself from all the pressure and hardship I was placing on myself. Fact of the matter is, I have done a great job so far. Fact of the matter is, he will get breast milk for the first 9 months of life, minimum. Fact of the matter is, he will get breast milk to some degree beyond that 9 month marker. And that is awesome. As far as pumping goes, I am taking it one week at a time. There are going to be bad days (like yesterday when I had to supplement 3 out of 5 bottles from my stash) and good days (like today that only needed one bottle out of my stash). I may add in a supplement to my diet over the next couple of days, but I'm not sure if that is the route I want to take or not. For now, it is my opinion that even on the days we only get 10 or so ounces, that it is worth it. For now. That may change on any given day, but I think going in with that attitude helps me a lot.
We read over friend's recommendations and talked to our pediatrician and I think (and this could change) that we are going to add in two ounces of Similac Advance to each of his bottles starting next week and we will go from there. Starting next week means 8.5 months of exclusive breast milk which is important to me, but it also gives him some time to adjust or not adjust to the small portion of formula before we go see our pediatrician for his 9 month appointment at the end of July. If he tolerates it well and we need to supplement further then we will slowly add in from there. Of course he could throw a huge wrench in the system and decide that he has a totally different game plan (and that goes for the little he- Johnny and the big He- God), but I like having something tentative mapped out in our head. I think it will be good to start out slowly and if I can get things flowing again, I would be so happy for him to have some breast milk until he gets closer to 1. But I am happy with where we are at and think he is thriving and will continue to do so regardless.
Thanks again for all of the support I have gotten so far. Further recommendations and cheers are always welcome!