A few weeks ago, Brian asked me when we were going to cut the last nursing session of Makenzie’s and I answered simply and with a smile, “Soon.”
Truth is, I’m sure Makenzie would transition just fine but was I ready? Before she was born I never thought I would be able to breast feed her this long, almost 14 months. I told myself that once she hit a year old I was going to be done. This came from the mind of a mommy-to-be and I did not realize at the time that the decision wasn’t entirely mine to make, it was hers too. From the moment she was born, every decision I made was putting her best interest first and I only thought it was fair to transition her slowly and to let her lead me along the way.
She has always loved nursing and from the start she was good at it too. She had a few things going against her when she came into this world 4 weeks early, the first being that she was early. A lot of premie babies have problems learning to latch or will often fall asleep at the breast but Makenzie didn’t have any problems. She was born 5lbs 11oz and left the hospital at 5lbs 5oz. Because she was a premie the Neo-natalogist wanted her to get in with her pediatrician 3 days after we left the hospital. So on a Wednesday, we headed to her first pediatrician appointment and she was almost back at her birth weight, weighing in at 5lbs 10 oz. He asked us, “What is she eating? Steak and potatoes?!”
One of the more frustrating moments of those first few days in the hospital and then at home was something called SNS, Supplemental Nursing System. My milk hadn’t come in yet and the Neo-natalogist was closely monitoring her blood sugars multiple times a day. The poor girl had to get her foot pricked every few hours to make sure her blood sugar never dropped below a certain level and there were a few times when she was below which meant that she wasn’t getting quite enough colostrum. The day after she was born the lactation specialist and Neo-natalogist suggested I try a SNS so she could get a little more nutrients in her and stop her weight from dropping so fast. Brian and I of course said “yes” and the lactation specialist showed me how to use it. This thing was the biggest pain the ass and I literally cried every time it was time for her to eat. I cried because it was so stressful and the little tube that had to be placed next to my nipple had to be positioned just right otherwise Makenzie wouldn’t eat because she could feel it in her mouth. There was a small bottle filled with formula, half of which needed to be dumped out so the contents would equal 3 oz and then it would need to be flipped over so the formula would be flowing down towards the nipple which was actually a nipple with a small, small tube attached to it. The tube needed to then be taped to the side of my breast and almost hidden so that she wouldn’t feel it. The point of it was that she would nurse like she was breast feeding, getting the colostrum I was producing as well as the formula from the SNS.
We did the SNS for 4 days and 4 nights. During this time I also pumped like a crazy person as I was determined to have my milk come in, like I really had any say in what my body decided to do. But none the less, I cranked that pump and sat there collecting the droplets of colostrum that I was producing. On the 4th night, Monday, we were up and feeding Makenzie when she just wasn’t having it. The SNS had a latch on it that you would open for the formula to start flowing and close for when she was finished. She would start nursing, feel the tube and spit it out which then meant she had formula spilling all over her because I wasn’t fast enough to shut the latch. At that point, I ripped the tape off of my boob and chucked the SNS across the room. With tears in my eyes and a few choice words I said to Brian, “I’m done with this thing. Whatever she is getting has to be good enough.” And I let her nurse that night without the SNS knowing that things would work out. The next morning, I woke up to a soaking wet shirt as my milk had finally come in. And off to the store to get cabbage leaves I went…
So now that I have gone way off course with my present day story, looking back we have had some challenging times. I’ve learned a lot about breast feeding and pumping amongst other things. I cut dairy for close to 7 months, chocolate and (Starbucks) Chai tea lattes for a year and I smelled like maple syrup, which I don’t even like, because I was taking fenugreek as well as drinking Mother’s Milk tea, both of which were to help milk production. I learned that the amount of milk a women pumps on a daily basis is not a good indication of how much milk she actual makes since some bodies don’t respond well to the pump. They say that babies themselves are much more efficient at getting milk and I often put Makenzie on the scale right before and right after she ate to see how much weight in oz she had gained. I pumped religiously 3 times a day at the same time at work and then once again around 8:45p no matter how tired or worn out I was and I did this until she hit 1 year old. I’ve pumped in my car while driving down the Beltline in Madison with a cop behind me, I’ve pump while sitting on the I-74 bridge in bumper to bumper traffic and I’ve pumped in places like Arlington Race Track. Needless to say, this pump has been every where with me for the last year. For a month, Makenzie was drinking 22+ ounces of milk just at daycare alone and I couldn’t keep up with her. Because of that, she went on half formula/half milk for that month. Today, she is on half whole milk, half breastmilk and that’s only because I now have so much breast milk left.
I learned how much I loved nursing her and the closeness we shared, she was in my opinion the perfect little feeder. I would say, “switch” to her and she would let go and we moved to the other side, smart little girl. 🙂 Thankfully, she only bit me a couple of times and this was when she was teething. She would often look up at me, smile, play with my hair, or touch my cheek. She understood the word “eat” early on when we would sign it to her and she would get very excited, pumping her arms and legs, and smacking her lips. I loved watching her fall asleep while she was cuddled up next to me and she often would sigh loudly and I knew that she was exactly where she wanted to be as was I.
On the selfish side of things it’s great at helping to lose that baby weight and I weigh less now than I did before I got pregnant. Don’t get me wrong, I still work my tail off at the gym, when I find time to go. Plus, I never got mastitis which I have only heard about and it sounds terribly painful.
Breastfeeding and pumping is a lot of work and dedication and it comes with stress too, especially for a first time mom. But at the end of the day it was so very worth it for me. That’s why when Brian asked me a few weeks ago when we were going to quit, I couldn’t quite give him a definite answer. When I weaned her from her morning feeding I gave her snacks as soon as she woke up to keep her from wanting to nurse. She got Crispix or Cheerios in her bowl and she often would take drinks from my water bottle. We would clap, give her hugs, and tell her what a big girl she was.
Saturday and Sunday night she didn’t nurse for very long at all. Then tonight, we went through our routine, bath, lotion, jammies, and dance to the music box before nursing. She nursed for a couple of minutes when all of a sudden, in the dark room her little voice said, “All da, all da…” and proceeded to sit up and point to her crib to go night night….
I sighed, picked her up and kissed her bald little head. I told her to sleep well, that I loved her and how I would see her in the morning when she woke up. I laid her down in her crib, covered her up and turned her giraffe on that played white noise and walked out of the room… Knowing full well that she just made the decision for the both of us in those 2 minutes that I had been thinking about for the last 14 months… My baby girl is growing up and it’s exciting and bittersweet all at the same time.