Monday, June 12, 2006

I can't do this anymore

After a VERY rough weekend with my daughter and nursing, I wrestled with the decision today about whether or not I should start the slow process of weaning. I also had a long talk with a pal on the phone about it. (Thanks, E.) She suggested that if I'm this ambivalent about it, I must not be ready to stop nursing yet.

She's right. I'm not ready to stop nursing yet. But I don't want to continue either. Either way, it's sadness for me. And I feel so incredibly selfish and guilty.

Quite simply, I've had enough after nearly eight months. I'm tired of dragging my pump with me to work every day. I'm tired of sitting in my car (especially now that it's 100 degrees out) sweating a storm and pumping. I'm tired of my car smelling like sour milk. I'm tired of not being able to wear my old shirts or bras. I'm tired of not being able to sleep on my stomach. I'm tired of having to ask people to wait on me to go to lunch while I pump furiously. I'm tired of driving down the road with the breastshields attached to me while I try to hide them from truckers and other drivers who are wondering what in the world I'm doing. I'm tired of the long process every morning of thawing milk, figuring out how much milk I have in the fridge, and making formula to compensate. I'm tired of marking the bottles to make sure the witches at school give McKenna the oldest bottles first. I'm tired of bagging up milk for the freezer every Saturday morning. I'm tired of being the last one at family dinners to eat because I have to be relegated to the bedroom upon arrival to nurse. I'm tired, tired, tired. I want to be able to get away for an afternoon or an evening without taking my pump or have more than one cocktail at night without having to time it just right or be able to go to bed after falling asleep on the couch without having to drag myself up to pump. And I really want to get back to the gym and try to diet again without failing miserably because my appetite is out of control.

But at the same time, the thought of not nursing my daughter anymore breaks my heart. We have bonded in ways I never imagined these last eight months, and I know that I've given her a beautiful start in life. She's so healthy and beautiful, and I like to think that my milk had so much to do with that.

But how is this healthy? Basically our routine when we're all home on the weekend is to give her the solid food meal, let her nurse for about the ten minutes or so that I can manage to keep her interested, and then she starts to fuss after about ten minutes until we give her a bottle of formula. And then the situation repeats again in about two hours or so. It's just not a good situation and not healthy for her or for me. I can't measure how much she's getting when she's nursing, but I would venture to guess it's not much. Today when I pumped, I got three ounces max total. She drinks seven ounces at a time.

P is totally on board with me (thank GOD) and even said that he's been waiting for me to say that enough is enough because of this hellish routine I've been keeping up. Maybe if I were a stay-at-home mom...maybe I could keep this going longer. But I just can't. I'm crying uncle! Superwoman's cape is getting heavier by the day!

And so it goes. *sigh* I'll start thinking about how I'm going to do this soon. For now, I think I'm just going to try to cut down to one pumping during the day (right now I'm doing two), and maybe in a few days I'll cut to no pumping during the day and see how that goes. I don't know the best way to do this, I'll be honest, but I want to do it in such a way that my days of misery are at a bare minimum.

Any input or suggestions would be appreciated. I got one suggestion on my TTC board that I should try to nurse more and pump less. Duh, you think? Clearly it's a stay-at-home mom that doesn't know how stressful it is to be a working breastfeeding mom!


Blogger Kerry said...

If you don't mind a stranger commenting...

I think you've done amazingly well to breastfeed and pump for eight months! You're a hero!

I remember the hell of pumping. I had a premature baby so I had to pump as he needed my milk but had to have it through an oral gastric tube. I remember trying to get him to breastfeed when he'd never really gotten the trick of it.

All in all, it was hell.

But it still broke my heart when I finally faced up the to fact that I was heading for a breakdown if I tried to continue any longer.

Marcus got just over four months of breastmilk and I'm sure it helped him, but stopping also didn't hurt him and it kept me sane.

It sounds to me like you have made the decision that it is time to wean but your heart isn't quite ready to accept it.

My humble suggestion would be to let yourself grieve for the loss of that special nursing time, but also remember that the best way to care for McKenna is to care for yourself as well.

And always, always, do what is right for you and McKenna (and your husband too, whose name I'm afraid I can't remember - hooray he's behind you in this). Other people can offer advice with the best of intentions (as I'm doing here), but the bottom line is that it is for you and your family to decide. No-one else.

Sending you lots of (gentle) hugs and thinking of you. It's a hard time.

9:27 PM  
Blogger Jill in CA said...

(((Erica))) You've done a great job of nursing to 8 months; I know a lot of non-SAHM's that didn't make it that long. I was really lucky that I made it to 14 months but my work was a lot different from yours and I could pump whenever in a spare room; I remember pumping in the car on a long trip and it was such a pain. I do remember the hell of boiling the pump parts and bottles every night and, while I'd do it again, I don't miss all the extra work!

I think if you stop pumping but still nurse in the morning and at night that it would be an easier transition for you. At the end with my DS I was only nursing first thing in the morning and occasionally at night until he finally stopped on his own. Even though I was really ready to be done by then it was still sad when he wasn't nursing anymore; I'm sure you'd feel that no matter how long you nursed. You're doing a great job with McKenna; I loved the new pictures you recently posted. :)

10:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you don't mind another stranger commenting....

you've done a good job no matter what any mother says - whether she is working or a SAHM. I'm sadden to think that you think a SAHM could breastfeed longer just because she isn't working out of the house.

But you need to remember, your daughter is growing older, she will eventually outgrow the bottle and will be drinking from a cup as she gets older. Yes, you'll feel sad for not having the nursing time with her, but think of the other special times that you can have with her too - cuddling while getting her ready for bed, reading her books, etc. Really, any time that you can spend with your daughter will give her an advantage that other children may not necessary have because they either don't have parents or the parents are too busy with their jobs to bother.

Consider it a blessing that you've been able to do it for this long and move on to the next stage in your daughter's life as she is unaware of the turmoil that she is causing you.

10:29 PM  
Blogger Erica said...

My saying that a SAHM could breastfeed longer wasn't a shot, but it's reality. A baby's stimulation is far superior to an appliance with plastic parts. I really do think that if I was with McKenna 24/7, I wouldn't be having the supply problems that I'm having, but such is life.

Thanks for the comments. :) I'm still deciding.

10:42 PM  
Blogger KariA1 said...

8 months is a lot more than most babies get. You should be proud for going this long. AS a working mom who pumped for a year, I know how hard it is. Besides, she will be off formula soon anyway. You should be able to keep a morning and bedtime nursing without pumping. After the first year, that is pretty much what M got with a nap nursing until she weaned herself at 20 months. Your body will adjust to just producing at those times.

Be proud!! It is hard work, but worth it in the end.

8:07 AM  
Blogger Gina said...

It sounds to me like McKenna is ready to be weaned. It's the end of an era, yes, but there are many more moments ahead for you and McKenna - other routines take the place of breastfeeding!

8:13 AM  
Blogger Joyus said...

You should not feel any guilt in stopping breast feeding and trust me, you'll continue to bond with your daughter in so many other ways.

I don't know if you plan another child in the future but I wanted to tell you that a friend of mine who was so determined to breast feed all her children got herself into a similar position to you and she has such an awful time that she now vows not to breast feed the next one at all.

Stop while you have good memories of all of this and know that you've given your daughter a wonderful start but both you and she are ready to move on to the next exciting stage.

8:19 AM  
Blogger Kelley said...

You've done great Erica and I'm sure McKenna is doing fabulous because of it. I second the no-pumping idea, just a bit of nursing to slow her down. My DD just gradually wanted less and less. My DS stopped cold turkey on his own and I was in agony for a week!

9:52 AM  
Anonymous Stacey said...

When I weaned Will, I cut out the pumping (I'm a SAHM but pumped alot because of being busy with the 3 kids, it was easier to give a bottle if we were out or whatever) first and nursed if I felt like I was going to explode or if he was going crazy and wanted to nurse (which he only did if he was overstimulated).

Good luck... I think you've done a great job!

10:07 AM  
Blogger Zoe said...

Erica... you've done such a great job breast feeding and pumping for so long. I don't know what to tell you about your decision, because only you can make that decision, but I do know (as someone that was unable to breast feed) that there are so many other bonding experiences. For us it's a position that Zoe likes to lie on me while she sucks on a binky. Sometimes she sleeps, sometimes she doesn't, but that is "our" time. My DH is jealous, cuz she'll only do it with me. You'll find things like that. I hope whatever you decide that you know it's the right decision.

10:29 AM  
Anonymous Melanie said...

Erica, also consider the fact that you don't have to wean all at once. By the time my son was 9 months, I was exhausted from 2-hourly feeds all day, every day (not at night, thank goodness), so I initiated a long and slow weaning process, dropping a feed at a time over weeks. The last two feeds to go were first thing in the morning and last thing at night - is there any reason why you can't just keep one or both of those? I felt so much more relaxed about feeding once it was not such a demand on me, and treasured those times, especially the bedtime feed/snuggle, which was very difficult to lose, finally at 14 months. Now I'm breastfeeding #2, and I will just play it by ear again - each mother/baby pair needs to do what is best for them.

3:22 AM  
Blogger Trinabelle said...

First...congratulations on nursing for this long! That, in and of itself, is an amazing accomplishment!

Here are some observations & such from my breastfeeding experiences (three kids).

You can nurse a bit before AND after a solid meal. Letting her nurse on one side before a meal can help to take the edge off her hunger, so that she's more calm and ready to really experience her meal. After the meal, let her nurse on the other side, if she's interested. If not, pump that side and then nurse off of it first later on. This can also help keep your supply stimulated.

Teething can really mess up the breastfeeding process. If McKenna has more teeth coming in, the nursing motion may be uncomfortable for her. Giving her a semi-frozen wet washcloth to gnaw on, or giving her a small dose of Tylenol 30-45 minutes beforehand may help to make her more comfortable. Topical pain relievers would only hinder the process.

Many, many babies, begin to self wean as they get more mobile. By the time mine were crawling, our nursing sessions had dropped. They just weren't as fond of being glued to mom when they knew they could be off exploring...LOL And their efficiency at nursing at that point made for very quick meals (easily 10-15 minutes by McKenna's age).

Self weaning doesn't have to be sudden or dramatic. It's completely normal to discover a gradual shift to "just" morning/noon/night sessions at this age, with an occassional "I just want my mommy." session thrown in.

By the time my oldest was a year old, he was down to nursing first thing in the morning and sometimes right before bed until, one morning, he made it very clear he wanted to go straight to his highchair for breakfast (and his new beloved sippy cup). When my hubby got home, he found me in tears, convinced that our son didn't need me Of course, nothing could have been further from the truth. He just didn't need me in the same way ;-)

Try not to analyze it all so closely and give yourself permission to go with the flow (no pun intended). You have nothing to feel guilty over, no matter your decision!


9:47 AM  
Blogger JD said...

Total stranger... just happened upon your blog while doing a search on BFL.

Anyway, my two cents (as if you really need it:) -

I am a stay at home mom and I just got done nursing my 7 month old baby about a month ago. I don't have anything to say about the pumping at work or the nursing issue - we all make our choices and need to do what is comfortable for us when we are comfortable with it. My choice may not be yours and vice versa - and thats good. Anyway, my comment is that I am with you on the supply and dieting thing. I really didn't care one way or the other about nursing - I didn't hate it and I didn't love it. However, I hated that I couldn't do anything to lose my pregnancy weight (which did NOT melt off with nursing like everyone said it would) and I hated that my milk production was so dependent on calories & water consumed and the amount of energy expended. I wanted a more free life in terms of eating what i wanted when i wanted - even if it was to not eat. I was soooo sick of trying to figure out if I was eating or drinking enough between nursing sessions in order to satisfy my baby. In addition, she was getting too interested in the world around her and wouldn't nurse well and it was taking too long to get a whole feeding done (she's #3 - I also have a 4 year old and a 2 year old... nursing for 45 minutes doesn't really work). So I'm with you on the dieting/exercising/losing weight thing. I felt incredibly selfish when I decided to quit, but for ME and MY FAMILY, a happy mom is a better mom - in our case a non-nursing mom was a happy mom was a better mom :)

Weaning - weaning was easy for me because I almost went in the other direction regarding eating. I felt like I HAD to eat so much every day to continue nursing that when I decided to wean I unintentionally also stopped eating (not entirely, but you know what I mean). I never got engorged because I don't think I was consuming enough to produce enough to get engorged. Perhaps not the best advice and it wasn't intentional on my part, but it certainly worked out well for me.

Good luck! Whatever your decision, it will be the right one for you and your daughter.

7:59 PM  

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