Brandt enjoyed his last bottle of mama’s milk last Friday.
(Gentlemen readers, I’ll keep the rest of this post PG, but if you don’t want more details about pumping, don’t read further.)
My supply had been diminishing for a while, and on Friday it reached such a low point that the milk would spoil before I collected enough for one small bottle. So Brandt’s exclusively formula-fed now, and I can finally say goodbye to the pump.
When I dreamed of having a baby, I dreamed of the nursing relationship. So many women describe that bond with rosy tenderness. My desire for that experience drove, in part, my pursuit of infertility treatments. When Brandt was born early and I learned that many preemies struggle to nurse, I was initially determined to beat the odds.
But looking back, those odds were stacked quite high against us. I was fortunate to be able to establish my supply through pumping; many women can’t in such unnatural circumstances. But between Brandt’s teeny preemie mouth that easily tired of sucking, his special feeding needs due to small size and low blood sugars, and the impossibility of me being at the hospital for every feeding, he really had to do most feedings by bottle. When Brandt came home, I tried nursing him for every other feeding, but he just didn’t have the stamina, and we both were miserable doing it. Dread had replaced the dream.
So we quit nursing and I resumed exclusive pumping.
Bottle-feeding my baby expressed breastmilk put me in a no-man’s land of sorts. It astonished me how many strangers (especially store cashiers, for some reason) would ask, “Do you nurse?” At first, I gave long-winded explanations, but then I realized people actually just wanted to know if the baby drank breastmilk, so I simplified and answered yes. When people would say, “Oh, it’s so good that he’s getting breastmilk,” I appreciated the encouragement but also silently reserved my right to stop pumping at any time.
Pumping is hard, time-consuming work. There’s no rosy maternal bliss when you’re hooked up to a machine. Pumping and offering comfort to my baby were often in direct conflict. I wanted Brandt to have the benefits of breastmilk, so I persevered with pumping. But we constantly reevaluated that decision to make sure it was best for our family as a whole.
And that’s what I would say to any woman facing decisions about breastfeeding, pumping, or formula feeding. Do what’s best not just for the baby, but for every member of the family.
In the end, I’m glad I pumped, but I’m glad to be done. It would have been my first choice to nurse, and it was tempting to feel cheated of that experience, but I learned to be content in one more God-given circumstance.
(Now, though I’m not entirely satisfied with this post despite working on it for a week, I’m just going to hit publish and go feed a bottle of formula to the baby who just woke up from his nap!)