Sunday, October 10, 2010

Breastfeeding Burnout

I love breastfeeding. I really do. I thought it was something I would just put up with a few months before switching to formula, but I've actually enjoyed it. I have a Breastfeeding Diaries blog I've been keeping over at Bravado Designs, and I've been lucky enough to have been able to exclusively breastfeed my daughter for more than three months now. But now this duty is becoming my demon.

Before having Little J I set a personal goal to breastfeed her for three months, during my maternity leave. That didn't mean I'd exclusively breastfeed her, or that I wouldn't supplement at times, but it ended up being to where I didn't need to supplement. In fact, I build up a stash of more than 200 frozen ounces of breast milk to use once I returned to work.

But the stash I speak of is one that is to be used for emergencies, and only taken from when it's about to expire and it's replaced with, fresh pumped milk for the day. This stash is now beginning to drive me crazy.

My first week back at work I was able to find time to take a pump break, usually two, during the day. I would pump about seven ounces a session, then nurse my daughter during my lunch breaks. That got old fast. I felt like I was lactating more than I was working. That's saying something, considering I sometimes work 55 hours a week.

I like feeling like I'm doing something for my daughter when I'm away from her, but it can be a difficult battle. Set up to take down takes me about 25 minutes. I felt guilty taking an extra 50 minutes out of my schedule to pump. Sometimes I'd try to take my laptop with me so I could keep working but that felt awkward.

So I cut back a little and pumped once at work, and fed her during my break. But then my supply started to dip. So I brought my pump home on the weekends and would pump after Lil' J went to sleep to try to get it back up to where it was.

Now, I pump six ounces during my shift, feed her during my lunch break, and then pump once more before I go home, and if I'm lucky, I get another five ounces. So I'm bringing home 11 ounces of expressed milk a day, plus feeding her during my break, and get this... She STILL wants more!

She can eat about 13 ounces of pumped milk while I'm away. Which on my 12 hour days is understandable, but on my 9 hour shifts, I'm a little confused. Regardless, imagining myself doing this routine for the next nine months is awfully daunting.

I've been counting down to the day that I can start giving her cereal and baby food/purees, whatever the crap you want to call it, but people tell me babies still drink as much milk when they start solids, and that food isn't a supplement for breastmilk or formula. Now this kinda ticks me off because I was count on this--Just gotta make it to six months--I kept telling myself. But who knew that star I've been shooting for may still be out of reach.

My friend Emily, over at Baby Dickey is hosting a series of blog parties Monday nights and I plan on asking the "baby expert" about babies and food.

Now I know there's no need to panic because of my huge milk stash, but we're slowly chipping away at it. Based on my prediction 200 ounces, using 2 a day, it should be gone in about 100 days, or 3 months give or take a week or two. Oh, and that's if she doesn't start drinking more.

When coming to this realization I've had a mix of helpful reactions in response. Some say "yea, I wasn't pumping enough so we supplemented some, no big deal." And there were others who recommend all sorts of teas, herbs and remedies to help with my "Milk Misfortune." And to be honest, I don't want remedies.

I want to just enjoy breastfeeding my daughter when I'm with her. I don't want to have to stress about pumping enough every day, then yell at my husband for pulling from the freezer stash when I didn't pump enough. I don't want to feel like I'm being a slacker at work because I need to pump every 2-3 hours. Then feel like a slacker at home when it's still not enough.

From my understanding some women are able to breastfeed at home when they're with their baby even if they're not pumping when they're away. I don't want to feel guilty if I run out and need to supplement. I don't want to drive myself crazy trying medications, acupuncture, and voodoo tricks to increase my supply. I already eat a ton of oatmeal every morning for breakfast because someone told me it helps. But I also worry part of me will feel guilty for not giving everything else a try before giving her her first bottle of formula.

I want to find some kind of balance between keeping the bliss of breastfeeding, but loosing the fear of failing.

Maybe the realization of needing to supplement will be easier to cope with once she's started to eat cereal and other things that don't come from me. At six months we'll be starting her on solids and if I'm still unable (or unwilling) to keep up with her needs while I'm away, maybe the sting won't hurt as bad since she'll already be getting other sources of food.

I don't know if I'm just sensitive because it's my first child, and maybe I'll be more laid back next time or what. But I've never felt like my worth was hanging over a single responsibility as much as I do now.

I just hope I can find a way to loose the stress and bring back love as the main emotion in breastfeeding.