For the last month, I’ve been waging a battle against my breasts.
My first son and I had an effortless breastfeeding relationship. Though the first few weeks were tough, we quickly found our footing. Working from home, I nursed him on demand, and relied mostly on the prodigious oversupply in the freezer to supply the odd bottle.
My second son has been a different story. We had a breezy start, followed by four months of blissful maternity leave. Then I went back to work….in an office. I was completely overwhelmed at the prospect of all that pumping. But with some good advice and a whole lot of sympathy from our local moms list-serve I set the goal of making it to six months (I’m a big fan of interim goals).
At six months everything was going well. My workplace is supportive, I’d found the privacy I needed, and I was pumping more than my baby needed (I even donated 30 ounces to a local mom).
And then, at about 9 months, the bottles stopped being so full. Whereas at one point I could get 10 ounces in one sitting, now I was struggling to get three, and work was getting busier and more stressful. As I plowed through my freezer supply, I feared my pumping days were over. Though I’m the kind of person who likes to control everything, I was powerless over my boobs.
Which shouldn’t have been a big deal. I made it to nine months, pumping through a 5-day business trip and a weeklong music festival. I should have been proud! But instead, I felt like the smart kid who gets a 98 on a test. I mean, it’s a great score, yes. But to come so close to perfect and then miss it? Better to get a B.
My husband was awesome—ferrying the baby to and from my office to nurse when our pumped milk supply dwindled, but the day finally came that we had to offer him the formula. The punchline? He wouldn’t take it. He preferred to stretch whatever small amount of milk I left for him, load up on Cheerios, and then catch up by nursing in the middle of the night (they call it “reverse cycling”).
So I redoubled my efforts. I rented a hospital grade pump, drank 80 ounces of water a day, put myself on a thankless pumping regimen, guzzled Mother’s Milk Tea, loaded up on oatmeal and Gatorade (both galactagogues), ate a sinful amount of lactation cookies (hey, not all sacrifices have to suck), set up a great incentive for myself (make it to 12 months and I get an iPhone!) and gave it one last push.
I’m happy to say, so far so good. My supply is trending steadily upward, and I think there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Happily, I no longer think of my breasts as the enemy. More like worthy competitors. Well played, ladies, well played.