She just fell asleep in the middle of drinking a bottle.
She’s had a lifetime of practice on the bottle because she’s never been interested in the factory direct product.
This bottle was half from me, and half from the formula I bought today. Today, she had her first taste of formula since that first week of trying to figure out how to get food in her system at all.
We figured it out, thanks to Svea’s doctor and Nate’s sister and so many mom friends: if I wanted Svea to get milk from me, it would have to be through pumping.
That figuring has meant that I’ve been exclusively pumping for almost eleven months. “Exclusive pumping” is a phrase that I find amusing, because it sounds so upmarket when what it meant to me, for the first little while, was failure. But exclusive we were, and have remained, until now.
I started out pumping 8x/day, once every three hours. That schedule broke me down. I remember sobbing to Nathan that I couldn’t think more than twenty minutes ahead because my future was an interminable stretch of three hour blocks and I couldn’t stand it. It worked, however, and I dropped a pump and found seven times a day to be incrementally more liveable. Then down to six, and so on, so that I’ve been pumping just 4x/day for a few months now. Those early months brought far more milk than she could drink, so storage became my insurance against the day when I could stop pumping.
Pumping less frequently has reduced supply, and my stash of frozen milk is nearly spent. One freezer bag full of stored breast milk bags remains. Starting today, we’ll be supplementing with formula as I phase out pumping leading up to her birthday.
My goal was to make it to six months.
Sometimes my goal was to make it to morning. Or through just the next twenty minutes. I wanted to quit frequently, but my cheapskate side won out and I just couldn’t get around the appeal of free food.
Exclusive pumping was a choice of necessity. In it I have grieved the loss of my plan to breastfeed. I’ve worried about future kids and what feeding them might look like. I’ve cried and complained and resented it. I’ve been uncomfortable and in pain.
I’ve also praised God when, at 2 am, my husband groggily makes her a bottle as I go back to sleep. Or when Svea cut two top and bottom teeth at the same time and found a new hobby (biting things). I’ve appreciated the enforced rhythm in my day to stop working or have a half hour to myself. Most of all, I’ve been so thankful for the technology and the ability to still contribute to feeding my baby in this way.
I will not miss pumping, except for the sense of purpose it gave me. When I was confident I was doing a terrible job as a mother and a wife, I could look to the milk in the fridge as tangible evidence of good that I had done. That was often a sort of anchor in a stormy sea of unregulated hormonal emotions.
Pumping gave me hours of time by myself, late at night, reading the Word. Pumping broke me down emotionally and forced me to rely on the Lord. Pumping inconvenienced me and dictated a rigid schedule. Pumping challenged me and pumping fed my baby.
I will rejoice with my whole heart when I pack up the pump for good. But I rejoice now to see God’s goodness to us in the exclusive privilege of pumping.