Frustration

The breastfeeding struggle continues. Maybe I should say the breast pumping struggle continues. Or the breast milk supply struggle continues. Geez…I have no idea what’s going on.

I’ve been at this for almost 5 months now, and it’s not getting easier. I feel like I am failing at something over which I have no control. Which I NEED to have control over…It matters, and I’m doing everything I can, and it makes no difference.

I’ve been pumping breast milk since Cleo was just a few days old. First, I started with a manual pump, and that exhausted me. It was handy in the sense that I could extract enough milk for my partner to take on a feeding here or there (usually in the morning when I wanted to sleep in), but I never was really able to build up the glorious freezer supply that I’ve heard some women talk about. As I got closer to my back to work date at 6 weeks, I was acutely aware of the need to buy a better breast pump.

I did a lot of research, and eventually decided on the Medela Pump in Style, because of its quality and effectiveness. The concept of the project triangle is true: you may want something to work quickly and well, but it will come at a cost. This is true for the Medela Pump in Style. I am always on the hunt for the best prices on items, but I found that for this product, the prices from any legit-seeming vendor remained relatively constant, around 300 bucks when all was said and done.

Fine with me. I was already apprehensive about having to pump multiple times throughout the workday, and wanted the whole ordeal to go over as smoothly as possible. Now I am a pro at setting up the contraption pretty quickly, and it takes me about a half hour to do both sides (it is a double pump, but I prefer to do one side at a time because it is more comfortable, and gives me a free hand). Having a quality machine is essential to my peace of mind, especially when my supply issues are driving me crazy.

The first week back to work was rough. Part of me was glad to be back at work, while another part of me was screaming, “What am I doing here?” Getting in to the groove of pumping every few hours was tough. My body was not used to going so long between feedings, and within 2 days I had a clogged duct and a 102° fever. It came on very suddenly. At first I thought it was the flu, and then realized I had been given a flu shot. As the night wore on I got weaker and weaker as the fever worked me. I knew I had to nurse but could barely lift the Bunn, who was just about 10 lbs at the time. It took a full day of hot compresses and painful nursing but the fever broke sometime the next night. I learned an important lesson then and there: never feel guilty about pumping when you need to. I shouldn’t have been so self conscious about it in the first place, but sometimes it is hard not to worry when you are on a different schedule than everyone else on the job. Thankfully my body has acclimated to the pumping routine now, and I haven’t experienced any more duct problems.

So, on to the big ugly monster of a problem that fills me with guilt and failure and yes, frustration. I can never pump as much as she needs. When I was pumping 2 oz she was drinking 3. For a while I would have to leave the office during the workday to bring her next bottle to her. Now that I can pump 3 to 5 oz., she is drinking 5+. Sometimes by the last feeding of the night, she is screaming at my breast, begging them to nourish her. And nothing has worked. We’re pretty much doing half formula and half breast milk and I feel so guilty. Like I am unable to provide for her. I’ve had plenty of women tell me my milk would come in again around three months but it never did. In fact, it feels like it’s only getting worse.

I feed her in the middle of the night, and in the morning before work. I pump midmorning at work, and go home at lunch to nurse. I pump again in the afternoon, and feed when I get home from work. Then there is a final feeding right before bed. I’ve tried pumping late at night but usually only get an ounce or so, making it unworth staying up for. Sometimes I pump in the mornings after feeding her, just to have a bit extra to supplement. After doing all this, it feels like a slap in the face every time I have to give her formula, which I have had to do often lately. Now I am just trying to let go of the guilt, and accept that I just have to do what is best for her and continue to have formula on hand (and thank god it exists, who knows how I would have gotten through some nights without).

I find myself apologizing to her and holding back tears because  I feel  like I am  just failing over and over. I fear that she and I will be less bonded and she could become sick more easily (but as I write that, I know that these are simply fears, and not necessarily true). It just seems unfair that although I am doing everything that I can, I am still unable to give her the best. Not only do I leave her in the care of others for 36 hours a week, but she is left without breast milk too. I want to be the one that she trusts and counts on, but I feel like I am failing. I am so jealous of other mothers who are able to stay at home with their babies. I am jealous of my friends who have been breastfeeding their babies for over a year. I’ve prayed for my milk to come in, for an ample supply to nourish my child, and yet I am still doing this juggling act. This is where I am today, and this is where I’ve been for over two months.

I’m thankful for being able to breastfeed at all, and for getting this far; for my lunchtimes with her, and for her caretakers. I am grateful for her beautiful little face, and her cheeks, and sweet baby smile. Oh, I am just thankful for everything. Everything about her. But this is my very real frustration. I’m trying to let go, but it’s hard when letting go means being ok with giving your baby second best. It should be impossible.

Anyway, this is the last of my breastfeeding posts for now. I may update if there is any change in the situation. She’ll be starting solids soon, so that will be a fun new variable.

If you are have breastfeeding questions or problems, you can go to kellymom.com or contact La Leche League

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