I’m sitting here in the change room of the spa/fitness area at a hotel where I’m attending a PQI (Physician Quality Improvement) workshop pumping milk. Yes, on top of doing a full time addiction fellowship training, parenting three young boys, managing our household and trying to find time for exercise (and fitting my beloved Nerium partnership into the cracks) I’m still pumping milk.
Would my life be easier if I just stopped pumping during the day, switched the little dude over to formula (he’s almost 10 months)? Yes. But for some reason I just can’t bring myself to do it. How long I keep this up I’m not sure, but for now I’m not ready to stop. Despite the fact that it’s hugely inconvenient. Lugging my Medela PISA (pump in style advance for all you not on top of the breastfeeding lingo), the cooler bag with the bottles of milk, and the freezer pack to keep them cool around with me as I trek from one location to another throughout the day means I’m usually carrying two if not three bags around. I’ve recently started taking my single pump on days when I bike to work, but it takes twice as long to pump so definitely a trade off.
It’s funny, because as a family doctor who does maternity, I tell people all the time that fed is best. Breast milk. Formula. Whatever it is you can provide your baby is what is best. I tell them any breast milk you can give your baby is amazing, because it is! That if you need to feed your baby formula to give yourself the time to rest, time to sleep, time to yourself than you should do it. That your baby will be happier when you are happier. That your baby will be healthier when you are healthier. So why can’t I follow my own advice?
I don’t have just one answer for your. I think mostly, I have unreasonably high expectations of myself, especially when it comes to breastfeeding. When I had my first, I had a ton of problems at the beginning. He had a tongue tie and terrible latch, took us days to get feeding established and weeks/months before it wasn’t anxiety inducing. And then I went and got pregnant (whoops!) with Johann when Henry was just four months old. I managed to go on and exclusively breastfeed Henry until he was seven or so months but by that point I was almost 12 weeks pregnant and so exhausted that I eventually (and somewhat reluctantly) introduced formula.
Reluctant because I thought I should be able to do it all, breastfeed my still new baby while growing another baby; reluctant because I was worried about what other people would think of me; worried that people would judge me for feeding my baby formula; reluctant because I was worried that introducing formula and weaning him off the breast would impact the bonding. Looking back I can say I was wrong. Without a doubt. I couldn’t do it all, and once I finally introduced formula it was liberating. I could leave the house and not worry about where I could pump and not worry if I had enough frozen milk in the fridge. Hagen could put him to sleep because he would just as happily take a bottle of formula as he would the breast. And did it impact our bond? Absolutely not. We still had lots of snuggles and I was, and am still, his home base, his source of absolute comfort and security. Switching to formula would never interfere with that bond.
Because I was able to take a 10 month maternity leave with Johann and wasn’t pregnant by four months post-partum I was fortunate to exclusively breast-feed him until 10 months or so and then we started him on homogenized milk. So now there’s Wil. Sweet, adorable Wil. I love nursing him and that bond that it creates. And I know how amazing breast milk is for him. But I’ve started back at work earlier for a multitude of reasons I’ll get into another time. And it’s wearing on me, working full time, studying, mommy-ing, pumping. But I can’t let it go. Even though I don’t like pumping (I don’t really think anyone likes pumping) I like providing my babe with all the breastmilk I can. I have started adding in some formula, and our nanny mixes the breast milk with formula during the day. So that relieves some of the pressure. And he takes it JUST FINE. Besides he’s 10 months and a very healthy eater. Despite all of this, and the fact that the exhuasted me wants to stop, the ever sacrificing mom in me just can’t let it go.
My mind is ready to leave the pump behind, but my heart just can’t quite stop yet. Anyone else out there feel me?