how we survived: introducing formula and weaning
You know, I was prepared for the sleepless nights. And the puke. And the poopy diapers. But, FUCK! Breast feeding! That shit is hard. Before I got pregnant, I was under the impression that you popped the baby onto your boob, she nursed, she finished when she was full, and it was all just a glorious bonding experience. Even in the breast feeding class I took before Avvie was born, they still were all, "Newborns will just KNOW to latch as soon as they're born." Just ... no.
Like nearly every other mother out there, that was not my experience. And I am one of the lucky ones: I was able to move from exclusively pumping to breastfeeding. Was I happy when she finally latched? Yes, after she finally got her groove on and was able to actually get a full feeding's worth. Before then it was pretty stressful. So, even the big milestones are fraught with breast feeding. Unless you're very lucky, it almost never stops being a source of anxiety.
Before she was born, I was committed to breast milk-only for one year. Never will formula pass her lips! Only my milk for my baby! Here's a pro tip: don't commit to anything before you have the kid. And look, I have a lot of friends that are able to do this and I am in equal parts awe and envy.
Unfortunately, for us, we're not gonna make it that far.
How do I feel about that? Mostly pretty crappy. It's a lot of: "Well, if I were still pumping 7x a day, I could make it work." Or: "I'm not committed enough to my baby," and "Other moms will judge me." But what it really boils down to is: "I feel like a bad mom."
I feel like a bad mom because I could probably make enough milk if I really, really tried. I feel like a bad mom because I don't want to wake up in the middle of the night to pump for her. I feel like a bad mom because I'm not following through with something I pledged to do.
So, yeah, I'm still working through it. On the upside, I did make it six months exclusively pumping/breast feeding, and I feel great about that. And I feel a little better about introducing formula because she's eating solids now, so I know she's getting supplemental nutrition from that.
What basically happened is this: when Avvie was able to finally latch, I nursed her when she was hungry and eventually cut out all other pumping sessions (except one before bed). Because I had been pumping about six times a day and then went down to four, I got pretty bad clogged ducts, my supply tanked and never really recovered. She also wasn't sucking strong enough to get a full feeding, so that didn't help either. She fell off her weight curve and our pediatrician recommended supplementing with breast milk/formula after she nursed to make sure she was really full.
I was faced with two options: either pump between nursing sessions to try and make enough ounces for her, or, introduce formula. And while I really wanted to make it to a year, nursing and pumping meant that I essentially only had an hour in between feeding times all day, every day. And while that's doable with a newborn when you don't need to leave the house, it's not exactly feasible with a six month old and articles to be written.
So, at six months and one day, Avvie had her first formula bottle, which was imported from Germany because I am that mom. She hated it, even when it was mixed with breast milk, so for about the first month after, she was hardly getting any and I was dipping into my frozen milk stash to supplement. Eventually we switched to Holle, which she seems to like even better than breast milk and has no trouble sucking down 7 ounces at one time.
About a week and a half ago, she started turning her head away from the boob when I tried to nurse her in the morning. So far, she is still on this nursing strike (at this point, I guess it's weaning) and since I'm not pumping anymore to keep up supply, I'm not sure how much milk is even left in there. My plan had been to nurse in the morning and sometimes at night until a year, but it's not looking likely.
The morning nursing session is what I'll miss the most. That was really the only time when I knew she was definitely full because she'd pop off herself (all other times we ended up having to give her an additional 2-3 ounces of breast milk after). And I didn't know it would be the last time when it was the last time.
I'm sure that's going to be the case with a lot of baby milestones. The last diaper. The last bottle. You don't know it's over until it is. So, I'm gonna buck up and be OK because lawd knows this is only the beginning.
Plus, there are definite positives. Drinking booze when I feel like it. No more pumping in an Amtrak bathroom. No more rock-hard boobs when I wake up every morning. I can switch back to my regular birth control! And most important: I can sleep on my stomach again, which I haven't been able to do in over a year.
That last one might be worth popping champagne.