working mama: supply & demand
I have been fortunate enough to have breastfed Logan since Day 1. The first few days in the hospital were a bit of a struggle, and involved lots of tears from both Logan and myself, but we both quickly learned how to do what nature intended.
Knowing that I would be going back to work one day, I tried to pump in between feedings when we first arrived home. But when your baby eats every hour and sleeps very little, this proved to be an impossible task. It caused stress and frustration, so I quickly gave up. He continued to nurse, and I continue to provide just enough milk to satisfy him.
When I returned to working 2 nights a week, I began pumping a few times throughout my night shift. It worked. Whatever he ate at home, I replaced in the morning. Never a drop more. But it was enough to keep my breastfeeding goal alive.
As 2 nights a week turned into 4, things began to get a little more difficult. And by a little more difficult, I mean impossible. I spent hours at work pumping (not an easy task as a nurse), and I cried each and every time I expressed only 2-3 ounces. We were only 5 months into my goal of breastfeeding for a year, and I saw it slowly coming to an end. My job was ruining everything.
Nevertheless, when I returned home each morning, I would learn that Logan had eaten exactly the amount I brought home. No formula. No supplements. But I still felt defeated.
I watched another girl at work pump 10+ ounces in one sitting each night at work. I read stories of milk pouring from others, and hefty backup filling the freezers of other moms. We were breastfeeding but barely holding on. Each and every day felt like a failure.
This continued until last weekend when we traveled to NC. I didn't bring any of our supply with us, so when it became time to feed Logan his usual morning cereal I needed to pump. Except that Logan was already starving, and I had an audience filling the room. Nick had snuck a small can of formula we received as a sample in the mail into our luggage (still swearing he had never given Logan even an ounce of formula during all of those frustrating months). I made an impulsive decision to make a bowl of cereal with formula, and pump after. Logan gobbled it down just like any other bowl. And it didn't kill him. He didn't even seem to notice. Even his poop stayed the same.
I continued this routine throughout the weekend... nursing in the morning and at night, making his cereal with formula, and pumping in between. As I began to accept my decision I also watched our supply grow bigger and bigger in the inlaws' freezer. Success!
Nick and I decided to continue this routine at home, and it has been one of the best decisions I've ever made. A huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. Ironically I feel like less of a failure this way, although Logan is no longer an exclusively breastfed baby. There's something to say for a stress-free, happy Mama. I continue to pump 2-3 times each night at work, but when I only return home with 5-8 ounces I never blink an eye. Surprisingly Logan has continued to eat only the amount I pump each night, without ever wanting more, but it is such a relief to finally have a backup supply for emergencies.
Breastfeeding is not easy. Breastfeeding as a full-time working Mama is even harder. I'm proud that we are still breastfeeding 6 months in, I feel confident that we can make it until 1 year, and I'm grateful that we have finally found a routine that works for us. Babies are stressful enough!