Sunday, April 27, 2014

Feeding the Machine

I've been debating about whether or not to chronicle this part of my experience for two reasons.  One, It's rather personal, and two I am NOT seeking advice on the matter.  But in an effort to share what NICU moms experience I have decided to overshare.  If this is too much information for you, feel free to stop reading now.

A few hours after Joshua was born, I was wheeled into a recovery room.  The nurse brought in a breast pump, gave me a two second tutorial, and told me to pump 8-10 times a day.  And so it began.  To date I have pumped over 400 times.

My milk came in after two days.  This was a miracle because I had three things working against me.
  • Delivering at 29 weeks
  • C-Section
  • Magnesium Sulfate (a very uncomfortable, but important treatment)
I plodded along getting moderate amounts of milk for the first week or so.  I did everything recommended to me by the hospital to promote milk production.  This included:
  • Pumping every two to three hours
  • Pumping at the bedside
  • Looking at pictures of Joshua while I pumped
  • Drinking a lot of water
  • Eating extra calories (happily)
  • Taking fenugreek 
  • Using hot packs
  • Power pumping (pumping off and on every ten minutes for an hour)
  • Double pumping (a strategy to preserve breast milk, but still get rest)
Can you see why I am not looking for advice?

I have been faithfully feeding the breast pump for nearly nine weeks.  I've had a few things working against me.
  • You don't get the same hormonal connection feeding a machine as you do a baby.  Thus, I am not stimulated to make milk in the same way as a non-NICU mom.
  • The NICU is a stressful experience.  The hormone released by stress inhibits breast milk production.
  • I had a blood clot and about a million different prescriptions.  (I quadruple checked to make sure they were safe to take.)
And so I have watched my milk supply dwindle.  A month ago, I was distraught about it..  I've felt helpless throughout this whole experience.  Pumping was the one thing that I could do for my precious little boy.  It's been exhausting, time consuming and frustrating.  It's also been unproductive.  The doctors and nurses all praised me for my efforts and expressed their surprise that I even had milk. 

A few days ago, I decided it was time to be done.  After discussing it with the occupational therapist, I've cut the number of times a day that I pump in half.  I will decrease from there.  I feel so relieved.

I want to be clear that I don't consider this giving up.  I want to focus my mothering energy in more useful ways.  This is a choice that has not been easy to make. 

Hopefully, none of my readers out there are feeling the need to be judgmental.  I've discovered that women can be downright cruel to each other about the breast/bottle/formula feeding debate.  Does it need to be a debate?  One women online said that women who formula feed are selfish and ignorant.  Shouldn't we all agree that mothers are capable of making the right choices for their children?

I'm fairly certain that what I get back in emotional stability is going to be more helpful to my little man than two ounces of breast milk a day.    


Teneill and Corban said...

Love you Michelle! Breastfeeding is hard enough, I can't imagine doing it with all your added stress factors. You are amazing and Joshua is so lucky to have you!!!

Jen said...

though our situations differ, I must tell you I completely relate to the sense of relief you mentioned. You have done great things for your little boy, and he is so lucky to have you as a mom, no matter where his food is coming from.

Laura said...
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Sara Newton said...

I completely adore you for making a tough decision! I have breast fed both my girls for several months each. With Grace I "gave up" after I broke my hip for obvious reasons. But I honestly didn't love it. I loved that it was free, but that's mostly it. I lasted 8 or so months with Tays and decided it was time. I actually don't produce much milk anyway. We all have different bodies and situations. The thing I love is that you gave it an honest effort. This will help you focus effort on that sweet babe and emotionally it's a wonderful thing to not be tied to a machine all day!

Amy said...

Michelle you are truly an inspiration and a blessing to your family.
Love you!!!

emma call said...

To a dear daughter and amazing mom! You really worked at breastfeeding--this I know. Your blog expressed it all so well. Your little family will grow sweet and strong together, and Jerry will enjoy a little extra daddy time. Love you!

Laura said...

I completely support your decision (not that that means anything, ha ha). I really liked this study:

I completely agree that mothers are capable of making good decisions for their children, and you're a super smart mother. Plus, this way Jerry gets to be in on the feeding fun! Tim has such a strong bond with Amelia because he gave her several bottles a day for the first few months of her life. He of course loves Lily, but has mentioned several times that he wishes he were more involved with her care from a younger age.

You're doing an amazing job, and if I ever meet that mean (and wrong) online lady, I'm going to punch her in the throat!

Katja said...

You are my hero. I feel like breastfeeding/pumping would have been the last thing on my mind with all you are and have been going through. I am amazed that you have been pumping for so long. Joshua is such a cute little guy and I am so happy for you that he is growing doing well.

Lora said...

I have had several friends struggle with the formula issue/debate and it saddens me. We should be supporting, not tearing down! I am happy you made a decision and feel at peace and I think moms do know what's best for their babies and their loves. I loved this post :)

Hannah said...

Pumping and breastfeeding are so hard. I can so relate to everything you said about pumping. You are amazing to have done as much as you have already. I applaud you on your decision as tough as it was. I am so sorry about your bad experience, it really upsets me when women get so judgmental over these things. I think the comments on your blog are evidence that you have a lot of good support around you.

Joe and Joanne said...

I know the feeling of waffling whether or not to post something that may be controversial, but the fact of the matter is: This is YOUR blog, you should feel free to post whatever you want.

As to your decision: Whatever you decide is right for you and your family -- IS RIGHT, and nobody else's opinion matters.

You amaze me (truly, talk about an example of strength in trial!); you're doing awesome and Joshua is one lucky little man!