I love breastfeeding Bumby. I have written a lot about breastfeeding, although I haven’t published any of it, but it can be summed up as: breastfeeding totally sucks for a while — it hurts, and no one knows what they are doing, and I wanted to quit — but then it just got better and better and now I wouldn’t have it any other way. Blah blah bonding and not having to carry bottles around.
What I have really, really struggled with is pumping. Bumby is a big boy. Even when we were struggling with breastfeeding, he was having lots of dirty diapers and gaining well. So, obviously, milk was being consumed. When he was a couple weeks old, I started trying to pump. I would get an ounce, maybe an ounce and a half on a good day. The most I ever got was two. And this was pumping first thing in the morning, fully engorged, from both breasts, before feeding Bumby. I tried everything to get more milk. I tried with him in the room and out of the room. I tried different size flanges and breast compressions. I tried pumping one side while nursing him on the other side. It was always just a slow drip. Drip. Drip. Until nothing more came out. One day I collected more by catching what leaked out of my other breast while I was nursing than I could collect pumping.
All this was tied up in leaving Bumny alone to go back to work. I have been obsessing over returning to work since I found out I was pregnant. I want to work. And I want to be home with Bumby. I hate that they are mutually exclusive. Nonetheless, a deadline loomed. If I return to work, I need to learn to pump and get Bumby to take a bottle before I go. He’s already more than 3 months, so introducing the bottle might not be so easy. Also, I love nursing. I’m not eager to drop a breastfeeding session in favor of a pump and bottle.
I was diligent with the pumping for a month or so. An ounce a day, for 30 days. In a month, I had pumped enough to feed Bumby for a day and a half. Toward the end of the month, pumping and feeding started to get a little uncomfortable. Then really, really uncomfortable. A post on the la leche league board and a visit to my OB confirmed I had thrush (a yeast infection in my nipples). It was definitely as unpleasant as it sounds. Itching and burning – the athletes foot of the boob. The worst part was that freezing the milk doesn’t kill yeast, so I had to throw out about 2 weeks worth of milk, and I would have to dump all milk I pumped until the thrush was gone. Otherwise, if Bumby drank the yeasty milk and then nursed, he could reinfect me with the thrush.
That was too much. I stopped pumping when Bumby was about 7 weeks old. I tried a couple of times since then, but never got even an ounce of milk.
All this time, the work pressure has been mounting. Am I going back or not?!?! Am I returning to the same job, or finding a new one? What will we do for childcare? In the back of my mind, I thought that if I went back, we were going to have to start Bumby on formula supplements and I would have to wean him from nursing during the workday, which totally broke my heart. We struggled so much at the beginning, and it’s just become really enjoyable. Also, I nurse him for all kinds of non-food reasons. I nurse him to sleep, I nurse him when he’s fussy in the restaurant, I nurse him when his tummy aches because he hasn’t popped in 3 days. I nurse him when he needs some snuggles, and I’m nursing him through his first cold. I don’t want to give it up. If going back to work means weaning, I don’t want to do it.
Yesterday, my wife and I finally came up with a work-plan. If it will fly with my boss and my law firm, it will give me the best of both worlds — keeping me working in the law without having to hire a nanny for 70 hours a week. I’m going to go in to the office to discuss it in about a month, and if they don’t agree, my wife and I have talked about a few backup plans that we could live with.
Going in to my office means an hour commute in, an hour or two at work, and an hour home – at least 3-4 hours away from Bumby. The longest he goes during the day without nursing is about 2 1/2 hours, so my wife will need to give him a bottle. Regardless of whether I actually go back to work, he needs to be bottle-ready in a month. That means we need to figure this out in the next couple of weeks.
For the first time since I started my leave, I feel like I’ll be pitching a work situation that I’ll be happy with, and I really, really want it to work. And even if they ultimately say no, he needs to be able to have a bottle in order for me to even give them my pitch. (Plus, a bottle means the potential return of date night, a not-unwelcome thought.) So I sat down to pump. I was prepared for nothing, or a half ounce.
I got this.
Almost 3 ounces! Easily. I probably could have gotten a little more, but Bumby was fussing to eat, so I stopped after only 10 minutes.
So, maybe it was taking a break from pumping. Maybe it was giving up and not caring how much I got. Maybe it was actually wanting to get milk so I could go back to work, rather than secretly holding it in the back of my mind as an excuse to stay home. I don’t know why it worked today and never before. I do think it was mental, though. The only change between today and the last time I pumped was that I really wanted to be able to give Bumby a bottle of breastmilk.