Thursday, February 3, 2011

Whoever said, “Don’t cry over spilled milk..”

I realize this phrase is more about not worrying about small unfortunate events that cannot be changed than actually crying over spilled milk; but for me, since my introduction to motherhood back in July 2010, I have spent more tears over lactation than anything else!
It started when my first child was born. I cried for a week following my cesarean because my milk was taking FOREVER to come in. I was (AM) so passionate about breastfeeding, that my biggest fear was that I wouldn’t be able to do it! There was a lot going on at this time- recovering from major abdominal surgery, dealing with in-laws being at the house 24/7- dealing with anxiety and just being overwhelmed having a newborn in the house outside of the comfort of the hospital.. and to top it off, we had to formula supplement because our baby was slightly jaundice and had lost a few ounces since birth.. and my milk was slow to arrive. Oh, and add post-pregnancy hormones and major pain medication to the mix and I was E-M-O-T-I-O-N-A-L! Of course my milk finally came in BIG TIME! I have 3 freezers full of milk stash to prove it.
A few weeks later, I accidently left the doors to the refrigerator open all night. Sounds ridiculous, I know. And my fridge is actually equipped with a ‘door alarm’ to prevent this from happening, but in order for that alarm to work, you have to turn it on. Anyways, because the doors were left open for about 8 hours, all the contents in the refrigerator warmed, including about 25oz of breastmilk I was saving to stash. This was very early on in my nursing days; I was learning to pump in preparation of returning to work, and thought I needed to have a healthy freezer supply of breastmilk.  I know now that’s not the case. But at the time I was devastated to have to pour 25oz of breastmilk down the drain. What a waste.
I can be pretty clumsy. Especially when I’m operating on about 4 hours of sleep. There have been two separate occasions when I have spilled a container of freshly expressed breastmilk. I remember these occurrences distinctively because although I have a very healthy stash of frozen breastmilk, it pains me deeply to sacrifice a single drop! Once I was transferring milk to a freezer bag for storage and my husband approached me to wipe spit-up off his arm. That task could have waited for me to properly seal the bag, but alas, I put the bag on the counter convinced it wouldn’t spill over and sure enough, the bag fell over and spilled about 5 oz of breastmilk all over my kitchen counter. The other time, I was at work in the medical center for one of my pumping sessions. When the session was up, and I was working to clean up the area, I nearly tripped over the cord to the pump, knocking one of the bottles from my hands-free pumping system I wear. It happened like slow motion, I remember watching the bottle fall from my chest, hitting the terracotta floor and spilling in a free form design. This was serious since that sacrifice could have impacted my baby’s lunch for the following day. Thankfully I have very juicy boobs and those 5 oz were destined to be stashed away in the freezer with the other 600+ oz! Still, I mourned. Liquid Gold, you know?
My most recent tears still disturb me. My child, who doesn’t sleep, has never slept, started exhibiting some interesting behavior before bed. I’ve always nursed him to sleep, but recently, after our bedtime nursing session, when I put him in his crib he rebels! Thrashes and cries—even though he was JUST sound asleep on me in the glider. I pick him back up and he fusses, cries, arches his back when I try to rock him.. so after about 20 mins of trying to manage his crying, I gave up. I took him to the living room, sat him down with his toys, and watched him play happily for an hour. Nothing but smiles and laughter. I was completely confused. After two nights of this, and while in tears thinking, “I can’t do this another night. I’m so tired. I don’t know what he wants”; I decided to prepare a bottle of breastmilk and see if he’d take it- EVEN THOUGH he had just nursed for a half hour and showed no signs of being hungry. To my surprise, he sucked down nearly 5 oz, leaving about a half an oz in the bottle; he entered a milk induced immediately! I put him in his crib, he rolled to his belly, and slept till midnight! That was a 4 hour stretch! And anything over a 2 hour stretch is a big deal for us! However, I can’t help but feel very mixed emotions. I’m sad because I feel like my body has failed me by not being able to satisfy my baby’s appetite before bed- is this a supply issue? My baby spends 40+ hours a week in daycare and I really cherish these bedtime nursing sessions- it saddens me to interrupt them with a bottle. But at the same time, if he needs an extra full belly at bed, I’ll give it to him—I’ll nurse him first, and if he needs more, give him a bottle-- at least he’s still getting breastmilk. I’m still sad though. Hoping this is either a growth spurt, or a temporary lull in my nighttime supply.

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