Giving up the fight

I’ve decided to throw in the towel. For two months, I’ve been fighting my declining breastmilk supply tooth and nail. While at work, I would pump and pump and pump. Since I went back to work last August, I’ve pumped three times a day: 9, 12, & 3. Over the past two months, as my supply has declined, my pumping times have increased. I used to pump for 15 minutes each time. Now I pump for 20 minutes at 9 and 3 (30 minutes if I can spare the time) and at noon (over lunch) I pump for 40 minutes. I get everything set up: pump on one side, lunch in front of me, magazine propped up behind it, and I spend my entire lunch break pumping. And still, after a total of 1 hour 20 minutes, I would only have 8 ounces to show for it.

Last week, I realized its not worth it. I’ve fought as hard as I can. I’ve eaten oatmeal for breakfast every day (supposed to increase supply), drank tons of water (ditto), and spent hours pumping. I was ready to be done. I figured I could still nurse her first thing in the morning and before bed. At daycare, she could get bottles of half frozen breastmilk half formula.

But I love nursing. And I’m not really a fan of bottlefeeding. I’ve never given Meg a bottle. I wanted to nurse her on my days off. If I stopped pumping, I wouldn’t be able to nurse her during the day. So, for a few days I debated. Give up the pump? Tempting. Go to only nursing twice a day? Not what I want.

But today, Meg reached the breaking point. Each time I nursed her, she made it known, loudly, that she was not satisfied. She screamed, arched her back, said “mama mama mama” (which means “milk milk milk”). In the morning, she was so hungry I fed her lunch 1 hour after nursing. In the afternoon, she was so pitifully hungry after nursing, I fed her 3 ounces of breastmilk from a bottle. She gulped it down as fast as she could and wanted more. I realized the fight was over. I don’t want to starve my daughter. I’ve tried everything to increase my supply and it hasn’t worked.

Last night, I was going to a “mom’s night out” game night at the house of a MOPS mom. It started at 7:30, which is when I usually nurse Meg. So I mixed up a bottle of half breastmilk/half formula. My husband fed it to Meg as I left. I thought I would feel like a failure. But instead I felt relieved. And FREE. Not free from nursing, free from the strain of fighting a losing battle to increase my supply. I’ve been fighting so hard. And despite that, I’ve only lost ground. So I finally gave myself permission to quit.

I’ll still breastfeed first thing in the morning and before bed, but I’m phasing out daytime feedings. The first thing I’m going to do is put a cap on pumping time. 15 minutes, then I turn the machine off. For a week or so, I’m going to pump twice a day. Then I’ll go to once a day. Eventually, I’ll stop pumping at all. I have about 75 ounces of frozen milk, so I’ll use that plus whatever fresh milk I get and mix it with formula. Meg already loves this plan. She was also tired of doing all she could to get more milk and being unsuccessful. She’s been very excitedly sucking down bottles as fast as she can. I’m finally at peace with my decision. In fact, I’m excited! I’m only going to pump 30 minutes a day instead of 1 hour 20 minutes!!

P.S. As I mixed formula for the first time, I thought “Wow, this is like magic! I just ‘made’ 4 ounces! It took me 2 minutes! I didn’t have to sit there pumping for 40 minutes! YAY!!”