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Monday, September 5, 2011

journey of a PT BF'ing Mama by Holly Gunn

By the awesome M-O-M Holly Gunn
My goal: to breastfeed my second child longer than my first (which was 2 months), until I returned to work (4 months), or until teeth appeared. The reality: 4 months and 1 week full time BF (breastfeeding); 3 weeks part time BF.

If anyone knows me they know the struggle and battle I went through from the very beginning. Breastfeeding is hard work. It's exhausting, both mentally and physically. It's demanding, literally.

Jillian has always been a great baby when it came to nursing. In the hospital she ate often. Sometimes every 2 hours, occasionally every 4. At one point I thought she had her days/nights mixed up. I had the best nurses - experienced, helpful, and patient. I had BF my son (now almost 4 years) for only a few months of his awesome life but totally forgot how things were supposed to go.

Almost 36 hours post-delivery my nurse stayed for what felt like the hundredth time to oversee my nursing abilities. Somewhere mid conversation tears began to roll down my face. I couldn't control what was happening. I felt embarrassed, ashamed, scared, lost, alone, helpless...oh did I ever feel helpless. But my nurse, being the best ever, made me feel empowered. She assured me that everything I was feeling and the frustration of nursing was all normal. Every long hour of it. Little did I know the ride I was in for.

Again, Jillian was and always has been a great baby, she just ate often. I nursed every 2-3 hours at home for the first month or so. Being #2, I slept when I was able, often times with her asleep on my chest as I sit upright on the couch or in the rocker. I have never felt that much exhaustion in my life. I was drained. Who am I joking, I'm still drained :)

Looking back on it, I nursed on demand. When she would cry and all else failed I would nurse. For the first 6 weeks I felt as if I was held captive in my own home. I didn't feel like I could do much of anything or go anywhere. I began feeling frustrated with nursing and was tempted to give it all up, cold turkey which would have been SOOO uncomfortable! I had some great support. Several friends and family members who had BF'd or were BFing were great for me to bounce ideas off of and gain strength from. I tried to establish a routine but it just wasn't in the cards. Somewhere around the 6 week mark I broke down and started feeding her 2 ounces of formula after I had nursed her at night in an effort to gain just a little more sleep. This worked well until her 2 month grown spurt and then I was back where I had started. And growth spurts...UGH, seriously the worst ever. Thankfully they didn't last long because I truly was nursing every 1-2 hours on the dot. I had moments where I felt like a mama piggy with her piglet.

Something happened at 3 months. It's almost as if her belly and my milk, finally synced with one another and she started sleeping 6-7 hours through the night. Finally, I was beginning to feel good about this BF thing. I was beginning to feel confident and as if we were making some progress. We still had little to no schedule during the day but that was ok because I was getting a solid chunk of sleep each night.


July passed by and August rolled in. I was due to start back to work mid-August and the plan was to pump during the day and nurse at night. This seemed manageable to me. I work in a school but don't teach so I have my own office. A private space with a lock - I already had one up from hundreds other woman out in the work force. It seemed so easy to me. I had been pumping off and on for the last 4+ weeks so I knew what I was in for. The first few days back went smoothly - I took some of the great advice that other BF mama's had given me and made sure I was organized and prepared each day (napkins, extra nursing pads, all my pump parts, a book to read, a picture of my little one to look at) but somewhere around mid-week I just crumbled. I was having a hard time shutting my door for 30 minutes twice a day. I scheduled myself out but somehow I would consistently be interrupted or delayed. I started to stress. I was stressing about getting everything done before pumping, trying to pump on a schedule, attempting to rush the pumping process, and then the routine continued. My supply was steady but I was still nervous I wasn't making enough.

I couldn't take it anymore. I was cracking over BFing. I was crumbling because of BFing. I was truly loosing my mind because of BFing.
I talked to LOTS of BF'ing mamas, again new and old, grabbing every ounce of support I could to continue pumping at work but it just wasn't in the cards for me. After lots of pondering and thinking I decided to become a part-time BFing mama - once before bed and again early morning.

I hated the thought. I was so mad at myself. Never once had I not accomplished a goal that I set before myself until now. I felt like I was letting her down. I was letting myself down. I started by eliminating one pumping session from my daily routine. It wasn't long before engorgement set in. O.M.G. How painful! I would nurse just long enough to relieve the pressure and began dipping into my frozen stash to supplement. Eventually, 4-5 days later, I was no longer needing to pump during the day and the engorgement had diminished during this time but appeared early in the AM.

My frozen stash disappeared and was replaced with formula. I've only bought 1 box thus far and still hate the thought of buying a substitute for something that I'm more than capable of producing, but the truth of the matter is I am more relaxed and less stressed because of this decision.

Being a part-time BFing mama is not a bad thing. Any amount of breast milk is better than no breast milk at all. It was a hard decision to make but I'm happy to be able to continue on a more manageable schedule
(two times a day).

Just the other day I was worried my milk had dried up as my breasts were no longer painful or noticeably full in the morning but thankfully that was not the case. My body had simply adjusted to the new schedule that we had created (nursing every 10-12 hours).

Part time nursing isn't for everyone, but it is an option for those BF'ing, working mamas who are feeling stressed and overwhelmed with pumping at work. The conversion time from full time to part time (for me) was about 5-7 days. One recommendation would be to start the elimination of a feeding on the last day of your work week as it doesn't take long for engorgement to set in and for you to feel uncomfortable. Having a few days of rest from work will be a great time to rebound.

Kellymom.com has some great information on part-time feeding http://www.kellymom.com/bf/weaning/weaning-partial.html

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