Saturday, May 05, 2007

Why I wish I had stopped pumping sooner...

When Lucas was born, we found out he had a cleft and I would be unable to nurse him. I was encouraged to pump for him, as breast milk is 'liquid gold'.

And so I did. I pumped full time for seven months. I stopped when I had found out I was pregnant, because I had so little energy I could barely get off of the couch.

In retrospect, I often wonder if I shouldn't have stopped sooner.

For me, pumping consumed my life. If I missed a pump, my milk supply would drop drastically, which caused me a lot of stress. So I had to pump every four house, like clockwork.

And even when Lucas started sleeping a 10 hour solid night, I had to be up every four hours pumping.

Of course, the pump needed to be cleaned after every use, and the bottles needed to be cleaned regularly. I became very anxious about the cleanliness of the tools, and I felt uncomfortable washing them in public washrooms. SO, I ended up needing to be either home or at my moms every four hours, so I could pump and properly clean the equipment.

This was one thing when I had a newborn who slept a lot and we didn't got far from home. It was an entirely different thing when Lucas became older and wanted to be out and about. Several moms groups were available to me, but it was impossible to get ready and out the door, get to the group, and get back and settled to pump again withing four hours.

And so I began to simply not leave the house.

I tried to explain to Steve how I felt. Imagine, I said, that every four hours, on the dot, you have to have a glass of water from the tap in our house. Not any other tap, the tap in our house. No matter where you want to be, or what you are doing, you MUST get back to that tap every four hours.

Imagine how tied you would feel to that tap, and to the house.

Now add fatigue and the pure amount of energy and planning it takes to get a bay out of the house, and ask yourself how often you would leave.

Of course, the longer I stayed home, the less able I felt to leave. In the end, it took a counsellor actually coming to my home to help me feel more confident to actually leave.

I wish someone had been there to tell me that being emotionally available to my child was more important than breast milk. I wish someone had given me the push I needed to set aside what had become chains, and give my child formula, so we could both experience life again.

Breast is best, it's true. I will never deny that. But I will affirm that having breast milk from a depressed, non responsive mother is NOT best. Sometimes, we need to make the choice to go to formula, for our own sake, and also for our baby's sake.

I'm sure there are breastfeeding advocates out there who would attack me for that statement. Some people want to insist that baby's need for breast milk supersedes all of mom's needs. Some will suggest mom is being 'selfish'. But I will defend my position.

I was not selfish. I was lost. My commitment to breastfeeding caused an isolation and depression that both myself and my son would have been better off without.

So, for all moms out there who are feeling guilt or sadness because of a decision not to breastfeed, this post is dedicated to you. Know that you are good mothers. Know that happy moms mean happier babies, and if you need to choose not to pump, not to breast feed, or to wean early, or to supplement, to make yourself happier, that is a GOOD choice. Many, many people will come after you (why strangers on the street fell they have a right to comment, I have no idea), but I will always be behind you.

And your baby will adore you, and that is what counts.


annafowler said...

This so hits home for me. I had to stop pumping for my newborn a couple weeks ago after getting a mastitis infection. It was a hard decision to make, and I still sometimes feel guilty and wonder if I should have stuck it out longer. But I realize that in my case, I am a better mommy to both my boys when I am not tied up to that pump. Thanks for sharing your experience with the rest of it. Your analogy of being tied to that tap at home hits it on the nail.
Best, Anna Fowler
mom to Jimmy and Johnny

Jewel said...

Hi Anna,
Thanks for the comment. I am glad that you are happier, and both your boys are glad, too, I am sure.