Thursday, November 11, 2010

Exclusive Breastmilk and Working Moms (the working mom is me)

Happy Half-Birthday, Mr Noah! I can’t believe that Noah is already six months old, crawling around and generally wanting to eat EVERYTHING. This is an plug for breastfeeding, so it may be directed to a bit of a niche audience. Anyway, bear with me.

I’m hugely proud to have made it to six months of breastfeeding Mr Noah. Breastmilk, vitamin D drops, and a little tylenol are all he has ingested over his first six months (I don't count all the dirt he's probably eaten). Thanks to my friends and supermoms Leah and Bridget who lived the reality that babies just need breastmilk their first six months of life. In those early days, when I didn’t really know what Noah needed, trusting my body to provide for his physical needs gave me huge peace of mind. Although I’m not insensitive to the reality that our bodies don’t always work the way they should, our bodies are made for this! (Unless you’re a man.)

Granted, it’s partially laziness and partially cheapness that’s brought us to this moment. Formula is expensive and complicated. Food is messy. Breastmilk is breastmilk. With the added bonus that it’s the best food in the world for a baby. I had a couple of infections and I don’t think Noah has necessarily got the best latch in the world, even now. We tried to figure it out, but never quite got it down. The thing is, those things don’t matter as much as I have thought they might. He still gets plenty of food, is growing well, and I feel fine.

My experience has been that Noah has very seldom been ill, has grown pretty huge, and I’m able to stay connected to him when I’m home. I know there’s a big part of this that I can’t take credit for: sometimes babies are sick, and that’s certainly nothing to feel guilty about. My point is this: breastfeeding (and breastmilk, if you’re having to pump a lot of the time) is good stuff, even for those like me for whom breastfeeding never really provided a tingly sense of awesomeness.

Pumping has been difficult-- and will continue to be-- hence my building a monument to myself online. Don’t be turned off, I am laying the foundation for a monument to you, dear reader, who is deciding whether to continue to breastfeed. Keeping up your milk supply while pumping- particularly if you have a meeting-heavy job like I do-- is hard. But once I figured out how to set aside three times in the day to pump, it got easier. These are the gear I settled on:
1. Medela Pump in Style Advanced Breast Pump. I got this second hand. I know you're not supposed to, but I did some research and felt like my chances of transmitting Hepatitis B to Noah was slim to none (I can share more thoughts on this if you're facing a similar decision- just let me know in the comments). But the pump is really great. I don't have anything to compare it with, but it's worked really well being used three times a day.
2. Medela Breastmilk Feeding and Storage Set
3. Medela Quick Clean Micro Steam Bags If I'd been boiling bottles I would have quit.
and last but not least (don't be freaked out)
4. Simple Wishes Hands-Free Breastpump Brathis has been the lifesaver in keeping my productivity up at work, and also for not feeling like a cow. Provided I find an office with a computer, this bra means I can work and pump at the same time. I don’t have an office and I have to roam around the building looking for a place to pump. I also asked Eug and his mom not to give Noah milk from our emergency supply unless there was, in fact, an emergency. This way, if I wasn’t making enough milk I’d have to rely on Noah telling my body so. And I think he has.

He’s just starting a little rice cereal, and will hopefully still be breastfeeding for a while (six months?) longer. And I've joined the ranks of happy breastfeeding cheerleaders.


leah said...

yeah for breastfeeding, and also for starting on food! Food is really fun too, once you get beyond that sticky cereal stuff. I thought I would wean Harvey at 1 year too, but we just didn't feel like doing it... now I'm seriously considering tandem nursing a 2-year-old and a baby, but we'll see what happens over the next 7 months. Once they get on food the nursing is much more fun, because you only have to do it when you're home or when you feel like it. Anyway, congratulations on the 6-month mark!!!!!

Concrete Gardener said...

Yeah, right now Noah is mainly spitting things out. Did you grind up your own cereals? Any tips?

I want to hear more about your thoughts on continuing to nurse Harvey...

J_Mama said...

Congrats Jo! Exclusive breastfeeding/pumping is really difficult but a huge benefit to baby. What a wonderful gift you're giving to your son.