Monday, September 22, 2008

Formula didn't kill her instantly

Secretly, I wanted her to hate it. I was mentally willing her to reject it. To notice that something just wasn't right.

But when I gave Allison formula for the first time, she sucked it down and went to bed without even a hint of detecting a disruption in her normal routine. And why should there be? When I think about it, it's still milk.

Just not milk I had to painstakingly extract from my body.

Sometime after Alli's nine month checkup, I realized she probably wasn't getting enough from me. Her doctor made a point to say her primary source of nutrition should still be milk or formula, even though she's mowing through table food as fast as I can dice it up and hand it to her.

"Twenty-four ounces," he said. "Four feedings a day."

His words stuck with me, and I rattled the numbers around in my head for days. She'd need six ounces four times a day. Even on my best night, I only pumped five ounces. More often I topped out at three or four. Two and a half when I had my period and my hormones were out of whack.

And who knows how much she was getting throughout the day? There's no convenient ounce lines on the side of my boobs to determine that. But I had a feeling it wasn't anywhere near what it should be.

I had assumed the reduction in my milk supply was part of the natural weening process. She became less and less interested in nursing and more and more interested in taking in her surroundings. I became very familiar with the popping sound of her mouth detaching from my body as she whipped her head around to discover the source of a strange noise or to look at someone else in the room.

To compensate for her heightened curiosity, I started taking Alli to her own room and closing the door. Familiar setting. Quiet. No distractions.

But even then she just didn't seem very interested. After months of practice, she is an expert, can nurse quickly and efficiently, then wants to move on. In the process, the lack of continued comfort sucking has told my body to make less, which leads to even less interest and even less milk.

At first, we gave her a few ounces of formula at night before bed to top off what I was pumping while I was at work. I have to admit that it helped take the pressure off a little. I didn't feel the constant need to fuel her body and mine.

When my supply waned further, I gave in sometime last week and prepared a full formula bottle after she woke up from a nap. My body had nothing left to give.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed. After overcoming what had seemed like an insurmountable teething period where she used my nipples to test out her new parts, I thought I could do anything. My new goal wasn't just to make it to the next day, it was to make it to one year -- as recommended by the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

But when I wasn't providing enough, I took a step back and realized it's about Allison and making sure she gets what she needs. So I stopped overanalyzing and started to make the switch.

The strange thing is, after almost two weeks, she's still nursing. Sometimes she's able to get entire feedings from me, sometimes partial feedings and sometimes strictly formula. I let her be my guide. When she's hungry, I give her more.

In the process, I stopped pumping at work and it was so freeing. I'm still carting the huge bag and all the parts with me just in case, but mostly I leave it in the car. And when I had a sinus infection a few days ago, I actually took medication. Yes, for the first time in 20 months, I put a pill other than a vitamin in my mouth. And I got the relief I so desperately needed.

I'll keep going as long as it lasts, but I've come to terms with the fact that my nursing days are almost over with Allison.

When I started the process a little more than 10 months ago, I didn't know how long it would last or even if it would work at all. I only said that I would try my best.

So I have to be proud of how it all ended up.

I never tried harder at anything else in my entire life.


Naomi said...

Congrats on your valiant efforts and now a smooth transition! I'm hoping to breastfeed too, so it's instructive to hear about others' experiences. (Just now I'm playing tag with munchkin--I felt movement for the first time last week!)

BTW, when my sister's baby mysteriously lost interest in breastfeeding, she finally figured it out by taking a pregnancy test! Sorry--I'm sure that's exactly what you wanted to hear right now. :)

Jennifer Suarez said...

I think you did wonderful! 10 months is a great accomplishment. Be proud and enjoy some of that new found freedom!

Whoo hoo I see a couple glasses of wine (or drink of your choice) in your near future as a reward. ;-)

Jessica said...

10 months is a nice amount of time, some kids just lose interest earlier. I thought Addison would wean herself when I got pregnant again - it took awhile but I think she weaned around my 5th month, just decided she'd had enough.

The bad part (for me)? I totally forgot about needing to adjust my coloric intake back down! It's no wonder I'm gaining more weight this pregnancy!

fiona said...

Congrats on nursing so long!! It might not mean much, but I'm very proud of you and would give ANYTHING to have nursed Katelyn even half as long as you have Alli.
I started producing less when she was about three months old and -though I COULD have done more to get my supply back up, I didn't- so I just let it go. And every day since, I kick myself for not fighting harder to be able to nurse longer. She did GREAT, but once my supply started to go down, I didn't do as much to get it back up.
Congrats, Kelly. I know how hard it is for this phase to be over, but you did GREAT!!!

Rachel said...

way to go Kelly! it's so amazing that you overcame the obstacles stacked against you and made it all these months!

Anonymous said...

You did awesome! You bonded with your daughter and provided her with all the good stuff she'll need. Now continue the process by taking care of her mother as well as you care for her. You'll feel better in no time.

the plainsman said...

I remember reading all of your worries and concerns, what, a year ago and then when when you began. Here you are ten months later, successfuly having accomplished what you most wanted to do and are still doing it partially, so glad to know you are proud of the accomplishment, especially with the roadblocks and all!

Ray said...

You're the BEST MOMMMY Allison could ever ask for! And it's incredible how your body responded to the way Allison feeds. That thought never occured to me. A woman's body truly is amazing.

It's nice that you can still breastfeed though from time to time. But when it ends, just know that you did a hellauve job! Just like you'll continue to do a great job being Alli's mother.

Take, care. =o)

Ray said...


jsi said...

You may find your milk will last longer than you think. She may be beginning to need your comfort right at certain times of day - like being reunited after time away, early morning, late night...who knows?
10 months is a long tome to go without Nyquil.
You're doing a great job!

Anonymous said...

10 months, plus pregnancy before that!

ajandmac said...


yvonne said...

You're beautiful Kelly =)

Go boobjuicing!