Notes from a New Breastfeeding Mom: Part 9

Making the decision to breastfeed is amazing. But, every journey is different, and none are perfect. Joy shares her experiences in her own words.

 

Making the decision to feed your baby breast milk, in whatever way and for whatever length of time you choose, is amazing. But, every breastfeeding journey is different, and none are perfect. In this ‘Notes From A New Breastfeeding Mom,’ first-time mother Joy shares her experiences in her own words. Her journey, like other moms’, has its flaws and challenges, but it is a real glimpse into the perfectly imperfect experience of breastfeeding. Read Joy’s post Oh No, I Did Not Sign Up to be a Chew Toy. 

 

Um, Honey the Freezer Won’t Close. Now what?!?

Before my son Grant came along, I didn’t really have any expectations about breastfeeding. I knew I wanted to do it, but I didn’t know for how long or whether it would be easy or hard or what would really go on.

I kinda thought you either breastfed or you didn’t. I didn’t think about the day-to-day struggles or even the once in a while things that may go wrong.

And yes, I asked some friends about their experiences but a majority of the time they had baby amnesia and made breastfeeding sound pretty straightforward—sore nipples, sore nipples, baby finally latches properly, baby fills tummy and everything is good in the world.

Side note: Baby amnesia is my term for when parents can’t recall their babies going through “the not so great moments of infanthood.” My assumption is that the months of sleep deprivation have wiped away their not so great memories and replaced them with only good memories. Because let’s face it, many parents would only have one child if they could clearly remember all the sleepless nights and tears shed over the first year.

Like I was saying…I didn’t have breastfeeding expectations before Grant was born. So, I never anticipated all of the bumps, twists and turns that were headed my way.

But if it wasn’t for these unanticipated obstacles, I would have never found myself barricaded in my closet on a sunny afternoon—surrounded by shoes, clothes and hundreds of bags of breast milk…shivering and wondering if I had frostbite.

Let me back up for a second.

I am a breast milk overproducer—have been since the day my milk came in.

And trust me, I will never forget that day. I had just finished a conversation with my husband about “How does one know whether or not milk comes in?” Then, I hopped in a warm shower. Instantly, I was dripping as much as the showerhead—my milk was in.

Since I produced so much, I kept pumping often and for extended periods of time in order to avoid engorgement. In fact, I nursed and then pumped seven times a day. This little routine tricked my boobs into thinking Grant needed even more milk than he did.

I got into this cat-and-mouse game in which I would pump to avoid engorgement, blocked ducts and mastitis, but I would only end up producing even more milk. Then the second I didn’t completely empty the girls, my milk ducts would block right back up and the cycle continued.

It was maddening. Finally, I got some solid advice from a lactation consultant, and I got a handle on everything…but I was still stashing away bags of breast milk every night.

For the record, I ended up buying two freezer chests and chucked them in my closet…just to hold my breast milk.

Then one day it happened.

I went to put some milk in my freezer and no matter what I did, I couldn’t get the lid to close. Both freezers were full.

I had (technically still have) enough milk to get Grant beyond the 12-month mark—way beyond. So, yeah! I don’t need to produce any more breast milk. Double yeah!

But my liquid gold makers can’t just be turned off with a switch, nor am I completely ready to stop nursing my little fella. And I really didn’t want to waste my breast milk or all the sweat, tears and effort I put into pumping.

So, I did something I never thought I would do. I grabbed my computer and typed…

“How to donate breast milk”

That’s right, I decided to donate my milk—something I definitely didn’t expect to do. Before Grant, the idea of donating milk would have been too strange for me. But after nine months of watching my little bundle of joy grow into a healthy butterball, it felt natural to donate my milk.

Now to be completely honest, donating milk isn’t as easy as I thought it would be. You just don’t drop off your milk at a donation center.

Many places first interview you. Then you have to have blood work done. Some places require letters from doctors. I even saw some that request DNA tests.

Yes, it feels like a bit of an overkill, but I get it. I really do…we’re talking about babies, sometimes really sick babies who need healthy breast milk. The organizations are taking every step they need to ensure the milk is the best it can possibly be.

For the record, donating wasn’t a decision that came easy to me. I second-guessed myself a lot. I felt like I was giving away my son’s food—the food my body made for him. It set off a couple overly protective instincts in me. But ultimately, I knew donating was the right choice for me.

So there I was on a sunny afternoon barricaded in my closet and surrounded by shoes, clothes and hundreds upon hundreds of bags of breast milk. With winter gloves on, I packed up my milk…as much milk as I felt comfortable with donating.

In the end, I estimated I gave 200 bags of milk. That’s about 1,200 oz. I did try to keep count but I started to lose feeling in my fingers and was more worried about frostbite than having an accurate bag count.

After the milk was delivered that afternoon, I rushed back home to pump…because, you know, that’s what I do. As I pumped, I found myself wondering if this milk would end up being Grant’s lunch one day or some other baby’s.”

The truth is…I don’t know. I don’t always know what to expect when it comes to breastfeeding. And I don’t know what to expect for my breastfeeding future. I’m just going to have to take it day by day and do what feels right for me.