I had been dreading Natalie’s two-month pediatrician appointment. She’d gained only four ounces in the first three weeks of her second month. I was certain we were about to find out that she’d dropped another quantum in the infant-weight growth chart, down to the tenth percentile or perhaps the sub-tenth. Malnourished infant, inept mother? Yes, right here, that’d be us.
And then it didn’t happen.
Ten days earlier I’d rented the Big Gun breastpump and begun The Campaign to increase my milk supply. But in a mere ten days, and even after unloading a major poopsplosion that morning, Natalie weighed in at eight pounds, twelve ounces. She’d gained ten ounces in ten days. An ounce a day. I wasn’t imagining the beginnings of leg chub, the increasing firmness of her apple cheeks, the growing contentment in her gaze. They were real. She’d stopped starving. She was still at the twenty-fifth percentile, and had declined no further.
And now I could believe she was advancing.
The next day, I left her napping under Daddy’s supervision and went out to do some errands. I’d pumped at 2pm, right before I left. For three hours, I shopped and noticed that things seemed to be feeling warmer, heavier, itchier under my blouse. And when I got home at 5:30, I pumped this.
Over an ounce per side. Over seventy milliliters. On a little over three hours’ charge.
I was reluctant to call it a trend, since I’d had outlier data points before. But this was all so reassuring: Noodles gaining weight, me visibly producing more milk, calmer and happier daytime feedings where she clearly was nursing well. After & and I had our first babyfree date night last night (we celebrate three holidays in February — the day eHarmony matched us, our first actual date, and Valentine’s Day), I pumped nearly eighty milliliters when we got home. And today, when Natalie napped through two feedings, I pumped nearly 65ml each time.
So maybe it is safe to say that The Campaign is working.
I do not love the pump, though. Do not love it one bit. The Big Gun is no friend of mine — especially since, through a cruel twist of fate, it doesn’t actually zero the gauges the way Natalie does on a good nurse. Pumping still hurts. It takes time. It continues to impede my progress in things like getting dressed and going outside. So these first few signs of success have been an excuse for me to cut back on my pumping schedule: I’ve gone from 6-7 daily sessions down to maybe 3-5. It’s meant that I’ve been able to get out, and I’ve felt good about that, so all’s well, right?
…except that we are rapidly reaching the end of the stash of donated milk in our freezer that we’d been using to supplement, when I’d be off at rehearsal and Daddy would need to feed Natalie, or worse, in the rough evenings when she would drain me dry and still be crying with hunger.
I want to be done supplementing. I want to feed her myself, unassisted. And this surprises me: I’d promised myself early on that I’d be reasonable about this, that there was no shame in feeding my child bottled nutrition if we didn’t ace breastfeeding. And I’m pretty sure I still believe this. But I madly, desperately want to be making all the milk she needs, pumping enough to feed her in my absence, laying in enough of a store in the freezer so that we won’t go begging if she needs an evening supplement. And I’m not convinced we’re there yet.
So maybe I should keep up The Campaign, get back into pumping eight times a day, and start freezing the surplus pumpage rather than feeding it to Natalie the next time we sit down to nurse. Or maybe there’s no shame in relying on the kindness of others (or, perhaps even some day, powdered goodness from a can) to fill in the gaps. Maybe sanity is a better goal than lactation sufficiency.
Maybe it’s time for another check-in at the Breastfeeding Center, just to talk it through.
Speaking of goals, Natalie has achieved hers: she can now suck on her fist, deliberately, at will. And she is pleased and proud indeed.