She is so close to so much. She’s faked me out on several different occasions, sleeping for seven hours at a stretch (but never longer, and never reliably). She snarfs oatmeal and sweet potatoes with abandon, but still nurses enough that I have not yet elected to pursue weaning. Genevieve speaks in musical streams with intonation that mimics adult conversation, but has yet to utter a syllable. Bored with merely rolling over, she has embraced sitting upright with all of the skill and core strength of a child several months her senior. And if you put her on the floor and take your eyes off her for a moment, she will maneuver herself onto all fours and start scooting backward (often under a couch or chair) in spite of herself. She wants to crawl so badly. At six months she wants this. Genevieve is impatient with infancy; she doesn’t want to be close to eating and sleeping and talking and moving like a big kid, she wants to be there already.
She is still on the curve at 75th percentile for height, but has slipped to 50th for weight. Dr. Warfield explains that this is due to her rapidly increasing physical activity. She’s moving like a bigger kid but still eating like a baby. As soon as her caloric consumption catches up to her burn rate, he says, the percentile will likely increase. Meanwhile, I look at her and still see plenty of glorious pudge. She is not a slender baby. I am happy to feed her anything she cares to eat (which, so far, has been pretty much everything we’ve offered her), but am even happier that our Feeding Journey this time around has not been haunted by the harpies of failure-to-thrive that dogged Natalie’s growth curve for so much of her early life. Genevieve has been well-fed from day one (well, day three, but close enough) and I can honestly table my mommy anxiety on this subject. Kid’s a terrific eater. And I am, implausibly, still breastfeeding her at the age of six months.
Yes, really. Not just a token morning-and-night nurse to calm her, but actual mommy milk in nontrivial quantity. I’m still pumping six to eight ounces a day; still feel the letdown (an actual letdown! so that’s what it feels like! kind of an ache, kind of a thud…an achy thud) when she nurses; still will leak onto my clothes if I go more than four hours without an offload. I continue to “suffer from low supply” in the classic sense — despite my daily fistfuls of fenugreek capsules, Evie rarely gets more than an ounce per side per pull, and those six to eight ounces are the result of three twenty-minute sessions at the pump. But now that she’s happy to gulp down a four-ounce jar of carrots-and-tomatoes, the quantity of boobjuice she ingests daily has become calorically irrelevant. I now think of it as more of a nutritional supplement, a liquid warding talisman against the daycare cooties which have sickened pretty much all of the other babies in Genevieve’s cohort. But that still doesn’t answer the question of how much longer I need/want/ought to keep producing the stuff.
June 25, today, Genevieve’s six month birth-i-versary, was my theoretical sunset date: the day I imagined I’d start weaning myself off the pump. But the day is now at its end and I pumped a normal schedule, and frankly I’m disinclined to do otherwise tomorrow, or the day after that. There is no shortage of reasons to scale back on the lactation project: my business travel schedule is about to pick up, the pump continues to give me blisters and plenty of grief, and Eve’s precocious embrace of solid food means that the pressure to produce liquid nutrition for her has abated almost entirely. But I think that, mirabile dictu, lactation is actually accelerating my weight loss. (Back on Medifast since Eve’s four-month checkup, I’ve noticed no appreciable effect on my milk supply but have been dropping pounds about thirty to fifty percent faster than my standard burn rate OP.) And the mommy milk is apparently keeping Genevieve healthy. And there’s no better solution for getting her back to sleep at 3am than a mouthful of boob. And…and…I’m still doing it, and if I stopped then I wouldn’t be doing it any more.
I don’t claim to understand the popular fetishization of this fairly humdrum biological process. I never have. And yet I’ve apparently bought into the great myth of breastmilk-as-magical-panacea as much as anybody. Here we are, six months into the process — so much more successful than last time! — and I still wonder what I could be doing to lactate more. Different supplements? More water? Different pictures of Genevieve to prompt my letdown? She’s got a near-constant twinkle in her eye, but Eve is not an especially smiley child. I catch myself wondering: Maybe I’d make her happier if she got more breastmilk? And then I have to rein myself in, stop, stop, this is absurd.
Genevieve is happy. Genevieve is healthy. Genevieve is chubby and content and besotted with her older sister, and I do us all a disservice by circumscribing our parent-child experience within the cramped, restricted frame of breastfeeding. There is more to motherhood than lactation, and if there’s one lesson I should have learned by now it’s this.
Actual lesson learned: it’s easier to quit breastfeeding than it is to stop talking about it.