Monday, August 12, 2013

The Impending Wean

My daughter is 10 months old. She has accomplished a great many things in her short life, not the least of which is maintaining exclusive breastfeeding. Indeed, when I started breastfeeding, I heard from numerous people that their babies voluntarily quit breastfeeding at 6 or 8 months, even though they had intended on breastfeeding to the first year. But knowing what I know about teething and other infant psychosis, I never took any of her nursing strikes too seriously. We're still going strong, and I consider myself extremely fortunate that when I'm home from work, I can still nurse my darling baby.

Of course, all good things must come to an end. If I were staying home full time, I would allow Dot to self-wean, letting my milk supply drop off gradually as she drinks less over time. But since I pump at work, Dot doesn't tell my body how much milk to make; I do. And since I really don't want to lactate forever (even though it burns like, mad calories), I'll have to wean myself off the pump.

My intention is to let Dot nurse until she's two, if I'm lactating that long. But I've decided to wean off the pump at one year for several reasons.

First, it interferes with my work performance. At the risk of setting working mothers back several decades, it's really hard to keep up with my job. I pump for fifteen minutes every two hours at work, with an additional 10-15 minutes of set up and breakdown. For several months, I had my own office and could shut the door and continue working. Now I have been blessed with an office mate, so I have to leave (I don't think she would take kindly to me milking myself with her in the office). I probably lose 1-2 hours of productivity every day, which means I end up taking work home with me a lot. And I feel poorly about that.

Second, also related to my job, I'm sick of being covered in my own fluids at work. It seems that at least on a weekly basis, something malfunctions on the pump in such a way that milk pours or splatters or spews all over the front of me. This is unbecoming of a young professional. It's also ruining all my clothes.

Third, in order keep up with Dot's demand, I actually have to produce more than she eats every day (pumps are less efficient than babies), which means in addition to pumping while I'm at work, I pump once at night after she goes to bed, and once in the middle of the night (She's nurses on one side, and I pump the other, and yes my child still gets up once a night. I'm okay with that.). These two extra pumping sessions are exhausting and time consuming, and I'm often homebound for fear of missing those valuable pumping sessions. It also means I'm bound to my pump even when we go out of town or take vacations, so understandably I'm anxious to relieve myself of these extra pumping duties. And to sleep through the night again.

Lastly, and most importantly, I hate pumping. It's not the same as breastfeeding. It's not as rewarding for me, and few things are more anxiety-provoking than watching your child's sustenance drip slowly into a receptacle, counting the ounces and hoping you're pumping enough (which I'm not anymore, by the way; I've had to start relying on my freezer stash to feed her at day care). I'm extremely grateful that my job accommodates my pumping, and I would do it all over again to make sure my child was well-fed, but I hate it. It's the worst, and if you pump exclusively, you deserve some kind of trophy.

So it was with bittersweet feelings that I started researching how to wean off the pump today. In about two months, I'll start gradually cutting out pumping sessions. I still have well over 300 ounces of breast milk in the freezer that we'll be able to send to day care, and after that's gone, she'll get regular old milk. I still plan on nursing her while she's at home for as long as she likes (that is, until she's two), but I'm kind of excited to be finished with pumping. I'm looking forward to carrying a briefcase again, and wearing shirts that don't enable immediate boob access. I'm looking forward to smelling like my perfume, rather than old yogurt. I'm looking forward to being able to sleep for more than four hours in a row (because she will be weaned off that nighttime feeding, or I'll be damned). And I'm looking forward to being good at my job again. I'm sure my boss feels the same way.

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