She Says… The End of an Era

Family portrait

Benjamin, Owen and I had a wonderful long weekend visiting my family. The drive from Boston to Delaware and back again were a bit tedious because we had to stop and nurse for several hours, but all in all Owen was an awesome little traveler.

Cousins!

Cousins!

He met lots of family who hadn’t made it up to Boston yet. It was so wonderful to have so many kids around, and so many hands to pass the babies off to. I wish we lived closer so we could see them all more often!

There were lots of other “firsts” as well — Owen’s first big spit up (prior to this we haven’t even used a burp cloth since nothing ever came back up — umm, learned our lesson there!), and his first time taking a bottle (!!!).

Since Owen is 5 weeks old now, we have been thinking a lot about introducing a bottle into our feeding routine. I have read that the ideal time to start this process is 4-6 weeks. Since we know I will be going back to work in January and Owen will be starting daycare, it’s important that he is able to be fed by someone other than me. And frankly, the thought of being able to sleep through one of my nightly feedings, and/or have the ability to be away from the house for more than 45 minutes (I could go to the gym! Or shopping! Or to a movie with friends!) makes me VERY excited.

I have been pumping for the last few weeks to begin to build a supply of milk for this purpose (and to increase my milk supply so I can continue to pump and feed him). With my Mom and one of my sisters (the mother of the two beautiful girls in the picture above, and also a doctor) available to help, I figured this weekend would be a perfect time to try the bottle for the first time. So I brought my pump along and pumped for the first few days we were there. I have also read that it can be helpful for the mom (and her milk bags!) to be out of the room and far, far away when you first try to give a bottle, since the baby can smell you and may want to be fed the way he is used to, rather than from the bottle. My sister also suggested that it’s best to try when Owen is very sleepy, so you can almost trick him into taking the bottle. So on Saturday night at the late night feeding time (around 10 or 11pm) when Owen began stirring in his sleep, Benjamin took him in the other room and I took the opportunity to pump. Lo and behold, he took the bottle with very little fussing!

Not only that, but he guzzled it down.

Ounce after ounce after ounce. He ate a little over 3 ounces! When Benjamin came back in our room beaming from ear to ear, I have to admit, I was conflicted. It was so… bittersweet. Of course I am glad that Owen took the bottle. It means freedom for me, and the beginning of a new era in which we are no longer chained to each other. But when I heard that he drank every last drop of milk that I had pumped in 2 days, I could feel the tears pricking my eyes. Part of me felt like all of a sudden he didn’t need me anymore. Not like he used to. I’m not the only one who can calm him anymore. I’m not the only one who can provide for him. Also, it is still very hard for me to find time to pump during the day, and it took me 3-4 pumpings to get that amount of milk. It’s like liquid gold. How can I possibly keep up with feeding him and storing milk for the future? In some way, pumping and letting someone else do the feeding almost felt like they were stealing from me.

I know there are lots of answers to these questions. And overall it is a wonderful  thing that Owen is so easygoing and eats like a champ. This week I’m doing an experiment and trying my best to pump after every feeding, mostly just to stimulate my milk supply, and to see how much milk I can produce. At least I know that if he is still hungry after a feeding, he will take a bottle, so I can top him off with what I just pumped after the last feeding. And I’m still taking Fenugreek and eating oatmeal. I’m even coming around to the idea of supplementing just that night time feeding with a little bit of formula. I have options. We’ll figure it out. I guess I just wasn’t entirely prepared for the emotions that came along with this milestone.

The upside? When Owen was hungry in the car on the way home, I was able to pop a bottle in his mouth while we continued driving instead of stopping on the side of the road for 45 minutes while I nursed him. The downside? I could only pump 2 oz. before we left, so it barely lasted him one feeding, and it was gone in about 5 minutes.

It’s heartbreaking to watch that milk disappear so quickly without the added bonus of 45 minutes of snuggling with my baby. I’m sure I’ll sing a different tune when I can sleep more, or get out of the house, though. Right?

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16 responses to “She Says… The End of an Era

  1. First, I LOOOOOVE the pic with the girls!!! Wow so cute I could melt. And your family pic is gorgeous too! Second, when I first pumped I hated it. I felt it was a waste of time because I’d sit there forever and only get like 1 oz. Well now a few weeks later, I’ve only pumped a few more times, but TONS more comes out and in a LOT faster time period. I got 3 oz in less than 10 min this past weekend! It really does get easier and faster with time. I like to have someone give my baby one bottle a week (dad, grandpa, grandma, etc) just to remind him that he can actually eat from a bottle and I freeze the rest.

  2. Just wait for the first time that you have to throw milk away. It’s heartbreaking! I lost over 100 ounces 2 months ago because I left the deep freezer door ajar after putting groceries away, stupid sleep deprivation! I’m over it now, but I’m very, very careful about shutting that freezer door now 🙂

    I’m in the process of stopping pumping now and I have a lot of the same mixed emotions as you. But I’m going to console myself about stopping milk production with a giant plate of broccoli!

  3. It definitely gets easier. We started giving Eli 1 bottle a day when he was a few weeks old, and instead of pumping between feedings, I would pump when we gave him the bottle. You’ve got more stored up that way. I have been back at work for a month now, and I get enough for 1 1/2 feedings each time I pump. You have PLENTY of time before you go back to work. I only took 6 weeks off and had more than enough milk to get the boy through his first days without me, plus a surplus stocked in the freezer.

  4. Aww! That is bittersweet. I guess there will be a lot of those moments throughout the life of your son though so enjoy each second as they come.

  5. I love the pic of the babies! 🙂 He has the cutest fuzzy hair!
    I hope I can breastfeed. I think you’re finding just the perfect balance of pumping and breastfeeding. It’s sweet that now your hubby can bond with Owen, too.

  6. The freedom was worth any amount of mixed emotions! The first place I went when we introduced the bottle at 3 weeks was to get a pedicure, and it was the best pedicure I’ve ever gotten! I found it was more rewarding (because you get more milk and see the fruits of your labor) to pump the off hour if he’s eating eery two hours. And that will get easier once he’s taking less time to feed. But by doing that, I had enough milk for my son and was even able to donate.

  7. All I can say is (((hugs)))… it’s hard…it’s all hard. But you will get through it, and it’s totally worth it.

  8. If you want help pumping and increasing your supply so that you can maintain a large frozen stock, there are plenty of websites and blogs run by lactivists who would love nothing more than to hep you. So don’t worry about that – there is help out there =)

    That said, Kate, don’t worry about the bottle. Owen DOES need you, just like he used to. You’re his mother and that makes you irreplaceable, even if he does take a bottle now and then.

    Have you ever read any Meredith Small books? In one of her titles (Our Babies, Ourselves), she argues the perspective that the mother-intensive period begins with conception and ends with weaning, that birth is merely the transition between internal gestation (pregnancy) and external gestation (infancy). It’s an interesting read and I have to side with her on this. Only now, at thirteen months, do I feel that Charlotte can derive from others the same as she derives from me. When she was younger and Donald gave her a bottle of my pumped milk, it wasn’t the same – she preferred my breasts. When she was younger and I handed her to my parents for an hour or two, it wasn’t the same – she preferred to play or nap with me. Etc. Now there are some people (Donald) upon whom she has a reliance that, to some extent, is equal to the reliance she has upon me. Owen is still small and he still needs you. He always will, of course, just as Charlotte will always need me. But right now, nobody else can provide for him as you can. Remember, you spent the last ten months preparing to be his number one. That doesn’t just stop at five weeks old.

  9. Glad he took the bottle, but I agree it’s a bit bittersweet. I really needed my son to take the bottle as I had to go back to work after 9 weeks, but part of me was just a wee bit insulted that he didn’t put up any sort of a fuss! We’re over it now though!

    If you are worried about supply/pumping, I would recommend that you pump when he gets his bottle (as good as that extra sleep might sound!) I imagine you’ll get a bit more than you are pumping between feedings and you’re body won’t decide that it no longer needs to make milk for that feeding. (At least this worked for me, but your mileage may vary!)

  10. What works for me is to pump first thing in the morning, after Wes’s longer sleep, at the same time as I nurse. (so baby nurses one side, while I pump on the other). I started doing this early on, and my body got used to producing enough to feed him with just one breast while producing 4-5 ounces on the other – enough for a feeding later in the day, or if not needed, to freeze for later. Then I pump during the feeding I’m missing (while at work – I have a flexible work schedule) to keep my supply up and again have some to store. This has worked for me with both of my boys, and means that I’m not constantly nursing/pumping, which is impossible now that I have two little ones!

    Good luck, you’ll figure it out. BTW – I totally agree, first bottles are bittersweet – but of course, you get used to it, and Owen still needs YOU the most!

  11. What a great picture of the cousins! I don’t blame you for wanting to add the bottle. I have to confess that it’s so much easier! It’s nice to be able to travel while feeding at the same time. 🙂

  12. So happy that you guys had a successful trip away from home 🙂 It definitely changes things when there’s a new little fella in charge who dictates when it’s time to stop for a meal!

    I started trying to pump a few days ago and was disappointed to only get a few drops the first time and the second time ended up with 1 oz from both breasts which I took to be progress from the few drops the first time. I ended up going out and buying a bigger flange per the suggestion of a friend and it did make a difference. Everyone says that it gets easier and you get more as you go along. I froze that 1 oz like it was gold! lol One thing that a friend pointed out to me yesterday that I hadn’t really thought of was that when you store breastmilk it’s a good idea to keep an eye on how far in advance it’s being stored (even if it is still “good”) because as your baby grows, your milk changes to accommodate his needs, so you want to make sure that the milk you’re giving him is equipped for his needs at the time. Now, I haven’t read into it and have no idea how far in advance it changes etc., but it was a good point that I want to check out!

    Does Owen still do the “milk monster” when he feeds? I think I’ve figured out that Cameron does it mainly during cluster feeds almost like he’s just dying to get that milk out!

  13. Love the family pics!

  14. Awww I’m glad to hear the trip was such a success! I can only imagine what it takes to travel with a 5 week old! I will have to deal with all that soon enough! He’s adorable!

  15. Thank you all so much for your comments! I love hearing what works for others in terms of pumping, etc. It’s such a tricky process.

    Kara, Oh. My. Goodness. I can’t imagine storing 100 oz of milk, let alone having to throw it away!!! You poor thing!!!

    thebakerbee, I hope I can do the same! I tried pumping when he took that first bottle, but still only got a little over 1 oz. That said, I was pretty stressed about him taking it, and it was only the first time, so hopefully in the future that pumping session will yield a bit more.

    Sarah, Thank you 🙂 I know you’re right… but it’s nice to hear from someone else (who KNOWS). I have never read Meredith Small but will add her to my reading list on your recommendation. I could probably get lots of reading done if I did THAT while nursing!

    Janelle, That sounds complicated! Ha. I have read about women doing that. The only thing that makes me nervous about that setup is that I have one side that produces 3 or 4 times what the other side does. I feel like if I gave Owen the low-producing side, he’d be hungry, and if I gave him the high-producing side, I wouldn’t be able to pump much. But perhaps, as you said, I can train my body to produce more over time. Thanks for the suggestion!

    Angie, 1 oz from drops is definitely progress! I seem to be stalled at the 1 oz. production… I get that every time I pump (plus or minus 1/4 oz), whether I’ve just fed him, or haven’t fed him in awhile. Weird! Hopefully that number increases, or I’m going to have a hard time pumping all the bottles he’s going to need! Owen hasn’t done the milk monster thing in a few days — I think you’re right, though, that it probably has to do with frustration not getting enough when he’s cluster feeding or just plain hungry at the end of the day. I’m hoping he’s growing out of that stage!

  16. I felt the exact same way by giving Ava a bottle, but now feeding amd pumping is a full time job! Hopefully, your body will recognize you need more milk now!

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