That title sounds like a bad spell check suggestion… but really, it’s true. I have cabbage boobs.
The last chapter of Owen’s and my breastfeeding saga is here. I’ve decided to stop pumping. I’m going to preface this post with a request that I have never made before: If you do not agree with my decision to stop breastfeeding, please keep that opinion to yourself. While I’m generally very open-minded about others’ opinions, I don’t want to hear it this time. I have thought long and hard about this decision and it has weighed heavily on my heart for awhile. So, please. I have enough guilt already. It was hard enough to make the decision and even harder to write about it, but I am confident that it is the right decision for our family at this time, so I will promptly delete and ignore any comments or emails that make it any harder for me.
That said, here’s how it all went down. I had originally envisioned breastfeeding Owen for a year. When we were in the throes of figuring out the complicated mess of issues that made breastfeeding impossible for us (reflux, a tongue tie, low milk supply, latch issues, etc.), I could barely imagine going one more feeding with nursing, let alone another day or another week. As time went on and we teased out the issues one by one and addressed them, we fell into a happy pattern of exclusively pumping and supplementing with formula whenever I couldn’t pump enough on a given day. A few weeks ago I realized that my entire freezer stash that I had worked so hard to save was unusable because I have excess lipase, and Owen refused to drink the funky smelling milk. Still, that was not the final straw. I continued pumping and planned on doing it until Owen was at least 6 months (January 24th).
However, as I begin to imagine how our lives are going to change when I return to work and Owen starts daycare in two weeks, I realized something important. If I have only an hour to see my son in the morning, I don’t want to spend nearly half of that pumping and sorting milk. And I don’t want to waste my brain space on counting ounces and calculating bottles and thinking about how many hours milk has been out or if it’s gone bad. And I would really like to get back into a routine where I can do things like work out and run errands on my lunch break or after work and not sit chained to my pump.
Still, there is a large part of me that feels like a terrible mother for making this decision because of things that I don’t want to be doing anymore. That’s where the guilt sets in. But, as Benjamin reminds me every day, people make most of their decisions based on their own wants and needs. I am certain that I have given Owen an outstanding start to a healthy life. And the whole family has sacrificed a lot to give him that in the last 5 months. Now that he’s eating solid food like a champ (he can’t get enough), I feel comfortable knowing that his palate is getting a wide range of flavors and textures and his body is getting tons of nutrients and vitamins from natural sources… and they don’t have to come from my body. And, bonus, he loves formula! Once he’s getting all formula, we may even be able to take him off of the reflux meds, because formula sits heavier in his stomach and he may not have the same issues with stomach acid.
The only problem now is how to stop. Since I have always been a low-producer, I thought it would be easy to stop pumping. Boy, was I wrong! Our bodies are made to feed our babies, and it’s not like a faucet you can just shut off. Hence, the cabbage boobs.
Now that I’ve made the decision to stop, I would like to be completely weaned from the pump by the time I return to work on January 3rd, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for slowly removing one pumping session a day, and gradually cutting back the amount of ounces I’m pumping. Instead, I opted to go cold turkey. Or, as cold turkey as I could handle, which is turning out to be a LOT more painful than I expected. I’ve read that putting cabbage leaves on your boobs can help manage the pain and swelling. I’m not sure what’s so magical about cabbage… maybe it’s just that it feels like a gentle ice pack when it comes straight out of the fridge, but I’ve been doing that for the last day or so. I’m also wearing a sports bra instead of a regular bra, since I’ve heard that compression can help keep the swelling down too. I’ve taken Tylenol a few times to reduce the swelling, but I don’t like popping pills if I don’t need to. And even though I’m trying not to pump, I’ve had to pump off 3 ounces or so every 6 hours during the day because the pain has gotten unbearable. I know I’ll have to stop doing that, too, so today I’m going to try to pump even less.
But… wow. It is pretty amazing how much it hurts, and how hard my boobs can get! They feel like rocks. For the first time in my life I feel like Dolly Parton.
Anyone else gone cold turkey on nursing/breastfeeding once your milk supply was established or struggle with engorgement? Any remedies I haven’t tried that worked for you? I’m desperate! But I sure am glad that I’m doing this now and not while I’m sitting at a desk trying to work (and leaking milk all over my nice work clothes).