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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bittersweet

When we went in for Iz's three month cardio appointment, we discovered she had gained just three ounces over the last month--her growth flatlined, just as we had feared it would, but Dr E said not to worry just yet because it just meant she needed a little extra help to keep growing. So he wrote us a script for some fortifier and within a day I had a pump and we were ready. The fortifier he prescribed was not available outside of a NICU but the nurse I spoke to said it would be even better to separate my milk and give her the hind milk. So I pumped and pumped and worried and pumped and stressed and pumped, trying to get enough out to separate and give her the hind milk. She was still nursing and she hated the pump so I had to wait for her to be asleep in the other room before I could pump.

She had her own ideas, though, and refused to take a bottle. She was not interested, at all. But pumping had upped my supply and she seemed to have an easier time eating because the flow was faster so I kept pumping. Sometimes I was up late into the night pumping after she was asleep. And slowly, my freezer started to fill with milk she refused to drink.

I was glad to have my little stash, though, because it took so long for me to get just a few ounces of milk--when she had her surgery, I worried I would not be able to pump enough and my little freezer stash would save the day and ensure she had enough until she could nurse again. Turns out, I didn't have to worry--every time I pumped, I got multiple bottles in just twenty minutes (there was a time limit on the pumping room....). Before she was even able to eat, I had filled a quarter of the PICU freezer. She used a few bottles in her feeding tube but she was back on the breast before long because she refused the bottle and hated the feeding tube. So I brought it all home and added it to my stash.

Today it has been six weeks from her surgery. She is gaining well and is nursing fine without me pumping extra. She still refuses to drink from a bottle and if I put breastmilk in the sippy cup we bought her, she wont touch it. If I put water in, she will play with it and drink a few sips but she is determined that only nursing will bring milk. So I gave her milk away.

It is bittersweet--so many hours and stress and effort went into all those bags and bottles of milk. The expression "labor of love" is really apt when it comes to pumping. But it did no one any good sitting in my freezer. Today, I donated it through my state's Facebook page for Human Milk for Human Babies--it went to a little girl one day younger than Iz. Her mum donated when she was younger but now is struggling with her supply and doesn't pump enough. I remember those days all too well--when S was a baby and I was working full time, I often pumped ten or more times a day just trying to eke out another ounce or two so he could have enough for the next day. I made it, but it was hard and exhausting and there were times when I just didn't know if I could do it. Eventually I got my supply back up but those months where it was down were horrible. So even though it was hard for me to empty my freezer and give away the milk I worked so hard to give to my own daughter, I am so glad it can help another little girl and another mum who is also working so very hard to give breastmilk to her daughter :)

I must admit, though, that I am sorely tempted to grab the pump and go to it while she is sleeping to get a stash going again, even though I know she wont drink it......