I've been a bit quiet. Typical start-with-a-blog-bang only to fizzle out fast? No. I am not, nor have I ever been, short on words. Excuses for not writing? I have plenty: Work trips, Thanksgiving, sick kid, sick husband. But the truth is -- I've been pondering how to approach this post for a while and am still unsure if I’m ready to write it.
Last month at a luncheon for Sweet Scarlett Grapefruits (I know, I know my day job is cool) I had the pleasure of hanging out with Haylie Duff. I didn't make the connection that she was the sister of Hillary and the girl from Napoleon Dynamite until in the cab back to the office but no matter. We were bonding over working mamahood, specifically breastfeeding, pumping, and traveling. When I disclosed that I was in the middle of weaning my son, she shared that she had just weaned her daughter. For a few moments her media-trained professional smile broke and she said "but I can't talk about it or I'll cry". Sensing the seriousness I kept up the mama talk but moved on to lighter fare. I feel similarly while writing this. The tears will come, maybe now, maybe later, and probably randomly when I am feeling just fine but like, an Adele song comes on or whatever. I am not necessarily sad, or necessarily happy, just feeling precarious as my body experiences yet another major postpartum hormone shift.
The trend (anecdotally) in the Facebook mom groups where I lurk late at night (make working mom friends IRL is my top 2016 resolution), the trend seems to be to quit pumping at work at one year but still nurse in the morning, at night, and possibly on the weekend. I was/am all for this. I am terrified of suffering from delayed PPD associated with weaning, I feel like I don't have a clue how to calm, comfort, or put my kid to sleep without unhooking a bra strap, and the longer he can benefit from the nutrition of custom-tailored milk the better. Thing is, making enough milk has been a struggle for my body from the beginning, something I alluded to previously. And since breastmilk supply responds to demand, once I stopped pumping at work it was only a matter of days before the milk making machine began to call it quits. Don't get me wrong, the kid still puts in an effort to make it happen, and at 3am if he is lucky, he coaxes a few drops outta lefty, but by now the drink on-tap is organic, whole milk (thank you for existing Ronnybrook Farm!). As if to prove how fast kids adapt, our little munchkin went from refusing milk, to drinking a warmed bottle of half & half (half cow’s milk, half breastmilk), to drinking all milk, to drinking cold milk, to drinking it from a sippy cup within a matter of weeks.
My brain knows that a year of breastfeeding is an incredible thing I did for my son. Chalk it up to mom guilt or the influence of my anonymous internet breastfeeding buddies, I can't help but feel a little disappointed that I haven't been able to do the evening & weekend thing.
I have been a staunch breastfeeding advocate since Professor Blenkiron's lifespan nutrition class sophomore year at JWU. Once faced with the struggles of making it work with a career, I dug in and became an even stronger BF cheerleader for myself and others. I breastfed at restaurants, on park benches, on the couch in front of company, and wherever and whenever else my baby needed to nurse. When we were apart I pumped every three hours, day and night, from studio green rooms to public bathrooms, from my seat on trains, to my seat on planes (ask me about pumping in the abandoned kitchen in Cleveland). And I have it 'easy', an office, an understanding supervisor, control over my schedule. What about women who do shift work, or have to clock-out for breaks, or literally do not have access to a private place?
For every time I stood with airport TSA agents "screening" my milk and for every eye roll I assume happened behind my back when I said that I needed to step away to hook myself up to my trusty PISA, for when I got scary sick… for every indecency, there was an email from a friend, thanking me for my public promotion of breastfeeding on social media, telling me I was their inspiration to continue pumping and nursing, or there was a call from a co-worker asking for advice on where to pump while traveling or what to do about forgotten storage bags, and most importantly, every day for over a year, there was that adorable button nose, and ten little, irresistible fingers and a heart-meltingly cute, satisfied smile snuggled up close, urging me to continue.
The point of this post is not to complain about how challenging it has been, or brag about having “made it”. We as a culture need to #normalizebreastfeeding, and one step towards that goal, is to have honest conversations about overcoming the barriers to success. Doctors’ very real ignorance and lack of concern regarding breastfeeding was personally my first roadblock. All I can say is thank goodness for internet friends, our informal, 20th floor pump support group (I'm looking at you Jenny G.), kellymom, and Brooklyn’s best lactation consultant. Finding places to pump while on the road is a serious struggle. For those of us who have to supplement, obtaining infant formula that does not contain corn syrup is frustrating. Advances are being made on the pumping front, I do feel like stigmas associated with public nursing are disappearing (but of course I live in Brooklyn, breastfeeding-babywearing capital of NYC), and while American companies have yet to truly step up to the formula plate (er, bottle), our European friends are, thankfully, on top of it.
Breastfeeding might be natural, but it isn’t easy, especially for those of us who spend the workweek separated from our babies. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you it is THRILLING not to have to carry a whole other bag on the subway, or wash a million plastic parts a million times a week. Wearing normal bras, keeping my shirt on all day, and sporting non-wrap dresses is making me downright giddy. When I think of this, and of all the efforts I made on this year-long nursing and pumping adventure, the sacrificed sleep, committed time, and disregard for my own vanity, not to mention the ten (10!) work trips I’ve taken since March, when I remind myself of what we’ve achieved in one short year, when I watch my kid chug his cup of milk and dig into his grapefruit, when I cheer as he takes his first tentative, teetering steps across the living room, I am filled with humbled, awe-struck pride. I’ve just completed what was, at times, the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Guilt be gone, hormone-tears be damned, it is time for this mama to celebrate!
Cheers my dears. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for reading. Now, go forth and continue to #normalizebreastfeeding.