Y'all. I know it's not Monday, which is when I usually post for Mama Heart. I also know it's been eons since I've published a new post. Life has been kicking my booty lately, which has inspired today's long-overdue Mama Heart installment.
If you follow me on Instagram and watch my rambling, often pointless Instagram stories, then you know that I've recently started Beachbody's 21 Day Fix program. I joined a challenge group on Facebook and have been doing daily 30-minute workouts, drinking Shakeology, and ramping up my water intake. It feels really good to take care of my body with daily exercise (something I haven't done regularly since I was preparing for my wedding 4 years ago!), but I'm not sticking to the program 100%. There's a clean-eating component with strict portion control, which I'm not yet implementing since I'm still breastfeeding. I don't want my milk supply to drop.
I'm especially worried about my milk supply since I've stopped nursing Louisa and am exclusively pumping to give her bottles of breastmilk throughout the day (she only nurses right before bed, but I might start giving her a bottle then, too). I've mentioned this a lot on my Instagram stories because I have to pump around 4 times a day, often for at least 30 minutes at a time (sometimes more). I've been doing this for over two weeks now, and to put it bluntly, I hate it.
Louisa was never a lover of the bottle, which was fine until a couple of months ago, when she became super distracted while nursing and would pop off the breast after just a few minutes unless we were alone in a quiet room where she couldn't hear any other noises. It became very frustrating and nearly impossible to complete a nursing session. And forget about nursing in public/covering up to nurse; I'd be flashing everyone and squirting everywhere within minutes (#sorrynotsorry for the visual--I keep it real here). I began offering her a bottle or two during the day, and once she got used to them, I started giving her bottles for all of her daytime feeds. She slept through the night for the first time in her life that first day of all bottle-feeds (and every night since), which I think is due to her finally getting enough milk throughout the day. She's satiated. And we're both finally well-rested.
However, pumping several times a day is wreaking havoc on my life at home. I'm tethered to an outlet for 20-30 minutes, 4 times a day, and I have two mobile, active kids at home; I have to be available to intervene whenever things start taking a turn toward "unsafe" with them. My house is a mess. Max isn't napping anymore so I'm getting no break from him during the day, and he's also turning into a doozy of a threenager before my very eyes. Despite working out everyday (which I've been doing early in the morning before everyone wakes up), I'm becoming more irritable and stressed because I can't seem to manage this new pumping lifestyle in addition to all of my other responsibilities as a stay-at-home mom. I have to keep the same schedule of pumping if I want to keep the same output of milk, but I still have over a month to go! Something's gotta give. I can't keep this up for 30+ more days.
Louisa will turn one on May 19, which is when she can switch to whole milk. I spoke to her pediatrician yesterday, and he said I could do bottles of half breastmilk/half whole milk starting at 11 months, and keep that up until she turns one. In order to maintain my sanity and some semblance of order in my home, I need to drop at least one pumping session a day, which will for sure lower my supply. I know I won't make it to her first birthday with my stash of breastmilk.
So Louisa will be switching to formula.
Just typing that leaves me reeling with guilt...
...which is ridiculous because Max switched to formula at around 11 months. He became a distracted nurser, too (although he was also biting me regularly), but I only pumped twice a day and my supply dried up within two weeks. I had to switch to formula. But I know better this time, which is why I've been pumping four times a day to keep my supply up. I feel like I'm taking the easy way out with Louisa if I intentionally cause my supply to drop.
I also have 3 good friends who each exclusively pumped for the entire first year of their baby's life. I only need to do it for a little over a month. If they can do a whole year, I can do 6 weeks, right? But for those friends, it was their first baby. They didn't have another kid running around at home while they tried to pump all the time. Two of them worked full-time, so they got to do most of their pumps at work. Sometimes I think that if I were working outside of the home, I'd be able to keep it up.
I've been battling this guilt for over a week now. I've finally decided, though, that I need to forget about the guilt and do what I think is the best thing for myself and my family, which is gradually introducing formula while simultaneously decreasing my milk supply.
Sitting around, for me, begets more sitting around. It zaps my energy and my motivation, which leaves my house in shambles, which leaves me resentful and overwhelmed. I refuse to quit working out every day; I'm creating a healthier, stronger me for my family, which is so important. Fed is best, and Louisa will still be fed. Just not from my body anymore.
My guilt is purely self-generated. I'm not being pressured by any outside sources to continue pumping despite all the evidence that this isn't working for me and my family. It's all me. I don't want to feel like I'm giving up or taking the easy way out. I don't want to feel like I'm the only one benefiting from this change (no more pumping; no more cleaning pump parts; I can wear whatever I want and not have to worry about whether I can easily attach my pump; I can soon return to sleeping on my stomach; I can devote myself fully to the 21 Day Fix meal plans). I know other people have persevered through exclusively pumping, so I feel like I should too, but I'm taking advice from Amy Poehler: "Good for her! Not for me!" Just because someone else is doing it doesn't mean I have to do it. I take that stance in every other area of my life; why should I make an exception now when it's clear that trying to make it work isn't working? Bottom line: this is what's best for me and my family. And even though I am sort of taking the easy way out, I have very valid reasons for doing so, and I have to be okay with that.
As moms, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do what we think society wants us to do or to do what's most popular. But just because it's the popular choice doesn't mean it's right for you. You're the one living your life. You're the one dealing with your family's schedule and needs. You're the boss of your family and how you get through the day-to-day. Do what you gotta do, Mama, while still maintaining some semblance of sanity. Let's also encourage all the other moms out there who are working their hineys off just trying to make it to bedtime. We've all got our own battles to fight and hurdles to clear; let's not add "defending my choices to the Sanctimommies" to the list. Let's build one another up and kick the mom-guilt to the curb.