Friday, March 20, 2009

crying over spilled milk

A couple of weeks ago while I was taking frozen baby food out of the freezer to get lunch ready for the little ones, I spotted the grocery bag filled with frozen breast milk down at the bottom of the freezer. I took the bag out and looked at the dates on the bags of breastmilk...they were all almost 6 months old. I decided it was finally time to use it or lose it, so I defrosted a bag and used it in the babies food throughout the day. In the evening when we were getting the babies ready for bed and I was making their "top-off" bottles that they get every night before bed, I tried to pour what was left from the frozen storage bag into the bottles, and it poured all over the counter top. I probably only lost a couple ounces of milk, and I quickly cleaned up the mess and continued to put the babies to bed.

If this had happened more than 6 months or so ago, I probably would have cried for at least an hour. I worked so hard for each drop of milk I gave my babies, and I never seemed to have enough. Breastmilk was gold. My life revolved around trying unsuccessfully to get the babies to breastfeed (at least 10-15 minutes each), giving them bottles (at least 30 minutes), and then pumping milk (at least 30 minutes), starting the process again every three hours. I kept a chart of how long I pumped and how much I was producing. This was cross referenced against the amount the babies were eating and how many wet diapers they had in a day. Although I pumped all I could (sometimes more than 5 hours a day), I never had quite enough. During those first couple of weeks, my friend Heather, who's baby was just two weeks older than Max and Maya, brought over some of her extra milk for us. I was grateful for every drop, but I still had to supplement with formula. Of course, I was making food for two babies while recovering from major surgery, but I still felt horrible about not being able to make enough milk for the babies. I also felt guilty, rejected, and depressed that I was not able to breastfeed.

Breastfeeding did not come as naturally as I thought it would. It was a long hard process to finally get to a stage where we all were comfortable with it. I know many women decide against breastfeeding for various reasons, many of which I understand much better now than before I first started trying to breastfeed. Still, I am personally glad I continued to fight for it.

Thankfully after more than three months of pumping and trying unsuccessfully to get the babies to breastfeed, they finally gave in to my pleadings and started to occasionally latch on for direct feedings. For a couple weeks, I still doubted their ability and worried that at the next feeding I would need to bottle feed them pumped milk again. So after every breastfeeding session, I would dutifully return to the breast pump to try and produce some milk, just in case they needed it the next time. This was the first time I ever had excess milk, and I actually started building up some freezer storage. I stored up about 60 oz of precious breastmilk.

By four months old, I decided to stop pumping all together. The babies had to get their food directly from the source. We stopped all bottles except for one at the end of the day, just before bed time. Thankfully, they went along with the program. Maybe they were finally strong enough to breastfeed. Maybe, like Emily said, I finally forced them to breastfeed, or maybe they just gave in to my constant pleading. Whatever the reason, they finally became breastfeeding babies. They are now ten months old and breastfeeding pros. I love the time I spend feeding and snuggling with each of my babies. We will probably keep going for a while after all that work to get them going...I am not in a rush to have it be over.

Last week, I took the last of that frozen breastmilk (about 40 ounces) out of the freezer and gave it to a friend of a friend who was struggling to produce enough milk for her baby. It was nice to be able to share it with someone who understands how hard I worked for it. It amazes me to think that something I had fought so hard for when the babies were small now comes so easily.


  1. Oh, you are going through the toughest ranks of motherhood early. I feel for you. I walked a tiny bit in those shoes. I am so proud of you for being such an amazing mother. Those darling little kiddos are so lucky to have you as a mom. They are just precious and couldn't possibly get any cuter! You are an amazing person and I am lucky to know you!

  2. I love this post, Alisa. Thank you!! I hope it will inspire anyone who is "on the fence" about whether or not to breastfeed to really give it a try. Many women would've given up at the first sign of difficulty. I am glad to have a friend who's a fighter, and your babies are blessed to have a mother who's a fighter. What an awesome example you've shown your children at such an early age!

    If I had been local, I would've gladly given you my extra milk!

  3. Totally proud of you! I don't think I would have had that kind of determination in similar circumstances. Fortunately, the Lord knew I needed an easier situation and only gave me 6 weeks of pain, discomfort and wondering if it would work out, but that is the typical 'toughening' time for any breastfeeding woman. After that it was a wonderful experience (for each baby) and I'm so so glad I did it.
    Thank you for sharing your story, it can really inspire others. I know it inspires me and I'm long past my role as a breastfeeding mother - LOL!
    Lisa in TN

  4. Alisa, good for you! Good for you! Good for you! And of course, good for those babies. The struggle makes the victory all the sweeter. A few thoughts: 1) if you end up having babies close together (HA HA, you've already had babies close together, but I mean kid #3, etc) that will wean the babies for you, because the milk changes and the older ones will stop on their own. Mine lasted about 3 months into the new pregnancy before they self-weaned. (I am sure you are rolling your eyes and thinking no way, but you never know - it could just "happen" :> ) 2) If you guys end up adopting a baby at any point, you are totally ready to nurse that child. People think I am an absolute LOON about this but I am always encouraging adopting moms to prepare their bodies to try to nurse - I so wish I had been smart and confidant enough to try it, and I know it would have helped my son so much. 3) I think that is incredibly wonderful and generous to donate the milk. I am certain that mother appreciated it.

    Enjoy your last few months of pre-walking sanity - Angela Place