We set ’em up. Stella knocks ’em down.

Another triumphant feeding! Daddy and Stella celebrate after Stella takes 135 mls from the bottle!

Another triumphant feeding! Daddy and Stella celebrate after Stella takes 135 mls from the bottle!

Cody, Stella and I had a relaxing holiday weekend. I’m sad that it’s over and that Cody will have to return to work tomorrow. He’s been working a lot, which has been tough. Just having him around makes me feel better, and Stella loves it, too.

When I get down, he helps pick me up, and vice versa. Of course, when feeding doesn’t go well, we both feel discouraged and can sometimes work together to find the positives and pull ourselves up together.

This weekend, we realized that our standards had really risen in regards to Stella’s eating. We found ourselves feeling bummed when she took “only” 70 to 80 mls. We had to step back and remind ourselves that not long ago, that was considered a good feeding! 

Today is an interesting example. She had only four bottles because she slept so much, and because we gave her the usual two feedings via pump while she slept. The average number of mls she took per bottle was 111.75 (yes, we are that exact). Remember, her formula has 24 calories per ounce instead of the usual 20 calories per ounce, so she gets more calories with less volume–big feedings can really exacerbate reflux.

She complained a bit before her first feeding, but other than that, she accepted the bottle right away and was very comfortable while eating. Stella has come so very far! This whole feeding fiasco–or should I call it a “challenge” instead–has been an exercise in the power and importance of positive thinking. Slowly but surely, I’m learning.

Tonight, I returned the hospital grade breast pump that I rented two months ago. I was surprised by how emotional I got during this seemingly simple errand. I cried a lot and it really caught me off-guard. Then again, that pump and I, we spent so much time together. We worked so hard! We were side by side through the scariest times with Stella. When she didn’t want to eat and I thought her health was in serious danger and that it was my fault. When my milk supply was low because she wasn’t taking enough. When we had no idea what was going on with Stella and were desperate to get answers.

I tried. I really, really tried. Hundreds of ounces of breastmilk still sit in our freezer.

I tried. I really, really tried. Hundreds of ounces of breastmilk still sit in our freezer. Just can't bring myself to dump it. Too much effort and love went into making it. I'm wondering if I can donate it somewhere.

That huge, yellow pump became a fixture in our living room. It represented my long, last, and intense effort to continue breastfeeding Stella–and I suppose I had a hard time letting the pump go for that reason. Breastfeeding was what I wanted for her, and for me. I really miss the closeness that we enjoyed through breastfeeding. The proud and assured feeling that I was giving her the very best nutrition. The knowledge that I was nurturing her in such a direct and intimate way. I am grieving the loss of breastfeeding, though it’s not as sharp as when she had her first bottle of formula, or when I stopped pumping a couple of weeks ago. Even though formula truly helped Stella thrive by getting her comfortable and willing to eat, part of me really feels like Stella and I are missing out on something. However, toward the end of my time with this impressive piece of machinery, pumping was taking away more than it was giving us. 

At the hospital,  Stella was put on hypoallergenic formula “temporarily” to see how she’d do and to allow the doctors to do their assessment. (Of course, it didn’t turn out to be temporary, as stool testing showed that the switch helped Stella in many ways. I think that deep down, I actually knew that it would not be temporary, or at least I feared that would be the case.) I was pumping eight times a day even though it wasn’t clear if she’d ever safely be able to enjoy breastmilk again without jeopardizing her comfort and willingness to eat. I’d given up soy and dairy for the cause, which was difficult but wouldn’t have been as big a deal if anxiety wasn’t already beating the crap out of my appetite. 

Feeding Stella with the bottle, then the tube/pump is time-consuming and then to have to pump myself–it was too much for me to handle. I wanted more time to spend just being with and enjoying Stella instead of operating various pumps for hours a day. I needed rest, which was impossible with having to wake up to feed her via tube and stay up to pump. As my friend and cousin Regan pointed out, breastmilk is very beneficial to babies. But just as if not more beneficial? Happy, healthy moms.

Happy and healthy is how we can now describe Stella. Sure, I wish breastfeeding worked out for us. But it didn’t. It’s that pesky parenting lesson that keeps popping up! In short, sometimes things don’t work out like you planned or hoped or envisioned, and you just have to make the best of it. Besides, I have three months of fond breastfeeding memories to hold onto. I remember nursing her for 30 minutes right after she was born. I remember her first few weeks, when she’d wake up hungry in the middle of the night, and Cody would change her diaper and then place this beautiful, tiny, wriggling little baby next to me. She’d be crying and squirming and sucking on her hands–and then she’d latch on and suddenly be so peaceful. Later, that all changed and breastfeeding was not so peaceful, of course. But I’m so glad we had those early experiences together. And, stepping away from my emotional attachment to breastfeeding, I’m so very glad that the formula took away much of the pain Stella was experiencing.

She may no longer get my milk, but she’ll always get my best! I just love her so much. And that’s really all there is to it.

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