Goodnight, milk.

Stella wasn't sad to see the milk go. In fact, she was delighted.

Stella wasn't sad to see the milk go. In fact, she was delighted.

A couple of weeks ago, I threw out 341 ounces of frozen breastmilk. That was just the bottom shelf. I still need to clear out the top one.

It has been six months since the last of it was pumped, rendering my precious milk expired. At the beginning, every half ounce was sacred. Toward the end of my pumping days, I didn’t bother saving the milk. It sat out for hours, until I forced myself to pump again at which point I would dump the previous yield down the drain. I was so bitter. So exhausted. I’d had it with pumping. Stella had been diagnosed with cow’s milk protein intolerance and fed hypoallergenic formula through a tube for a good month, and still I pumped. The odds of returning to breastfeeding seemed grim at best. Still, it was hard to stop. I didn’t want to give up. I wanted her to have “the best.”

I’d been meaning to throw the milk out for some time now, but couldn’t let it go.

When I stopped breastfeeding, when Stella had her NG tube, I was an emotional wreck. But I was consumed with tube- and bottle-feeding my baby and completely focused on getting Stella over her feeding aversion. I never really allowed myself to think very deeply about the loss. So I never got to grieve my milk or my vision of breastfeeding and what it represented to me. I never really embraced the choice that I made–the only choice that seemed logical, the one that enabled Stella (and me) to thrive. I want to accept it completely and I’m not sure why it’s been so hard to do.

I’ve thought about this a lot lately, since dumping those 341 ounces. And perhaps the answer is simple. Formula-feeding is not what I wanted for Stella. I failed. Or that’s what it feels like. And a very small, insecure part of me wonders if there is simply something wrong with me. My milk made Stella sick. It didn’t protect or nourish her or do anything it was supposed to. I used to joke to myself, in the weeks just after Stella was born, that my breasts were being both destroyed and redeemed by breastfeeding. They were being stretched to the limit with the influx of milk, so I knew I could say goodbye to any perkiness. On the other hand, they’ve always been small and had really only been a source of ridicule from about fifth grade on, so I found it quite astounding that they had the amazing power to nourish my baby. To help her grow! For me, it was empowering. Unfortunately, that didn’t last.

I wrote about our attempt to give her a dairy-based formula. I never followed up on how it went. Let’s just say that the switch was not successful. Her intake started to drop slightly and she developed a couple of red splotches on her face.  We were very quick to switch back to hypoallergenic Elecare,  so we can’t be 100% sure if the milk protein was really bothering her or not. But my gut tells me something was off. It helps a little bit with the recurring thought that maybe, if I’d kept avoiding dairy and soy for just a little while longer, and kept trying to feed her, she’d have come around to enjoy nursing, and get the benefits of breastmilk without all the pain she’d been experiencing. Of course, that’s simplistic thinking, and dismissive of the severity of the issues we faced at that time. But the idea lingers.

So. yes. I’ve been reluctant to throw out my milk. I kept hoping that maybe someday, I could give her some.  My brain kept whispering, annoyingly, “You know, you could add a bit to each of her bottles and she’ll get the benefits!” But it’s clear now that, no, she will never have my milk again.

Every time I read about yet another benefit of breastmilk, I cringe. Each time I read some judgmental comment or article by some zealot who equates formula with poison, I seethe. (For that reason, I can no longer read Mothering magazine.)

Perhaps that’s why I painstakingly calculated the total number of ounces. I needed some proof, some evidence of how hard I tried. I will get the final number soon, when I gather the courage to toss the rest. Maybe then I can finally let go.

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About amberhj

Mom, writer, worrier. And a stubborn idealist nonetheless.
This entry was posted in breastfeeding, Frustration Station, Milestones and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Goodnight, milk.

  1. porridgebrain says:

    Hello there – just came across your blog today on my ‘tag surfer’ and wanted to respond because your post made me so sad 😦

    What I wanted to say was that feeding your baby is just ONE of the many, many ways that you are a good parent to her. I am so sorry that the breastfeeding didn’t work out for you – as a fellow mum and breastfeeder I can only imagine how disappointing and painful that must have been for you. But please remember that you nurture and nourish and protect you little girl in so many other ways – in your love for her, the time you spend together, through your commitment to her and choices and deciosion you make to best respond to her needs.

    For me THAT’S the mark of a good mother – one that is open and accomodating of her child’s needs whatever they may be. We can’t control what our child may need and often it is far from our expectations. All we can do is try to meet them best we can.

    Sending lots of love your way and celebrating your fabulous achievement both in battling on for so long and in having the strength to let go.

    Take care x

    • amberhj says:

      Thank you so much for the support and understanding! It was such a wonderful, thoughtful comment–and much appreciated. And thanks so much for stoppin’ by 🙂

  2. Jessica says:

    What she said!! Sister, you are a great mom and don’t you forget it. Breasts, schmeasts!

    • amberhj says:

      Thanks, Jessica! I do know that I’m a good mom. But the whole breastfeeding thing still hurts. I’m slowly moving on…. 🙂 Thanks again.

  3. Trish Norton says:

    I breastfeed Sarah for 6 months (with the occasional bottle). Then my milk supply started to dwindle (probably due to my exercise obsession…) It still hurt me to have to give up breastfeeding–even though we made it for 6 months. It is just an emotional thing! Which is a good thing, but still a hard thing.

  4. Laurie says:

    Wow, you can tell you are a writer. You have been able to put into words exactly how I felt about not being able to continue breastfeeding my boy, for the exact same reasons as Stella. It still makes me sad 6 months later, but I know I had no choice. I said it already, but THANK YOU so much for your blog and the hope that I am getting from reading it that we will be able to ditch this dreaded NG tube. Hugs. X

  5. Tawny says:

    I came across your blog when googling elecare. My baby has been breastfed since birth and is now 5 months old and for the past 2 months she has had feeding aversions and intermittent blood in her stool and has had chronic diarrhea since birth. I’ve finally accepted the idea of transitioning to neocate or elecare and given up on the vision of breastfeeding : ( We are going to start in 2 days. I will pump just like you did because I too thought breastfeeding would be best, but is clearly only harming my baby. I love your blog. You are an excellent mother and this page is written beautifully. I’m so glad I came across your blog. Now I know I am not alone. Thank you for posting your experiences.

  6. Mariangela says:

    I thank you for writting this blog! I had the same situation with my two boys! my last one is only 21 days old and since birth I breastfeed him but he started this horrible mucus diarrhea and blood on his stool, so I changed to elecare and the diarrhea stoped but after a week on it he still has blood on the stools and a constipation. This is an overwhelming nightmare! I will have an appoiment with the GI this wednesday. Maybe elecare is not the right formula for him. Any advice?

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