When I was pregnant, I didn’t really plan to breastfeed Boopsie. I planned to give it a cursory try, and as soon as the going got tough I would quit, and then I would happily accept help from Daddy-o and others for the nighttime feedings. I was terrified of being “it” all the time. I didn’t like the though of being only one who could feed her for the first four weeks and then being the primary food source from then on out.. such a big job!
About six weeks before Boopsie was born a friend asked me if I was going to breastfeed. When I said I was going to give it a shot, she said, “So you’re going to give it the college try?”
“More like the high school try,” I said back.
Then Boopsie was born and two things happen. First, (and shockingly) breastfeeding wasn’t the painful nightmare that I’d imagined it to be. I was very fortunate. Boopsie had a pretty good latch from the get-go, she was a good eater, and I was able to hold on. First, I set my eyes on one week. Then I counted down the days until she was four weeks old and Daddy-o could give her a bottle. Around three weeks, I made Daddy-o come into the nursery when I was feeding her (for what felt like the 75th time that day) and help me list out all of the benefits of breastfeeding in order to keep myself going. Then I set my next goal as eight weeks. Check.
At 10 weeks, Boopsie suddenly spent several afternoons screaming in pain. I packed her off to the doctor, who diagnosed reflux and recommended a dairy-free diet for me. Hold the phone – dairy free diet?
I spent my childhood in Wisconsin. I. Love. Cheese. Greek yogurt is a major protein source for me. And while I was pregnant I pretty much ate my weight in ice cream. Weekly. As icing on the cake, I was instructed to give up soy, too. No Tofutti-Cuties for me.
I thought about switching to formula, but was worried about the variables. What if that didn’t work for her? What if THAT gave her a bellyache? So I gave up dairy. And I approached it like I approached breastfeeding… one day at a time.
Now Boposie is six months old. She’s still breastfed, with formula to supplement when I can’t keep up with demand. I’ve tried Fenugreek, eaten lots of leafy greens and eggs, and make lactation cookies to try to boost my milk supply but can’t quite make it. The most notable piece of this arrangement though, is that this cheese lover has been without dairy for four months.
Here’s the second thing: Yes, I am a person who hates to quit, hates to do less than the best. But in this case I’ve experienced an incredibly strong impulse that I believe comes along with being a mother. I’ve pushed myself further and tried harder than I ever expected to give Boopsie the best. And in this case, for me, that’s meant keeping on keeping on with the breastfeeding. Yes, formula is a great option for many reasons. Intellectually, I know this. If I gave up breastfeeding now, Boopsie would be fine. More than that, she would likely continue to thrive. But I haven’t been able to do that yet. In spite of continued late-night feedings, feeling like my boobs are anyone’s but my own and (holy crap) being dairy-free, I can’t throw in the towel.
I don’t want to make this a bigger deal than it is. Yes, I gave up dairy (and soy). But I have a friend who experienced extreme pain (broken nipples!) trying to establish breastfeeding. It took more than three months of pumping and pain and working with her son and their pediatrician for her to be able to feed him as easily as I can feed Boopsie. Three months. If there was an award for “Lengths Gone to in Order to Breastfeed,” she would win it and I would cheer loudly for her.
I keep coming back to that conversation when I was pregnant: Six months into breastfeeding (when I planned on none), and still cheese-free after four months… here’s to the high school try.
(And yes, I’m keeping a list of all the foods I want to eat and restaurants I want to visit when I’m back on cheese.)