Eight months of pumping for my angel boy and still going strong! Well, we’re getting by anyway. This is a monumental accomplishment for me. The thing I struggled with the most when we found out about Clayton’s cleft lip and palate [for more info follow the “cleft” tag at the top of this post] was losing breastfeeding. I hate pumping. I’ve always hated pumping. I’ve never been very good at it and besides, breastfeeding has always been more than just “feeding” for me.

It starts out rough but once I’ve gotten past the initial horrirific difficult months weeks with my first three boys breastfeeding has been the greatest tool in my mothering tool belt. I’ve breastfed to calm a fussy baby when nothing else was working. Especially when he’s just had shots, bumped his head or he’s been missing his momma.

How many mornings have a woken up to find a baby latched on, feeding, and not remembering waking up at all? Many. I nursed one boy through 17 ear infections. The sucking made him feel better and I slept only because he nursed all night.

Some of my favorite mothering moments have been with a babe at the breast. The magic of nursing a cranky baby from frantic to relieved to relaxed is a beautiful and empowering thing. His little eyes droop and close, his lip corners tug back letting a drop of milk escape down his chin, his fists rub at his eyelids and he sighs. Happy baby, happy mommy.

When you’re breastfeeding, you can leave the house with just you, your baby, your sling and a diaper. You’re free to be gone an hour or a day at a time. You don’t have to worry about your baby getting sick because of external bottle related factors. There are no bottles to wash. You don’t have to juggle bottles, warming, re-warming. Is this one too old? When did he start this one? You don’t have to guess how many bottles to take with you when you’re gone for so long. Bottles are just harder. Pumping is harder still.

When he was three months old and had the obturator in his mouth, I tried to get Clayton to latch on. He wasn’t interested. I tried and tried and cried and cried each time it didn’t work. A couple of months later after his lip was healed. I tried again. He still couldn’t suck but had gotten really efficient at moving the milk out of his bottles so I had some hope. I put my baby to my breast and he twisted away. I rubbed some milk on his lip and tried again. He sneared and whimpered, twisting and arching his back. Again I cried. I cried for weeks. I tried for weeks. My heart was broken.

It was finally real. This baby would never experience what his brothers did… That closeness with his mother. Fresh milk right from the tap. Falling asleep at the breast. He would never know.

One day I held him, a bottle in his mouth and tears in my eyes. My baby looked up at me, happily gulping his lunch and smiled. He giggled, the nipple still in his mouth, a drop of milk rolled down his chin. Then he sucked. Then he sighed and snuggled into me. And his eyelids dropped. He was happy. This was what he knew and he was happy with it. And then I knew I needed to let go.

It’s not the same but I’ve been surprised how much of that breastfeeding feeling I’ve still been able to have with my bottle-fed boy. I reluctantly confess that I hadn’t planned on pumping more than a couple of months. The breastmilk itself has never been very important to me. That has changed! Aside from all of the health benefits of breastmilk, I’ve grown to appreciate that my babe is still momma fed. It’s still just me and him. I’ve grown him from a seed and he is still nourished by me.

I feed my baby as much as possible and we cuddle close for feedings. I wear my baby a LOT of the time. I was afraid I’d be tempted to leave my bottle fed guy more since it would be easier than leaving a breastfed baby who might not take a bottle but my feelings haven’t changed much. We’re a two-for-one deal. In the beginning I held him to my breast or fed him cheek to cheek. Now that he insists on holding his own bottle I still hold my baby, talk to him and get in face time as he feeds.

It gets harder and harder to meet the demands of my growing boy (especially since he’s not interested in food) but for now I’ll keep pumping. I don’t have a specific goal in mind and I plan to stop well before I would regularly be done breastfeeding and I’m okay with that.

They keep trying to shove this fun orange paint in my mouth. What a waste!

My family has sacrificed tremendously to to make this happen. The kids have learned to take care of themselves and each other. They’ve missed out on playing sports that would require a mommy chauffeur, they’ve missed me in their classrooms, they’ve missed camping and other family activities that wouldn’t accommodate my pumping schedule and apparatus. They need their mom back. But they’ve all been a part of making their baby brother healthier and happier and they can be proud of that.

I have a new, profound respect for all of you pumping and bottle feeding moms out there. It’s a lot of work just to meet this one most basic need. That’s what’s great about moms: We’ll make it happen for our kids, no matter the pain or the price. I’m proud to count myself among those ranks!

Eight months of Clayton

Clayton is:

  • So much like William
  • Cruising
  • Standing and letting go!
  • Still loving to be worn in the sling or wrap
  • Always happy (when worn)
  • Not interested in crawling
  • Not interested in food
  • Not interested in sleeping
  • His brothers’ favorite toy
  • Loving having Mom to himself with Jack in school mornings
  • Spectacular!