Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Time in a Bottle

Someday, in the not too distant future, I won't spend any time getting anyone else to sleep. And I suspect that this will make me sad.

In the meantime, my evenings are punctuated by seemingly non-negotiable sleep needs and chores (oh, the never-ending chores), leaving little time for anything else. I am stealing a few minutes between Petunia's bedtime and Pumpkin's bathtime to write this post.

Given the paucity of free time in my life, I am loathe to add another non-negotiable task to my evenings. So I am trying very hard to avoid adding an evening pumping session back into my schedule.

However, I am not keeping up with what Petunia is drinking at day care, and I am watching my frozen supplies dwindle. We haven't reached a critical point yet, but it is looming on the horizon.

I have nothing against formula, but I stubbornly don't want to use it. I am blessed with an abundant milk supply- really, you almost need an over-supply to keep up with a baby by pumping- and since I went to great lengths to provide Pumpkin with nothing but breastmilk, I feel like I should do the same for Petunia. For fairness, you know. (Yes, I know this is silly.)

Regardless, I view the little bottles of milk as liquid time, because they are not irreplaceable- I can make more (see above about the abundant supply), but to do so requires time, and of that I do not have an abundant supply.

All of this is to explain why it drives me absolutely bonkers that I can't figure out how to explain how I want the day care teachers to handle the last two bottles I send for Petunia, to maximize the amount of milk that I can reuse the next day. (I send extra because she refuses to settle into a schedule, so some days she needs it. Anything that has not yet touched her lips can be reused the next day. Anything that she has had a crack at has to be tossed if it is not used that day. Believe me, it hurts to pour milk down the drain. I usually make Hubby do it.)

I remember having a similar problem when Pumpkin was a baby, and I don't remember ever solving it. I don't think it can be solved, because the milk in the bottle represents time to the day care teachers, too- a more complicated routine would add to the time it takes to give Petunia her bottle, and with four babies to each adult, they don't really have an abundant supply of time, either. So I watch my frozen supplies dwindle and wonder if Petunia's solid food intake will increase enough to reduce her milk intake before my frozen stocks shrink to that critical point at which I decide that yes, I really do have to add the evening pumping session back to my schedule.

And will Petunia be sleeping well enough by that point to make those extra 20 minutes in my evening routine acceptable?


  1. The song "Time in a Bottle" totally makes me cry every time. I think it is amazing that anyone breastfeeds at all. It never clicked for me and I gave it up. Now if my kids turn out to be anything less than supergeniuses guess who will feel guilty? (I kid, but only just a little). And I get the fairness aspect of why you want to pull out all the stops to give the same benefits to Petunia. Good luck!

  2. This is one of the reasons I introduced formula to DS at 5 months - I just couldn't make pumping work for us. I was still at home and BF'ing but if I wanted DH handle a night feed, or if I wanted to go out for an evening, I would have to pump every morning for a week straight in order to get enough milk for a single bottle. I NEVER had back up supplies. Really, I still don't know if it was a supply issue, a technique issue, or an equipment issue. I didn't look into it because I was home most of the time. So, with #2 on the way - that's probably the one thing I want to do differently, get some help with pumping. Undoubtedly, with a toddler around I am going to need other people to feed #2 once in a while.

  3. mary d8:34 AM

    I remember the same issue from when J was a baby and it's going to come up again. We ended up supplementing with formula -- he got about one bottle a day. My husband tells me I fought him tooth and nail on that but I don't remember. :) I have told him already that if I have the same issue this time, that he is to remind me that I am ok with giving the baby formula. I had a real issue with daycare -- I wanted them to use the breastmilk first and the formula second (I'd much rather pour the formula down the drain!) and would label the bottles as such but they wouldn't do it despite repeated conversations. It never occurred to me that they were time-pressed too and just grabbed one labeled "J"! Oh, the joys of sleep-deprivation.

    All this to say "I hear you" and also -- if you have to give her formula, it's ok. :)

  4. @hush- I think the evidence that breastfeeding is preferable is solid, but that the differences in outcomes are SMALL, and that the difference in outcomes when you compare a happy mother to a depressed mother are probably far bigger. So in my opinion, if the choice was happy mother using formula or unhappy mother trying to breastfeed, the happy mother wins hands down. Please don't take my neurotic insistence on breastmilk only to say anything about your (or anyone else's) choice of what to feed your kids! I honestly don't think you have anything to feel guilty about.

    @Jac- were you using a double pump? That is FAR more efficient. Also check the size of the flanges. And try adding a little lanolin around the edges to get a better seal. Get a hands-free bustier so that you can pump while doing something else (like, say, blogging....)- you get a better let down if you're relaxed. Someone I know who only needed to pump occasionally just cut holes in a sports bra to make her own hands free bustier. (I pump 3x a day, at work, so the zip up hands free bustier is well worth the money I spent on it, but I could see how it wouldn't be for someone who pumps less frequently).

    I've been surprised by how un-jealous of Petunia's breastfeeding Pumpkin has been. She does breastfeed her dolls, though. My mom even covered one of those travel neck pillows with cute fabric and made her a "Boppy".

    @Mary d- I'd be furious in your position. My day care people use the bottles in the order that I label them- I just can't get them to pour a little bit of "new" milk in with the last ounce or two from a previous bottle. We always seem to waste the little bits left over.

    When Pumpkin was on the long, slow path to weaning, I sent some breastmilk and some cow's milk, with the instructions to use the breastmilk first, and NEVER had any problems with that. Some of Petunia's little classmates get a mix of breastmilk and formula, too, and as far as I can tell, they always get the breastmilk first.

    All of this is a long-winded way to say- if you are using a clear labeling system and the day care providers can't follow it, I'd talk to the director. I can understand not having time to juggle milk between bottles, particularly since every family has different "rules" about using leftover milk. But I can't really understand not being sure to use the breastmilk before the formula!

    Thanks for the encouragement about formula use. The thing that gets me is that the steps I need to take to avoid it are pretty minor, really- I just need to spend 15-20 minutes each night pumping, and maybe take some fenugreek for a week or so. In fact, I could probably get away with pumping every other night. I think it would be easier to just use the formula if the steps required were a bit more heroic, you know?

  5. I hated the evening pumping session. I can't even really say why (maybe because DH was usually sleeping?), but I dreaded it.
    Jac- in addition to what Cloud said, not all pumps are created equal. You're better off getting a more expensive but good quality pump.

  6. oh how I hated that feeling when the freezer supply was dwindling!!

    I still managed to keep up though because Pea continued to breastfeed all night. I think she got most of her nutrition at night and just topped up during the day.

    This sucked for me, but she had a lot of digestive issues we didn't know about until very late (@ 1year). So she wasn't eating solids during the day and relied on my milk at night. I shudder to think about it.

    My son OTOH adored solids at 5 months and my milk became just a supplement.

    The one thing I did to make those midnight pumping sessions more "palatable" was I'd do them in the only sacred quiet space where I could close a door (the bathroom, how sad) and read trashy magazines. It felt so nice to get away and hide.

    I also found that if I read or thought about things that got me worked up (politics!! or a mean person) my boobs would totally gush with milk! Strong emotions would make the milk flow quickly and make the session go faster.

    While it really sucks to make room for this time, you will be happy you did it. I still feel awful I had to give my daughter formula for ONE day in her entire life because we were traveling and I couldn't handle transporting her next day's supply.

    It's stupid to feel this way, but I do and I don't regret the lack of sleep looking back on it all as much as my (illogical and incorrect) perceived sense of laziness on my part by not getting dry ice to bring fresh milk on a plane !! crazy!

  7. @Jac, one thing I didn't realize for ages is that the pump I was using could be adjusted (ah, sleep deprivation... I feel like such a loser typing this). I was getting so so frustrated with pumping 2 or 3 times for one meal, and then noticed a faint knob on the pump which allowed me to adjust it to suck harder. As my boys got older I needed to adjust the pump to keep up with their sucking style.

  8. @Cloud - I just went through this when the Pookie was around 6 months, give or take some weeks. I didn't want to supplement either--not that there is ANYTHING wrong with that! Just like you said, I didn't have to supplement with my first so I didn't want to with my second. And I really really wanted to continue being the milk provider! Knowing what I know about the supply and demand issue of breastfeeding and growth spurts, I was worried that if I started supplementing during a growth spurt, my supply would never keep up. Plus formula is expensive!

    Like you, I debated whether or not to add in another pumping session at night. Ditto to everything you said, with the addition that at the time I could fit it in at night, I would only get an ounce or two tops. It just didn't seem worth it.

    The week he turned 6 months, we started him on solids using the baby-led weaning/feeding method. He was NOT ingesting anything. He seemed so hungry after "meals", and was choking a bit on the foods. So we scrapped it and gave him purees. That really did the trick. He started gobbling up the cereals and purees, and needed less milk. AND I was able to stop worrying about pumping more!

    I think Petunia is around 6 months right? I don't know if you've started solids yet, but perhaps that will help you out the way it did for me.

    I looked at it as we had a few choices:
    1. Pump more, and put off solids/continue with the baby-led weaning.
    2. Supplement with formula, and put off solids/continue witht he baby-led weaning.
    3. Start foods/switch to cereals and purees, and nurse and pump as usual.

    Obviously, I choose #3, and was so glad I did! Good luck figuring it all out!

  9. Oh, and we re-use left over breastmilk for up to 24 hours after initial warm up, as long as it's been refrigerated (unrefrigerated for about 4 hours after warm up). Check out the last study on this page, which found no difference in unconsumed breastmilk and "partially consumed breastmilk that was stored for 48 hours at 4-6° C":

  10. We solved the wasted-milk-at-daycare problem by sending "micro-bottles" to daycare. In addition to the normal "meal" bottles, which by 6 months, were around 8 ounces each, we also sent several bottles with just 1-2 ounces each. Instead of needing to pour milk, the daycare provider just grabbed one of the supplemental bottles when needed. If my son finished one micro-bottle, they started the next one. There was still occasionally wasted milk, but it was limited to 1-2 ounces.

    This solution required more prep time for us in the morning, more bottles to wash at the end of the day, and lots of milk pouring and juggling on our end, but it kept it simple for the daycare. All I needed from them was a bit more space in the daycare fridge, but they were happy to accommodate me with that.

  11. I hate pumping. Loathe it! I feel like a dairy cow. So I don't pump. Rosie was bottle fed after 3 horrible weeks of non-nursing. With Annie I'm more stubborn and am still nursing at 3 months, but with a bottle of formula each evening. This is more so she's used to a bottle so I can go out. I *could* pump this bottle, but the anti-dairy-cow in me just won't let me do it! :)

    Anyway I hope your stores last long enough so that you don't have to add in that extra pumping session! I'm impressed (like really really impressed) by anyone who can pump as much as some of you ladies do.

  12. I reused my milk on the time! Never threw that away. Maybe the day care has different rules, though.

    These are the things that helped me feel better about cutting down on pumping:

    You count, too. Also, you have to make less milk EVENtually. And: she'll be eating more food!


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