Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Letting Go

The time has come:  I am no longer breastfeeding.  It is disappointing, and I am riddled with guilt for deciding to stop, but it had become too much of a fight.  We struggled with it from day one, long before surgeries and chemo, and it continued to get more difficult.  I got hours of help from many different lactation consultants, rented a hospital-grade pump, and had lots of support, but I just found myself not able to keep up.  I discussed it for a long time with Chris and Scarlett's doctor, and we decided that it was up to me to stop when I felt overwhelmed.  That time has come.

I was prepared to nurse for as long as she wanted to, found multiple resources to go to for help, researched and invested in equipment to support me and read every article I could.  It turns out that her anatomy and mine were not a great match, so it was challenging.  Then, when she was hospitalized the first time, my milk supply dwindled, and I struggled for the last 3 months to get it back.  It is nearly impossible to pump in the hospital, and I am completely in awe of those who can do it.  The hospital does provide pumps and all the supplies for moms who have a sick baby.  Sometimes I got my own to use when I wanted, other times it was a shared pump in a little closet.  Sharing a pump with others meant sometimes waiting in line, which kept me from my child; pumping in her hospital room meant inevitable interruptions.  I think that every doctor we see has seen me topless.  I even had one try to shake my hand while I was holding the pump up...awkward.

It's not the first of our ideal parenting plans that have flown out the window.  Last weekend, we sold or returned all the cloth diapering supplies that we had.  Our schedule made it nearly impossible to get the dirty diapers out for the service to pick-up (and to launder them ourselves would be just as hard to fit in).

There are sure to be more plans we must let go; we planned to be typical parents, but we don't have a typical kid.  She's extra-ordinary, so we have to keep up.

P.S. - For those who remember the breastmilk cancer treatment I mentioned earlier, don't worry; that study has only been done on rats in experimental settings.  It has fantastic implications for the future of cancer treatment, but it is not ready for babies.

47 comments:

Kelli said...

Be proud that you kept it up as long as you did under such unusual circumstances! I love reading fearlessformulafeeder.blogspot.com and your story would be excellent to share there.

Rebecca said...

(((HUGS))) I had to stop BFing my daughter earlier than I wanted to as well. My supply took a nose dive after a nasty cold and I was unable to keep up with her demand. I tried like crazy to get my supply back but had no luck. I also had pumping issues...but at work....sooo many people walked in on me! It was horrible.

You did a wonderful job keeping it up for as long as you could. Great job! :)

weberfamily said...

I just wanted to say great job for sticking it out this long! You did wonderful!! You are doing everything possible for that little angel and that is all that matters. :)

Anonymous said...

You shouldn't feel guilty at ALL that you gave up Breastfeeding Butterfly!!
You did something wonderful for your daughter and I give you so much credit for that!! You are SUCH a wonderful mama and Chris a father.
Please know that you and your BEAUTIFUL daughter are ALWAYS in my thoughts and prayers, and thank you for sharing your story and sharing a piece of your little miracle the littlest butterfyl Scarlett with me.
i am going to light a candle for Baby girl and say my prayers for you all.
Stay strong, mama!!

-Noelle
Cafemom (Formerly Babycenter)
July 2010
Boston, MA

argevans said...

try not to let the guilt get to you. i was able to BF for the first three months, had no problems getting her to latch or anything. my supply dropped. i pumped a ton, ate oatmeal, drank water, ate extra healthy portions, etc and was only able to get 1/2 oz a session. almost two years later, i'm finally 'ok' with it. please don't beat yourself up because you've stopped. it's amazing to BF no matter how long you do it, one day or one year. try to think of it as one less 'stress'.
i have a niece that is almost 17. her tumor was diagnosed at 18 months. the dr's said she only had 6 months to live. boy were they wrong! ; )
stay strong. you, chris & scarlett are constantly in my thoughts.

Heather said...

"but we don't have a typical kid. She's extra-ordinary, so we have to keep up."

I LOVE this!

You did amazing breastfeeding when so many would have given up early on with the difficulties you mentioned. Feel proud instead of disappointed.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to overstep, and I certainly don't think you should feel guilty for not being able to continue breastfeeding Scarlett. You have so much going on and you need to choose where to most effectively spend your energy. I definitely think Scarlett needs her mommy to keep up with all her medications and appointments and therapies and still give her lots of love and snuggles more than she needs her struggling to pump and getting exhausted by doing more than any one person could ever be expected to do!

But if you are interested in still getting some of the benefits of human milk, there are options for donor milk. I know it's not something everyone feels comfortable with, but it's an option. Two great organizations that put donor mothers in touch with mothers and babies seeking donations are Eats on Feets and Human Milk 4 Human Babies (HM4HB).

Anonymous said...

Try not to feel guilty, but I know how hard it is. If you would like to still give her breastmilk, you could try to find a donor on eatsonfeets.org Lots of moms donate their milk for free (and I'm sure would be more than happy to help in your particular situation!). It wouldn't cost much to get the milk screened.

Amber said...

If you are emotionally and physically exhausted then you are no good to Scarlett. Fighting to keep up supply and find times to pump IS exhausting. You are there for her every second of the day, and you are a wonderful Mommy.

Jeff said...

There was a donation place in San Jose called the Mother's Milk Bank when Kristiana and Jacob were both babies. Sylvia donated to them. Not sure if they are around still or not, but you could check if that was something you were thinking of. Don't beat yourself up over this, try not to feel guilty. She certainly is extra-ordinary!

Julia said...

I just wanted to kind of reiterate what others are commenting...

It's amazing you have pumped this long for her; I can't imagine the emotional and physical strain it has had on you.

But, if you want her to have breast milk, she can!

I'm a nursing mom and I have donated over 1500 ounces through the human milk bank of North America. I still have a whole deep freezer full. If it was possible, I would send you every last ounce for Scarlett.

Contact a milk bank, or look at milkshare.com or, Eats on Feets on Facebook.

Please contact me if you have any questions. I've followed your blog for awhile now and would love to help you in any way.

Michelle said...

I am amazed by you! Scarlett has an amazing Mommy.

Molly (from BBC March 2010) said...

I had a "typical" baby, and even so I found that many many of the things I SWORE I would do before I had kids went out the window when that first baby arrived. You just can't know what circumstances you might face, and you two are doing a wonderful job of caring for your baby girl. Keep it up!

Jessica said...

Please try to not feel guilty. I also had lots of trouble breastfeeding my son during his first couple of months - we just weren't compatible either. It took immense work on my part to keep my supply up for him. I have a friend whose daughter was in the NICU and she tried so hard to keep up her supply, but like you experienced, it was pretty much impossible.

Listen to your body. Your body is telling you that you need a break from something. You are being a mom, you are learning more than anyone ever wanted to know about brain cancer, medical procedures, chemo, hospital equipment, vital signs, etc, you are trying to be strong for your tough little fighter when all you probably want to do is break down and cry and take all of her pain and problems away from her. And on top of that you are trying to enjoy every minute with your little miracle.

That is more than most moms ever have on their plate. Also pumping and trying to keep up with providing breastmilk for your daughter would be unbelievably difficult. Your body is telling you that you can let this go and focus on all those other jobs you're doing. Put your time and energy towards that. Your daughter received so many wonderful benefits of the breastmilk she's already had. She will be ok.

As a mom it's our job to be hard on ourselves and feel guilty for not meeting all of the impossible goals and standards we set for ourself, but we don't need to be. We should be more understanding of ourselves. I hope that your guilt is short lived and I hope you enjoy not having to stress about how much milk you're producing, where you'll pump, when you can pump next, etc. Enjoy the "free" time :)

Jen said...

You are amazing for keeping up with it as long as you did!

Britni G. said...

I admire your courage and your strength through all of this. I haven't commented yet, but I read every update. I am currently sitting in the ICU with my 10 month old. She had open-heart surgery yesterday. I don't know exactly what you are going through, but I can say I understand all the hospital issues and burdens. I too had to stop breastfeeding before I was ready. It was just too stressful and emotional when I pumped. I think God helped you (and me) with the decision to stop. He knows how big of a stress it is and it will be one less thing you have to worry about. I pray for all of you and think about you often. I pray that God gives you strength, understanding, courage, and peace. Good luck in this journey and God bless.

Anonymous said...

Scarlett is blessed to have such wonderful extra-ordinary parents! You have all been in my prayers daily since mid-December and I check your blog nightly. Hugs to you all!

Gena Baker said...

Don't feel guilty that you had to stop breastfeeding! You gave it an awesome try and Scarlett got quite a lot of benefits of breastmilk. =) My daughter weaned herself at 4 months and I had so many problems between her being a preemie, not knowing what exactly to do as a Mama and my milk never fully coming in.

Jackie B said...

It was so odd... As I was clicking on your page I actually wondered out loud if you were still breastfeeding, and didnt know if you would let something that personal be known. I wondered, because I am having a hard time keeping up with breastfeeding myself and have been toying with the idea to stop. My lactation nurse also commented that my daughter and I werent compatible either. Dont feel bad! Life always has different plans for us! You have been such awesome parents and I LOVE reading your blog. I talk to my husband about you as if we know you more than from this blog. I get excited, sad,and hopeful for you. I pray everyday for her continued health and am glad that you are just getting one day closer to putting this all behind you. Your beautiful and strong daughter has touched more lives that she will ever know.

Evie's Mommy said...

First of all, don't feel guilty, you are an amazing momma!!!
I just wanted to suggest you look into donor milk or a milk bank. I know others have suggested this as well, and I think it would be worth looking into. :)
Praying for Scarlett and for your family!

Megan Cox said...

Congrats for making it so long with so many roadblocks. I was trying to breastfeed my twins when Sabrina was admitted to the hospital. She didn't eat for a week while she was in the PICU and I pumped for her and her sister in many hospital rooms, closets and bathrooms. I had milk stored in many hospital refrigerators and sent some home in coolers for her twin. I also realized I wanted to spend more time with my daughter and the stress of life was affecting my supply. I started pumping with more time in between and by the end of our hospital stay I was only pumping once at night before falling asleep. I will tell you it was hard to adjust especially when I felt forced to stop (due to life circumstances). After a couple weeks I felt much better and then when she was 7 months old I started regretting it and almost decided to try to re-lactate (it is possible). I decided formula was just fine and it did make life easier and more manageable. TIme with our child at rough times is worth more than anything. Good luck with this transition and know that it will be okay...it is one less thing to worry about. It will make feeding time with Scarlett less stressful and more memorable :) You have a beautiful daughter, I love looking at all the photos. Thank you for keeping the website going so we can all follow her progress,

Anonymous said...

The most important thing is that Scarlett is loved and being cared for, and you and Chris are doing a wonderful job at that!!! Breastfeeding or formula she is getting the food she needs, and all the love from the two of you!!!

A little note: said...

I agree and am so impressed that you have made it this long. That is awesome!

I know the guilt feeling. Ava, who was born in Oct, stayed in the NICU (level 2) for two weeks due to having Hydrocephalus and getting a shunt. She also had weight gain issues, so I would have to pump and fortify her milk. I used to pump in the hospital too and know the feeling, although our time there was nothing compared to yours.

I still feel guilty that I am depriving her, but for my sanity (I also have a 2yr old) I couldn't keep up. I was also in so much pain because of exclusively pumping. But, we do the best we can for them and that is what counts.

Hang in there and stay strong. You did a fantastic job making it this far, and that is amazing!

Anonymous said...

Oh Brandi! I am so sorry. I can only imagine what you are feeling! I know when I started to supplement because I could not keep up I felt all sorts of dark walls around me. If not for the Zoloft I would have crumpled I'm sure. You are a wonderful mommy and I am personally so impressed with your strength. You are doing so awesome with everything that has been handed to you.

I hope you have a chance to look into some of those neat milk donor places. With your little love being so sick I could imagine that even just a bottle of BM a day would be beneficial - but just remember that if you can't do it - IT IS OK! She will still continue to grow, and improve and thrive because she has her parents love and support to guide her.

Best of luck.

Bonnie said...

Your title scared me to death! All I read was 'letting go' and thought "but she's doing so WELL" and then I got to the breastfeeding part. Phew.

BTW, I know exactly how you feel about pumping in the hospital. I did it for 10 weeks while my son was there, and made it to 8.5 months, but it was SO TOUGH. There's no way I would have been able to keep it up if we'd been back and forth to the hospital. Be proud you made it this far and she is healthier because of it!

Jennifer White Ramirez said...

Every drop of breastmilk you fought so hard to give her these last months has already benefitted her immensely - every little bit helps especially in those early days, weeks. Be proud of that, especially with all you have faced.
BTW - the smartest person I know was formula fed - 1600 on her SATs, 4.0 in college & grad school, perfect score on the CPA exam.
Oh as for the other benefits which I know are endless, I breastfed both of my children and they still had tons of ear infections and had to get tubes. So, breastmilk is not the be all and end all.

All this to say - as moms we do what we can, butwe shouldn't beat ourselves up when we can't do EVERYTHING. You are an inspiration to us all.

Maite said...

You are doing a great job as a mommy to a beautiful little girl! I can only imagine how difficult it is to deal with the stress of all that has happened and still be strong for your baby. Your family amazes and inspires me. Scarlett is super lucky to have such a dedicated family. Parenting, unfortunately, can not be planned and executed as we desire. I had a master plan that was thrown out the window the day I got pregnant. You are doing a great job of being proactive towards your daughter's needs. I'm sure she knows that she has awesome parents!

Anonymous said...

Take a deep breath and tell yourself it's ok. Any amount of breastfeeding you did is great. Disposable diapers are fine. When Scarlett is 10, she isn't going to care that she drank formula, or wore disposable diapers, she is going to remember spending happy times with her mommy and daddy. Reading your blogs you are truly amazing. I have a 6 month old and we pray for you all often. I used to scrub every bottle by hand each night. I timed myself one night and it took me over 30 minutes to wash bottles! This was time away from my son. Now I put them in the dishwasher and boil them once a month or so. They are clean, maybe have water spots but WHO CARES :) You have to do what is best for your family, and if choosing to breastfeed no longer and use disposable diapers is what's best, then that's what you do. You are amazing, so give yourself a pat on the back for all you have done and will do for your sweet baby!
-Jenna mom to a 6 month old

Anonymous said...

You should be so proud of yourself for making it as far as you did under such incredibly challenging circumstances. I think the idea of using donor milk is fantastic, provided that is something that YOU are comfortable doing. There are certainly benefits that she will get from having some breastmilk in her diet. Good luck with whatever you choose. The most important thing you can give her is love.

Kay said...

Brandi you have a done a wonderful job with Scarlett and I know you will continue to be the amazing mother that you are!

Anonymous said...

This too shall pass! One can really only do so much and our body's can only handle so much stress. You are both doing such an amazing, incredible job in the midst of this huge adversity. Patti H

Jennifer said...

i'm not the first to say the "letting go" title gave me a bit of a heart attack here.. so glad she's doing well.. i totally get the BFing thing. i had low supply with both my sons -- and i tried pumping... did it with supplements for about 3 months and then just couldn't take another second of it. how you have managed to do this for so long -- i have no idea. i truly think you are an amazing mother. but you'll have more quality time with scarlett -- and that's the most important thing. i found after i stopped that i was able to enjoy my children so much more, instead of keeping to such a schedule. i hope it's the same for you. hang in there -- big hugs from someone who has never met or known you, but checks in every day to see how you're doing.

Wendy said...

I completely understand what you are feeling. My goal in the beginnign was to try and see if I could. I was able to keep up until my 4.5 month old needed 6 oz a day. Now if I get enough to put a 50/50 blend in I'm happy. I only plan on doing this for one more month - my supply too has diminished from a few illnesses.

Anonymous said...

Way to go for going as long as you have with all that you have going on! What you have done for her by going this long has helped her so much in so many ways. You are not a bad mom at all for wanting to get more focused on being there for Scarlett. Like others have said, she will be just fine on formula. You have to do what is in her best interest and if that means stopping pumping so that you can be there for her more, than that is what is best for her...not stressing yourself out over your supply.

I would be intersted in donating breastmilk to Scarlett if you are intestered...as would many other mothers I'm sure. I have a very large stash in my freezer and an empty insulated box sitting at home that could probably hold 600ozs. If you are interested in receiving donated milk, please let all of us know by posting in your blog...and if you aren't...that would be good to know too.

May God continue to bless your family as you continue this journey!

AlaskanAlison said...

Please don't feel guilty. You did the best you could, and honestly I'm really impressed that you made it this far with all of the stress that you guys have been going through. 4 months of breastfeeding is a heckofalot better than none at all.

Lindsey rothwell said...

Stay strong, mamma! I've made the difficult decision to stop breastfeeding twice and I know how tough it is. You are amazing parents who go above and beyond for your daughter every day.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on making it so long! That's something to be VERY proud of!

Anonymous said...

Great Job momma

Dawn said...

Any amount of breastmilk for any amount of time is awesome. I pump full time for my daughter because we could never work out the nursing thing and it is so hard. I can't imagine doing it for as long as you have while being in the hospital while dealing with everything else. You have done awesome and will continue to be an awesome mother. You are doing what is best for you and your daughter and that is all that matters :)

Kelley said...

In our home we live by this motto: Happy Mamma = Happy Baby. And this is so very true. Try not to feel guitly (much easier said than done - I know)... but instead be so proud that you were able to go this long (way more than I can say for me). You are amazing, and what I consider to be a supermom. I'm sure that I'm not alone when I say that I truly admire and look up to the strenth that you have. Don't let this get you down.

Mary Elizabeth said...

Awesome job for making it this far! Pumping is hard work. I'm not sure if you've heard, but breastfeeding supplies -- pumps, bags etc. are all tax deductible for your 2010 taxes. Every little bit helps!!

Still praying for you, Chris and baby Scarlett!

Jenny said...

Wow, I only can say what others have already said - Great job making it this long. My little guy was hospitalized for only 3 days and my supply to a huge hit. I know what a fight it can be to get it back. I know how hard it can me on you when you have to stop befire you are ready. Please don't beat yourself up about it or feel guilty. Praying for you!

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Anonymous said...

I was an exclusive pumper for a couple months as our anatomy didn't work out well either. It is the hard work of both worlds. Washing supplies, keeping up your milk supply, and taking double the time and engery to feed your baby. I had problems with this as I continued to get mastsis. So, after being on three rounds of antibiotics we stopped. I think every mom goes through some feelings when she stops...but we are doing what we feel is best for them. When I stopped my baby loved that I felt better and I think they can tell.

Hugs for you!

Kiera said...

I have been following you and Scarlett's story for months and I had to chime in on this one. CONGRATULATIONS for going as long as you did with the breastfeeding. You should not feel any guilt at all about stopping. You and Chris are doing amazing things for her. I am also a mother to a child who has special needs and I have found myself doing so many things different than what I expected. Do not give into the guilt, instead focus on how much love and attention you are giving her. It is a lot to organize the specialists, the appointments, the payments in addition to the emotional impact you are feeling. Stay strong. You have so many people rooting for you from all over.

Tara said...

Hi Brandi, I just caught up on you guys tonight and wanted to share my little story. When we had Walter, your sister was truly the best friend I could have asked for. Walter just never latched on and I struggled for 3 months trying to pump and bottle feed. Walter was a baby that wanted to eat, then be held while he slept and then be held while he was awake. LOL, he still wants to be held while awake! While he was being held, he would have multiple exorcist baby moments. My husband was at work, on the ship and Lindi was up just being a friend. I remember sitting down on the couch and just crying to her being so stressed out that it seemed so hard to try to pump when I didn't seem to have the hands to do it. Lindi pointed out something that stuck in my mind and that I want to share with you. She told me that I was still a great mom even if I was no longer breastfeeding and that Walter would still love me. So, I am passing this on to you. Do not feel guilty, or mourn the end of breastfeeding. You are a WONDERFUL mother and Scarlett still loves you. Sleep well tonight and as always, you, Chris and Scarlett are in our hearts,thoughts and prayers.
Lots of Love,
Tara Poor

Krisie said...

As someone who struggled the entire time with breastfeeding, I just wanted to let you know that you have done an amazing job. I can't imagine the "fun" if trying to pump in her hospital room. The fact that you managed to keep yourself going is testament to your desire to do everything possible for Scarlett, as is the fact that you are with her every step of the way. Congratulations on her progress and on your ability to let yourself stop pumping. You are doing an amazing job, Mommy!!!!!!!!!!!!!