Done nursing

I’m done.

I’d hoped to nurse Thane through to a full year – he’s nearly 10 months old now. I made it just about 7 months with Grey. But I think this phase of my life has come to a close.

I’m a big supporter of breastfeeding. I’ve also had problem-free experiences. My milk has come in well. My babies nursed easily and right away. I’ve always had enough supply to meet demand – at least when they were little. But I start having trouble once they start crawling. I’ve come to the conclusion that the people who manage to nurse to a year or more have children who sit more quietly than mine do. You should see some of the acrobatic feats Thane has accomplished while attached to me. He’s got two teeth now. He’s started biting. He twists and winds. Unless he’s 90% asleep, it’s not really a pleasure to nurse him. I’ve been pumping for nearly 7 months now — a huge part of my day spent in a super-cold server room. But without the pumping, the supply doesn’t keep up. And finally, my trip to Washington not unexpectedly put a huge dent in my supply, even though I diligently pumped all the time I was away from Thane.

I have three options: keep trying to nurse him and attempt to deal with all these complications one by one, stop nursing him and feel like a failure for not making it to a year, or stop nursing him and feel like a success for having nurtured such a big, strong, healthy kid for as long as worked for both of us. I’ve decided to go with the latter.

There are a lot of emotions around this. Nursing is pretty cool. I mean, suddenly your body does this awesome, useful thing that very few other people can do. Imagine if your belly button suddenly started producing Hershey’s kisses on demand? It’s just awesome. I’m going to be sad when my body turns this new functionality off. I’d kind of rather keep it around unless I need it, you know? But no. If you don’t use it, you lose it. On the other hand, I might now be able to wear some of my more fitted blouses. Or (gasp) dresses. Or get some bras that do not look like they came from the 30s. I’m not going to have this little alarm clock in my head reminding me I better get some private time with a pump or my baby soon. I won’t look down in surprise to see any warm stains spreading when I don’t succeed in this.

It’s time. Thane has shared my body for over 18 months now. I’m ready to get it back to all mine.

I’d like to close up with some numbers. I know lots of people seem go online to find out “what’s normal”. I think I had a pretty normal nursing and pumping experience. I’d also like to give some perspective to people who think pumping is easy. I actually kept detailed records on how much I pumped (because, well, I do love me some data). Here’s how it plays out.

I pumped:

For 26 weeks
For 261 sessions over 108 days
1626.5 ounces

That comes out to:
15 ounces a day
6 1/3 ounces a session (on average)
62 ounces a week
2.5 sessions a day

If you assume I spent 15 minutes a session pumping (I think it’s likely to be more) I spent a total of 62.25 hours pumping. Over those six months, I produced 12.7 gallons of breastmilk.

Please note that I nursed during lunch, during weekends and during time not spent at work. The above figures reflect the amount of milk produced while working full time.

Good job, Tigris and Euphrates.

Not a baby anymore
Not a baby anymore

Feeding a Thane

I’m finding it a fascinating experience to discover what is largely unchanged child-to-child, what is unique to each individual person, and just how much I’ve forgotten in three years. Food has to be one of those issues.

Does his face look different to you? I swear it's changed in the last week.
Does his face look different to you? I swear it's changed in the last week.

Breastfeeding I remembered thinking about. One of the things I dislike about nursing is just how much attention I find myself compelled to pay to it. I suspect this has a lot to do with me and my personality. My brother was commenting the other day just how much time I spend WORRYING about things and planning for things. It’s true — I hardly even notice because I’ve always been like that. But I notice with breastfeeding. I constantly wonder if I’m making enough milk to satisfy, how long it’s been since I last nursed, whether I’ve gone too long and am risking my supply blah blah blah. I think about it all the time. It’s exhausting. I take action on it all the time, too. I am still pumping at work twice a day, almost 6 months after my return.

Well, I’ve set myself a deadline. We’re headed out to Washington in the first week of August, at which point we’ll dump our children onto my parents and decamp. Or rather, camp. I’m planning on backpacking. I don’t see a great way to bring out enough frozen breast milk to provide for Thane while I’m there. And I don’t see a good way to preserve breastmilk while I’m backpacking the West Side of Mt. Rainier. So my plan is this: get Thane sufficiently accustomed to formula so that he can be on that while I’m gone. Bring my breast pump so I don’t totally shut off my supply, but stop worrying about it constantly. And then when I get back, I’m done pumping during the day and Thane can have formula at daycare. We’ll continue nursing when we’re in proximity for as long as it continues working. If this spikes nursing totally, so be it.

Of course, this matters waaaay less than it used to because Thane is getting so much more food from food. What I had forgotten about this stage was how unbelievably messy it is. Cheerios are all well and good, if a cross between a nutritional meal and a projectile weapon. Blueberries are beloved, but risky (nothing stains like blueberry!) But dear me, when the baby food comes out! First of all, Thane objects to not having control of all objects in his proximity. This is true of glasses, necklaces (I haven’t worn a necklace in about two months), noses, toys and spoons. So especially before he’s gotten his first bite, he’ll do a very good impression of an anti-spoon-aircraft battery. Usually he manages to at least hit away the spoon, which dislodges some food, which he promptly grabs with his hand. Then he rubs his eye.

“Ow! Mom! Someone put something in my eye! It hurts!” further evidence, if any was needed, that 8 month olds are not geniuses.

Once I sneak in that first bite (often while he’s protesting the indignity of not being allowed his own spoon), he’ll either decide he loves the food and open up (I always feel like a mommy bird popping worms in my baby’s mouth), or close his mouth tight in protest. Neither one really stops the questing hands.

The result is absolute chaos. He’s usually covered in food. His eyes are covered in food. His tray is covered in food. I’m covered in food (he has this charming habit of blowing raspberries). The floor is covered in food. The sides of the high chair are covered in food. And he’s hitting the tray with a stolen spoon, like some Victorian food protester.

Yeah, I think our babyfood days are limited. Time to start doing more finger foods.

The "after" picture

Thane at four months

Ask not for whom the baby smiles; he smiles for you
Ask not for whom the baby smiles; he smiles for you

I brought Thane to the doctor for his four month checkup this morning. Statistically, he is doing wonderfully. He’s holding steady, percentage-wise. Thane is 14 pounds and 15 ounces (50th percentile), and 25 3/4 inches long (75th percentile).

At his four month checkup Grey, whom I always considered to be a bonny big boy, clocked in at 13 pounds 13 ounces.

Grey was also born at a pound heavier than Thane.

So to sum up, Thane has grown a LOT in 4 months.

Thane passed his checkup with flying colors. The doctor remarked on how very strong he was. He can stand on his own (if you provide the balance) holding on to your hands in a vise-like grip. He rolls over easily front to back, and frankly is very very close to rolling over back to front. He’s gotten 90% of the way there several times and simply stopped trying when he was on his side. When placed on his belly, he can move by scootching, although there’s no intent on his part to move somewhere. On his back, he moves in circles like the hands of some baby-clock ticking away the brief moments of infanthood. He kicks up his legs and then brings them down to the side. He repeats. Yesterday he turned 180 degrees using this method.

Thane’s gripping and playing is going very well. He isn’t a huge fan of pacifiers, although they will sometimes help when he’s unhappy. But he loves to play with and hold toys. Sometimes in his attempt to reach for something, he’ll knock it onto the floor several times. (Helpful brother Grey will often restore it.) If he can grasp it well, it immediately goes to the mouth. He will hold strongly onto an object once he’s gotten it.

We are still nursing all the time. My pediatrician has given the green light to start adding in solid foods, but there’s no rush. Thane hasn’t started giving me the puppy dog eyes as he watches me eat dinner. He’s clearly thriving on breast milk. Instead of looking forward to each milestone hit, I find myself not wishing Thane any older or bigger or stronger than he is. Already, I miss the little tiny baby. (15 pounds is NOT a little tiny baby.)

Thane’s sleeping is a bit of the good and a bit of the bad. On the good side, when it’s time for bed I go through our bedtime routine of two stories, nurse while mom sings, and placing him in his crib awake. I walk out the door as he watches his mobile and I don’t hear from him again for 5 hours. He goes to sleep like a dream (ha! Get it?!) He stays asleep during the night, waking at reasonable intervals for a bit of a snack and immediately going back to sleep. The other day, we put him to bed at 7:30 and he didn’t wake up for the day until TEN. That’s fantastic! Fabulous! Amazing!

The flip side, though, is that the child DOES NOT NAP. He gets tireder and tireder as the day goes on, but he won’t nap in his crib, or in his swing, or while mom holds him. And towards the evening, he gets understandably cranky. I’d rather put him to bed at 8 or 8:30, but he just can’t be happy being awake then. And he doesn’t sleep unless we do good-night ritual above. All told, I think this is likely a phase and I’ll get him to nap eventually, but it does seem like he lumps all the sleep together. This is less pronounced when he goes to daycare because he sleeps well in the car, so he gets a nap going to and coming from daycare.

Personality-wise, I continue to find Thane a joy. He’s incredibly social, smiling incandescently at everyone he meets. He LOVES to watch other children play. He very reliably only cries when something is wrong (hungry, dirty or tired) OR if he can’t see anyone. He’s extremely good-natured. He “talks” a lot, this happy baby babble that delights my heart. He seems very sweet and good-natured, and possibly a bit less mercurial than his brother.

He already loves to read. Even in the middle of his exhausted evening fuss, he quiets down and pays attention when it is time to read. You can almost watch him drink in the bright pictures, trying to figure out his world.

He does not like loud noises, especially when he is eating. If I speak loudly while I’m feeding him, he pulls off and gives me this accusatory stare. Rubertina at daycare reports the same thing. Also, I am now remembering why I weaned Grey at 7 months. The squirming and thrashing is painful enough in his gummy state. I suspect it was unendurable with opposing biting teeth.

He laughs when you blow on his belly.

Thane is a lovely child. His eyes remain a few shades darker blue than Grey’s. His cheeks are winter-rosy. His skin is exceptionally soft. His birth-hair has mostly fallen out, and after a while of psuedo-baldness, his first real hair is starting to come in, a bit darker than Grey’s. His gaze is arresting — clear and knowing. His smile lights up the world around him.

A sucker for data

I’m not sure when this started. I think it has something to do with organizing data for a living. (How are computer programmers like librarians?) But I’m a sucker for hard, empirical data.

For example, my company has no log of hours worked. But on my own, really for my own benefit, I’ve logged my hours for roughly the last 5 years. Why? To what end? I have no idea. I just like the fact that they are bona fide real facts and I can keep track of them.

Which brings us to today. When you nurse a child, you have no idea how much they are eating. The amounts are quantified as: not enough, enough and too much. (Too much, for the curious, usually results in a return of a rather larger portion of milk than you appreciate. Usually over something that is dry clean only.) But when you go back to work and sit in a server room for half an hour a day with the Economist (this week) and a breast pump that wheezes “wax on, wax off” you end up knowing EXACTLY how much. And if you keep the variables relatively consistent (twice a day with a noontime nursing) you can, you know, keep track. With this lovely, empirical, completely pointless data.

11 ounces, in case you’re curious. Tigris appears to consistently produce half an ounce less than Euphrades.

So of course I have to start logging this data. Not because it’s important, useful or valuable in any way. No. Because it’s DATA.

Thane at three months

Thane on tummy time

I’m spending this week getting ready to go back to work. That’s involved a lot of cooking, shopping, laundry and doctors appointments. (There’s nothing wrong, I’m just cramming a year’s worth of appointments into the last week or so.) You always wonder how you are going to handle things when life is about to change. How will I deal with a baby? How will I deal with a second child? Will I go nuts at home? Will I get any sleep? How will I deal with work? Will I ever have any time to myself ever again?

I’ve learned that in general, you do manage and you do cope. But I’ve really enjoyed this time at home with my children. For the most part. Poo excepted. Still, the time is coming for me to return to work, and that’s also a good thing. I’m just making two of my most time-consuming recipes this week as a farewell (tonight: turkey).

It will be particularly difficult to leave Thane. For a quarter of a year, I have rarely gone anywhere without him. For three quarters of a year prior to that, I went nowhere without him. You would think experience would provide consolation… he’s a month older than Grey was when Grey went to daycare. He’s going to a woman I’ve known now for three years. His big brother will be there, and Grey is quite capable of watching over Thane and letting me know what goes on. Heck, I’ll still be there nursing at lunch. But oh, he’s such a joy.

I’m still struggling to decide whether Thane is a more mellow child than Grey was, or whether I am a more mellow and experienced mother. I think a little of both. Thane spends a lot of time quietly watching the tumultuous world into which he was born. He has this amazingly clear, patient gaze.

Thane is starting to gain control over his body. His hands reach out and grasp what they encounter — particularly endearing when what they encounter is your finger. He has started playing with toys. There was a remarkable day when that simply BEGAN. He reached out his hand and grabbed the beak of this colorful bird that was his Christmas present. For maybe even 20 minutes he reached his hand out to where his attention was riveted. He’s also much more active when he does move. We find him perpendicular to where he was placed in his crib. He managed to turn on the bubbler by kicking it. He rolled over again (front to back) after a month hiatus or so. He scootches across the floor.

He smiles all the time. He grows unhappy if he can’t see people, but will contentedly sit for quite a while if I remain in view. His smile is radiant, transcendent, glorious. The gummy toothless smile of a child who loves you best in the world is hard to top.

He’s a big kid. He’s well into 3 – 6 month outfits. They fit perfectly, boding ill for how long they’ll continue to fit. He’s pretty strong — he holds himself up sitting (although he lacks balance to sit by himself). His neck is very stable, and his grip impressive.

He has the auburn hair of his great-grandfather. I’ve seen pictures of my grandfather as a young man, and Thane has the exact same hair color (for what hair he has).

We are still doing very well nursing, and I have oodles of milk frozen for his journey to daycare.

Grey is an amazing big brother. I keep waiting for the resentment or impatience. Grey and I have our conflicts (over pretty much everything else), but he never ever turns his ire or impatience against his brother. (Yet.) Yesterday, the boys and I were in Thane’s room. Grey decided to spread a blanket on the floor and asked if he and Thane could have a sleepover. How delightfully imaginative! I was so impressed that he figured out a way to play with Thane that he could do! (Thane’s few skill indeed include lying on one’s back on a blanket.) Grey is incredibly careful and gentle with him, and it was wonderful to see my two boys ‘playing’ together.

It is time for me to go back to work and flex those disused muscles. I think it is a right and necessary thing. But oh. I will miss my boys.