When my son, Evan, was born, I decided to breastfeed exclusively. When I went back to work after 12 weeks of maternity leave, I controlled my anxiety over how he could possibly live without me by his side by trying to control everything. I nursed him on a schedule and I pumped at the exact same time every day. I had a daily spreadsheet that tracked what I pumped, what Evan ate, and what when in and out of the freezer. I prepared each bottle every morning despite my sitter’s offer to store and prepare the milk herself. I visited him at lunch as often as possible to nurse him. And I left a two-page instruction sheet with my sitter about how to feed my son. Taking her cue from me, she called me every single time she needed to deviate from these instructions. Even though I was back at work and had other things on my plate, my life was still consumed by Evan’s feeding schedule.
This worked for a month.
Then I had some supply issues. I added a pumping session before I went to bed. And then another in the middle of the night. This placed a lot of pressure on me, led to many stress-induced tears, and made me resent the “easy” role my husband got to play in this parenting thing. But I was in control and that’s what I needed.
Or so I thought.
When Evan was 6 months old, two things happened. First, we introduced solids. Second, my supply took an even bigger hit at the same time that Evan demanded more milk. Solids were not going well. At first I couldn’t get him to eat anything, and I certainly couldn’t get him to eat anything I made at home, dashing my plans of making my own baby food. Eventually he fought back by refusing to open his mouth for anything but the occasional banana or applesauce. So he wasn’t eating solids and I wasn’t pumping enough to give him the milk he needed while he was away from me. Plus, I was interrupting his natural nap schedule to nurse him around my own work schedule. No one was happy.
After many tears and a lot of long talks with my husband, my sitter, my lactation consultant, and my friends, I decided to give Evan some formula. I made it 6 months without a drop of formula but I knew it was finally time. I stopped visiting Evan at lunch to nurse him. And I let my sitter take a leading role in introducing solids, realizing that she has far more experience feeding babies than I do. These decisions were some of the best I have made as a parent.
By giving up the control I thought I needed, I created a much more pleasant environment for everyone. My sitter was able to do what she needed to do for Evan without my constant supervision. I stopped setting alarms to pump in the middle of the night. The lack of stress and the increased sleep made me (and my husband) much happier. And, most importantly, Evan started thriving. He was getting the nutrition he needed, showed an interest in solid foods, and wasn’t bound by my own schedule so he was free to eat and nap when he needed to.
Today, I am pumping just once a day at work. Evan gets some formula. While I would love to breastfeed exclusively, this is best for our situation. I sleep as much as one can sleep with a 9-month old in the house. I am free to schedule my work day as I see fit, and I even get to go to lunch with friends again. Evan eats everything we put in front of him (we tried cheese last night!) and is growing beautifully.
I had to learn to let go to get to this point. My inclination to control the situation actually made it worse. I learned that by giving up this control, stepping back, and letting Evan and his sitter work out their own routine, everyone was happier.
Michelle spends her days as an employment attorney and her nights and weekends as a new mom to her son, Evan, born May 2012. In her “spare” time, she can be found with her head in a book. She blogs over at my books. my life. and live-tweets her adventures as @michelleerin.