Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Humbled by a milk supply struggle

In a previous post, I talked about how it is easy to see why milk supply can be such a concern for new moms.  But recently, I've gained new perspective and been humbled by a supply problem of my own.

After dropping to three pumps per day a few months ago, my supply dropped, and I started dipping into my  freezer stash.  I had envisioned that by age one, Sam would reduce his milk intake in favor of solids.  To the contrary, he's thirstier than ever.  Then a few weeks ago, I got hit with a nasty cold and suffered another drop.  I decided to up pumps to try to increase supply.  A week went by, then two, without an increase; meanwhile, we were topping off bottles with cow's milk left and right.  I started to feel like throwing in the towel and just letting him have 75/25 or 50/50 human/cow--and feeling pretty bad about it right after my post deriding cow's milk for babies.  You get to a point--and I remember this from the early days--where you start changing the story you tell yourself about how important breast milk is, and guilt rears its head, too.  One minute you've convinced yourself it's totally fine, and another you are reading a study showing a correlation between extended breastfeeding and intelligence.  It's so not fun, and gives me new respect for moms who persevere despite supply issues.

In the end, the milk ticked up, but only after three weeks of trying.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A flexible machine

It's amazing to think about how flexible our bodies are about energy input.  We can fill up on almost anything and the engine will keep on going for a good long while.  Imagine if you could put any old liquid in your car--gasoline, Coke, tequila, milk--and it would just go!  But we know there is a price to pay for less than perfect nutrition.  So we try to eat well and hope for the best.

But there's one group of humans for whom we DO understand perfect nutrition: babies.  Millions of years of evolution have perfected human milk.  This seems like a unique opportunity.  

There are some big differences in animal milk and human milk.  Human milk has a much smaller percentage of protein and calcium and more iron and fat.  Goat milk is a little closer to human milk on these, but it's closer to cow's milk than human milk.  According to trusted breastfeeding resource "All the nutrients of human milk are significantly more bioavailable than those of cow's milk because it is species specific (not to mention all the components of mother's milk that are not present in cow's milk). "

So to this opportunity for perfect nutrition, I say game on until life dictates otherwise.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The problem with guidelines

"The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that breastfeeding continue for at least 12 months, and thereafter for as long as mother and baby desire. The World Health Organization recommends continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond."

And here we are, at 12 months.   Some people may be wondering when I'm going to quit exclusively pumping milk.  I think, first, that would be mixing up the maximum and minimum from the above statement.  Second, guidelines are based on the average baby.  (Mine is definitely not average, and neither is yours I am sure!)  Finally--it's gotten to be such a part of the routine that another few months won't hurt.

Like I did before starting solids, I am watching for signs that Sam is ready for something new.  When I see things like eating solid food as if he's actually hungry and not just playing, tasting, and practicing.  When he starts drinking out of a cup without choking.  When he says "no thanks" to the bottle a little more often. I'm not seeing any of this yet, so he'll keep getting breast milk for now.