Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Milk Mamba

Lately I feel the process of providing milk for my baby when I'm away has become a complex, intricate dance. Not while I'm at home, you see, but rather the pumping, storing and planning that comes hand-in-hand with workdays.

While I came through my minor supply scare just fine (still taking Fenugreek, however, as a precautionary measure), this is a new kind of milk pressure. One that requires an elaborate routine performed three evenings a week in hopes of perfecting the art.

First, there's the pumping, which is easy enough on it's face, but I still find myself stressing each day over how much I pump. There's always more than enough to get Cayden through the next day (in fact only one time did he come home having finished all his milk), but now that he's eating cereal each evening, I worry about getting out that extra ounce or two we need each night for dinner.

Then after each workday's pumping is done, I come home to try to figure out what to do with the different containers of milk. There's the couple- to few-days-old milk in one container in the fridge that we use for cereal; the one- to two-day-old milk that came back home with him that day, left-over from the babysitter's; the freshly pumped milk, less than 10 hours old; and finally, the freezer-baggie milk that now occupies space in all three freezers in our house. (I'm irrationally terrified one or two freezers will crap out on me, and inevitably that/those will be the freezer(s) that hold all the milk. So even though we got the chest freezer from Lauren and Jeff specifically for milk and baby food storage, my little milk baggies remain scattered among all the freezers in this house.)

So each night after work, when I'm tired and mentally drained (you try reading, translating and clarifying tax lingo all day long), that's when I attempt to clarify the milk math.

For example, last night: He came home with 5 ounces that was a combination of Monday's and Tuesday's milk (so at best, two days old). I pumped just under 16 ounces at work. But since dad was making cereal at home before I got home with both the two-day-old milk and the fresh milk, he had to defrost a 4.5-month old, four-ounce baggie to prepare dinner.

So after oatmeal was prepared, we were left with 2.5 ounces of milk that must be used in 24 hours, 5 ounces that must be used by Monday and 16 ounces that must be used by next Wednesday. Considering Cayden only ever consumes 15 ounces when he's away from me for a day, that means we have 8.5 to 12.5 ounces we must remove from the babysitting balance and figure out how to freeze or use with the following days' dinners. Why such a range to store? Because I have freezers full of milk baggies, the oldest of which date back to the beginning of October and will go bad if I don't thaw and use them soon.

Another factor that complicates this equation? Combining different days' milk changes the expiration date of all the milk to the oldest. But really, what am I going to do with an ounce or two left over from three days ago? Considering first: maintaining and dating seven separate milk containers in my fridge would drive this gal nuts; and second: pouring a single drop of milk down the drain still seems to me the worst sacrilidge possible, milk inevitably gets combined.

Oh, one more caveat: milk is frozen best when it's frozen fastest after pumping.

So last night I found myself at the kitchen counter with two milk storage jugs, two 4-oz. Ameda bottles, a Medela baggie and a regular ol' 8 oz. measuring cup, pouring and measuring, pouring and combining, then repouring and moving, all in an effort to arrive at the perfect balance of frozen milk, refrigerated milk not to be touched until it is sent off to Grandma's on Monday, milk to be used over the next few days to make cereal and milk to be defrosted for Cayden's first bottle next Monday.

And just as a dance becomes more difficult to precicely execute as the music picks up tempo, so too do I find myself stumbling more often when I rush the process at the end of the day. I'm reminded of a wall plaque at my parents' cottage in Canada: "The hurrier I go, the behinder I get."

And then on top of all that math and careful pouring, I'm supposed to wash and sterilize my pump parts and storage vessels daily. Yeah, not happening. Hey, I do my best to make sure the pump parts and bottles are washed semi-well (I make sure there's soap involved, even if the water is tepid) before each use. That's about all I have left in me.

It's crazy to me how much time, attention and effort I now invest in carefully rehearsing, avoiding missteps and anticipating the next move in this dance, my meandering milk mamba. All the while maintaining the appearance of grace and ease throughout the carefully choreographed breastfeeding-(part-time)working-mom routine, and hoping my occasional miscues don't throw the whole number.

Or poison my baby.

Really, this dance is exhausting.


C and M said...

I can completely relate b/c I remember that. I miss that dance. I miss pumping being so easy and having such a stash of milk. Pumping has changed for me over time and there is no rhyme or reason to it. It's not a supply issue as I definitely have enough milk. It's a getting the milk out issue. Some days I can pump, no problem, while others I barely get an ounce out. Ethan only takes a 4oz cup of milk while he's away from me and some days I stress that I'm not even going to have that for him!
So, now, it's a new dance. I nurse him on one side and pump the other a few mornings a week, just to guarantee 12oz of milk. Let me tell you, it's awkward b/c he's bigger and wants to play with the pump parts!
I never thought it would be like this. I used to respond to the pump so well.
It's still worth it though.

Mayday28 said...

Well I wouldnt stress too much, you are obviously balancing this all very well judging from the size of your child! You are quiet the dancer!