Anyone who has seen my breast milk stash knows I have more milk in the freezer than I could go through. Rue didn’t drink milk for the first week of her life, and when she did start drinking, it was only 1 oz. every 3 hours. I was pumping 4-5 oz. of milk every two hours. For 13 days. Then when she came home, I still had to pump because her feeding schedule wasn’t always on time with my pumping schedule. Plus, she slept through the night, so I would get up to pump instead of waking her. Needless to say, I have a lot of milk.
I figured since I’m working from home now and can exclusively breastfeed Rue, it’s time to donate my stash. So I found a mom in Nashville who’s in need of milk and have arranged for her to pick it up.
I had no idea how emotional donating would be.
As I was packing up 120 oz. of milk to give to her, memories of all the time I spent pumping while Rue was in the NICU came flooding in. Each little bottle is sealed with a hospital tag with “Baby Rodriguez” typed on it and my handwritten note of the date and time the milk was expressed. For some reason, night pumps are the easiest to remember. Probably because it was usually just me and the pump in the quiet, dark of the night.
I would turn on my little flashlight, set up my pump, and pump while looking at photos of my sweet girl. Then I would seal each bottle with a time stamp, store it in the freezer, wash all the pumping parts, and set my timer for two hours when I would get up and do it all over again.
Major kudos to the moms who exclusively pump milk for their little ones! Pumping is a pain in the ass. It’s a process that takes time and dedication. You’re hooked up to a machine, so you can’t do anything else while doing it. Your daily life revolves around your pumping schedule. It makes more dirty dishes to wash, and it’s not as efficient as a baby, so you don’t always pump as much as you need.
Even though I hated pumping most of the time, I was always so happy to bring milk to the hospital for Rue. Each bottle was like a little present for her. A piece of me that could stay with her. Milk. Her life line. Her sustenance. The stuff that made her strong enough to get out of the hospital sooner than doctors had anticipated.
The day we took Rue home, the head nurse said to me, “When she first came in, I never imagined she would be going home this soon. We all thought for sure, that she’d be here at least a month or two.”
We were just as surprised as she was.
Breast milk is miraculous stuff. It’s full of so many vitamins, nutrients, antibodies, proteins, and everything that your baby needs to grow. It fights colds, clears up ear infections, eye infections, acne, and dozens of other things. It changes as your baby grows so that it’s always providing your child exactly what it needs. A baby can be perfectly healthy consuming only breast milk for the first 12 months of life. Breast feeding advocates, specialists, and researchers say, “Food before one is just for fun” because the milk has everything your baby needs to have a balanced and healthy diet without supplementing anything else.
But aside from the health factors involved, it creates a beautiful bond between mom and baby. Hearing my voice and smelling my scent on the blankets in her hospital bed reminded her of mommy, but that emotional and physical bond we established in the womb came full circle once she started nursing. The comfort and love we both feel while nursing can’t be replaced by anything else. She came from me, she will eat from me. As long as she needs to.
Watching her fall asleep at the breast, knowing that mommy’s milk can satisfy her little tummy enough to pass right out, never gets old. It warms my heart so much. She looks so beautiful sleeping there against my skin that I could just watch her for hours. Sometimes I don’t unlatch her. I just let her sleep and pacify until she pops off and falls back asleep.. It’s my way of cherishing every moment we spend nursing because I know not everyone can breastfeed.
Rue’s ability to nurse like a champ has given me the ability to share all of her frozen milk presents with another baby who needs them. I’m overjoyed there are mommies out there who aren’t afraid to ask for donations, or grossed out by the idea because it would be a shame to waste all that hard work. I hope she thinks of us each time she warms up our milk. Typically, babies drink about 25 oz. of milk a day. Our stash is enough to feed her son for four and a half days. I like to think the memories of my pumping journey will live on through those four and a half days.
Letting go of all that milk is like the final let go of the pain of her traumatic birth.
Starting today, I’ll be making new milk memories. I need to rebuild a stash for when family members come to visit so Mamma & Pappa Rodriguez can have a date night!
Marty gave her a bottle while I pumped this morning and he called me into the room to see this:
She was holding her bottle on her own! I sobbed like a baby watching her. I can’t believe how big she is getting. It’s already going much too fast.
So farewell NICU stash.
Hello big girl!
L, M, & R