I started this post to tell a funny (to me) story about something that was said to me by a male nurse but it turned into a word-vomit post about breastfeeding. The breastfeeding vs formula debate is not my fight. I respect everyone's right to choose what is best for their family and their body.
I donated blood last week (O-neg. They love me.) After I signed in and had my iron checked, I filled in my donor eligibility questionnaire. One of the questions asks if you have recently been tested for HIV. I have recently been tested for HIV, so I filled in the "yes" box.
The next level of screening was talking to a nurse about the answers I submitted. My nurse was a young guy - really friendly and chatty. So we started going over my answers and we get to the HIV question. There's no room for explanation on the questionnaire - just a straight yes or no - so it's the nurse's job to get the history. I told him about how I'm donating my excess breast milk to the Vancouver milk bank and in order to do so, I had to go through a full screening process which included an HIV test.
(I realize that this post sounds a little "oh look at me and all my do-goodery, spreading my fluids around without abandon." (gross) But I promise, it's not. There's a point. I'm getting to it.)
The nurse was interested in the milk bank donating process so we talked a little about that. Which was fine. I mean, since giving birth to Grady I have become so whatever about discussing my body and bodily functions with medical personnel (and non-medical personnel. Sorry, Turtle! And thanks for letting me talk to you in extreme detail about my butt!) So we're talking about breastfeeding and breast milk and he asks me if I'm going to keep donating. Which confused me a little. I mean, it's not that big of a deal for me to freeze the milk that Grady doesn't drink (which is all of my pumped milk. Sir won't take anything that isn't straight from the source.) (The source is my boobs.) But then he clarified that what he meant was, am I going to keep donating breast milk once Grady is weaned.
You guys. I am so grateful that I am able to breastfeed. I love nursing Grady. I feel lucky to have an abundance of breast milk. I feel fucking awesome that I can donate to a milk bank and help other babies and mamas who are not able to breastfeed. But I am not a fan of pumping. I started pumping to relieve pressure (I have always been fairly small-chested so my giant breastfeeding knockers were painful to deal with at first) and now I pump to maintain my supply when I am at work. Honestly, I feel better about donating than I really have a right to. I mean, I would still have to pump even if I wasn't donating the pumped milk. I just freeze it and drop it off at the bank instead of pouring it down the drain.
I didn't know what to say so I didn't say anything. I have a lot of feelings about breastfeeding but I find it difficult to talk about because I don't want to offend anyone. I am 29 years old. My mom could not breastfeed me so I was formula fed from day one. My mom still feels guilty. Twenty-nine years later she feels guilty. She cried when she talked to me about it after Grady was born and we had successfully established breastfeeding. Breastfeeding - or not breastfeeding, whether by choice or circumstance - is an emotionally charged topic. So I don't talk about it. Or think about it. I just feed my kid, pump when I can't feed him, and drop the extra milk off at the milk bank.
Until I was in a blood donor pre-screening room with this dude nurse who innocently asked if I was planning to pump and donate breast milk indefinitely and suddenly I can't stop thinking about it. Once the silence stretched into awkward territory he started talking about how a woman's body continues to make breast milk as long as it's needed and how pumping would trigger my body to keep producing milk, etc. I just sat there with what must have been a stupefied look on my face because he suddenly just stopped talking about my breastfeeding goals and got back to my questionnaire.
I don't mean to make him sound like he was pressuring me at all because that wasn't the case. He was just genuinely curious about the whole thing and we were having a nice conversation until he managed to stun me. But he got me thinking. Could a woman continue to pump breast milk after her baby was weaned? Don't get me wrong, I'm not planning to pump after Grady is weaned. I'm just curious. The conversation made me realize that I take a lot for granted in my relationship with breastfeeding. I had an extremely rough first two weeks that made me question whether or not I could breastfeed my kid (two weeks that the wonderful ladies of the internet helped me get through) and then it was smooth sailing from there on out. I assume that I will be able to feed my kid for as long as I want to but that may not be my reality.
Basically I'm all twisted up over breastfeeding now and I'm curious to hear about other feeding (breast or formula) experiences. No judgements here - I fully respect the choices everyone makes for their own family - just curiosity.