Yesterday, Jacob turned 18 months old, and tonight I thawed our last remaining bag of donated human milk. About two weeks ago, we saw that the end was near and started mixing donor milk about half and half with cow's milk. So far, Jacob has tolerated this reasonably well. We'll continue to give him donor milk when we can find it and families with younger babies don't want it, but at the moment, our freezers are storing nothing but the summer's vegetables.
I can hardly believe that we did this for 18 months. Jacob took about 25 ounces of supplement a day for much of that time, adding up to nearly 14 000 ounces of donor milk in total. We never needed formula. Some donors gave us a few two-ounce bags, while others filled our deep freezer. We are deeply grateful for every drop of it.
When Jacob was four days old, and we began supplementing, we wanted to make it to just one week on only human milk.
We knew that even this would make a difference to his rapidly developing
gastrointestinal tract. When we got to one week using human milk, we
wondered if perhaps we could find donations for him for one month. Then
two months. Then three. Six (plus solid foods). One year?! 16 months?!!! Yes. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding to two years of age and beyond, remember?
Finally, in the last few weeks, Jacob's first set of molars finished coming in and he has been starting to chew food with considerably more ease. I guess it's time. He's ready to start munching solid foods as a large part of his diet!
I suddenly had the thought as I thawed this last bag, "Tomorrow will be Jacob's first day having only cow's milk and no human milk." Then I realized what an incredible disservice that notion is to myself. I have been breastfeeding, and producing breast milk for my boy, for the past 18 months. The donor milk is what I see all the time. I collect it, store it, thaw it, pour it into bottles, and Jacob sucks it up the at-breast supplementer. It's easy to feel as if I make nothing for him.
I don't know how much I actually produce considering how much supplement Jacob takes, but I can still spray milk when I hand express. Perhaps this amounts to a few ounces per day. Eventually this evening it dawned on me: Jacob will keep getting human milk as long as I keep breastfeeding him. I'm really doing it.