I joined with the Honest Company to share my breastfeeding story. This is not a sponsored post, and I am not being compensated, but this is a topic I wanted to write about anyway, since I am about two months out from baby #2 and have some thoughts about breastfeeding heading into it for the second time. The Honest Company has a best-for-baby approach and features stories on their blog written by mothers with all different feeding journeys. The Honest Company has a line of feeding solutions with organic, non-GMO, and other high-quality ingredients for both breastfeeding and formula-feeding mothers, plus their line of diapers and wipes! Personally, we used their baby + toddler multipowder when R was about 6 months old and got a few ear infections and had to be on an antibiotic and I wanted to make sure she was getting an extra boost of nutrients.
I’ve written two post specifically about breastfeeding R. One was in February 2016 when she was six months old. We were exclusively breastfeeding, and I had been back at work in the office for a month and was pumping three times a day for her daycare bottles. I described the first few weeks of nursing and my thoughts on pumping and nursing as of the six-month mark. The second post I wrote was in July 2016, when R was ten months old. By that time I had just decided to stop pumping at work, and R was taking bottles of formula while at daycare, but I was still nursing her on the weekends and every morning and evening at home. I will not detail all of that again in this post, so if you want more information, read both of those posts!
R is rapidly approaching her second birthday (I don't want to talk about it), and I am due with Baby Boy in just a few months. As I prepare to start all over with a newborn again, I have been thinking a lot about what we did with R that worked, what didn’t, and what I want to do differently this time.
I am so thankful that I was able to breastfeed R as long as I did. I felt a sense of pride and gratefulness and awe that my body was supplying her with food that was helping her grow. Once we got the hang of it and got over the “hump” of the initial (super stressful and painful) first few weeks (more on that here), I did not find nursing to be too difficult or painful.
*Fun random fact: I think the strangest place I nursed her was in our rental car in the parking lot of Thomas Jefferson’s house (Monticello) when we were on our family trip to Virginia when R was seven months old.
I don’t know where this advice came from, but I specifically remember someone telling me to set a series of short-term goals for nursing instead of one long-term goal, so that I would have something to celebrate instead of just one huge goal I didn’t hit that made me feel like a failure. My plan was to exclusively nurse for 6 weeks, 6 months, 1 year, 18 months, and possibly 2 years.
The short version of what you can read in the other two posts I linked to above is that I was unable to pump enough at work for R’s bottles, and we started mixing formula into her bottles when she was 8.5 months old. I cried for weeks as I continued to pump less and less each time, and I tried almost everything anyone suggested for increasing my supply. I ate oatmeal every morning, scarfed down lactation cookies, took Fenugreek, drank the tea, drank a ton of water, looked at pictures and videos of R while I pumped, tried to relax and read a book, tried to add pumping sessions… I even borrowed a friend’s pump to see if maybe it was just mine that wasn’t working properly. None of it really helped.
It was extremely emotional for me and I felt very alone. None of my working mom friends were having this problem, and I didn’t feel like anyone could understand what I was going through. I was trying so hard, even getting up early in the morning before work to pump and staying up late to pump again so that I could have enough for her bottles.
Once we officially bought formula and started supplementing, it truly felt like a weight had been lifted. R was doing great, taking the bottles without any issues at all, and I just felt so much less pressure about getting enough to feed her.
By ten months, I had stopped pumping at work completely. We continued to nurse in the mornings and evenings until she was around 13 months, and then one day I just decided to not nurse her and see what happened. I never felt “full” anymore, I never had a letdown, and I wasn’t convinced that R was actually getting anything when I nursed her. So one morning I just didn’t nurse, and she didn’t act like anything was the matter. I kept nursing in the evenings for a few more days, and then one night I just didn’t feed her, and she didn’t act like anything was the matter.
There was no emotional and tearful “final feed.” There was no Big Decision. There was no weaning. I just simply stopped, and that was that. Because my supply was already so low from not pumping while I was at work, I suffered no side effects from quitting nursing basically cold turkey, and obviously R wasn’t very attached at that point either because she didn't seem to notice or care.
We were both ready.
I once thought that 18 months sounded like a good amount of time to still be nursing, but the truth is, R is almost 21 months old, and I can’t imagine still breastfeeding. That is, of course, my personal opinion for my own self and my own baby and has nothing to do with anyone else. For me, it was time. To be completely honest (again my personal opinion only), the idea of R being so big with a mouth full of teeth and old enough to talk and ask for milk from me just kind of weirds me out. I had no idea I would feel like that, but I guess you just don't know how you will feel until it actually comes around.
Looking back, I have absolutely no regrets about supplementing with formula at 8.5 months, stopping pumping at 10 months, or quitting nursing just after she turned a year old. My only regret is that I didn’t give myself the freedom to supplement with formula sooner. I spent a good two months crying almost daily about pumping enough for R, feeling guilty, and feeling like a failure and a quitter. Not because anyone else made me feel like one, but because I made myself feel like one.
Now I know that I wasn’t any of those things, and I wish I had given myself grace to come to that conclusion sooner. Being a working mom of an infant is so challenging, and having the added weight of pumping and all that goes along with that caused me much more anxiety than I should have tried to carry. If I had been able to be a SAHM, I would be telling a different story, because I did not have issues with supply while physically nursing, but pumping just didn't work for me.
I love the “fed is best” movement, because having gone through what I did, I have much more empathy for mothers of all kinds who make the best decisions they can for themselves and their babies. It doesn't have to be all nursing or all formula, but we are blessed to live in a time period where good formula is an option. Many mothers in decades past didn’t have that. I am thankful for companies that make formula that moms can feel confident giving their babies.
I want to nurse Baby Boy if I can. I do think the natural milk our bodies provide is best for our babies, and I am thankful that I could provide that for R for so long. But I also know how hard it is, and how sometimes, as much as you try to make it work, it just isn’t going to. And that's okay. It doesn't make you a failure as a mother. It won't ruin your baby forever. This is a small dot on the timeline of your child's life, and no one has ever come up to me with a knowing nod and said, “You were breastfed as a baby, weren’t you? I can tell."
The way your baby eats, whether that's breastfeeding or formula or a mixture of both, is your own story, and it’s not going to look like anyone else’s. You have to make the best decisions you can for you and for your baby, and no one else can do that for you.
Whatever you decide, you are an awesome mom, and you are doing a great job.
That’s really all anyone else needs to say about it.