Breastfeeding, Formula & Pumping: An Update at 11 Months

6.29.2016

^^^Using my last bag of frozen milk. 6/13/16

I’ve gotten a few questions here and there about my breastfeeding journey, and I’ve mentioned it in passing in the last few monthly R updates, so I thought I would pop in to share in a bit more depth what has been going on just in case any of you are interested. Please feel free to email me and/or leave comments or follow-up questions below!

I initially wrote a post about breastfeeding back in February, so read that if you want more information about the first few weeks and months. In that post, I was a month into pumping at work, and I wrote that I was having trouble pumping enough for R’s bottles. Well, long story short, I was never able to pump enough for her bottles, and over the next few months it only got worse. I went from pumping 5 ounces at a time to 3 to 2, and on my last day of pumping at work, I got 1.5 ounces total from two sessions. At that time, R needed 12 ounces a day of pumped milk, so you can see the problem.


Ultimately the decision to stop pumping and supplement with formula was not something I chose myself but was chosen for me. I wasn’t getting enough milk, and formula was necessary because I wasn't with her during the day to nurse. It took a while for me to accept the fact that we would need to give R formula and I wouldn’t make it a full year of exclusively breastfeeding. 


It’s not that I ever had a problem with formula. I had a problem with quitting. 

I felt like I was giving up, like maybe if I stayed up late or got up early to pump just a little bit more, I could get enough for her. And there were many nights when I did stay up late and days I get up early to pump, adding a few precious ounces to those already sitting in the refrigerator.

But I eventually decided that the stress and tears were not worth it, and I got a canister of formula when she was 8.5 months old. We started out mixing formula in with pumped milk for her bottles, and she did great with it, which simultaneously made me feel extremely relieved and extremely insulted that she didn’t notice a difference between my milk and the fake stuff. (I’m only sort of kidding about that last part.)


After a few weeks, we gave her a full formula bottle, and she took it just fine, which I am so thankful for! I continued to pump at work, but the stress was lifted to get enough to fill her bottles, and we mixed in my pumped milk with formula for her daycare bottles. I was able to breastfeed in the morning and night during the week days and all day on the weekends. However, I definitely started to notice a supply drop on the weekends since I was pumping so little during the days. It took a long time for my milk to let down, and R would get really mad about it.


I decided to stop pumping at work when R was 10 months old. I was consistently only getting 1-2 ounces a day, and we had used up every single bag of frozen milk I had in the freezer. It just wasn’t worth the effort for me to mix a few ounces in with her formula bottles for daycare. 


R is still breastfeeding in the morning and night and taking bottles with 6 ounces of formula during the day. She is doing very well, and consequently so am I. Pumping had become something I dreaded every day, and it is a relief to not have to do that anymore. I am fine now, but making the initial decision to supplement with formula and ultimately quit pumping, as much as I hated it, was very hard for me. Again, I have no problem with formula, but I just felt like a quitter and a failure for not being able to continue to make pumping work for us. It felt like a competition with myself, and I hate losing. Not to mention that I have friends who have babies the same age as R who are working and pumping just fine. But as I’ve learned, everyone is different, and comparing is not only useless but just plain dumb.


I love nursing R, and as she has gotten older it has only gotten easier. She is eating on a more regular schedule, less often during the day, and she and I both know how to do it so I am so much more comfortable feeding her anywhere we go. Plus, it’s free and in my opinion easier than washing bottles and making sure we have formula on hand. I plan on continuing to nurse in the morning and at night as long as my supply keeps up or until she and I decide it’s time to quit.


I don’t exactly know what I did expect, but I can tell you that I fully did not expect breastfeeding to be such a huge commitment, on my body, my emotions, my time, and, let’s be honest, my daily wardrobe choices. I will forever be grateful I have been able to nurse R as long as I did, and I have so much more understanding, compassion, and respect for the decisions that moms make to feed their babies, whatever that looks like.


And to all you working, pumping moms who might be reading this: solidarity, sisters. I am giving you a gigantic high-five through the screen. You rock.

26 comments:

  1. High-fives all around for going as long as you did! You deserve a medal - any pumping mama does, because it is NOT easy and it's dang complicated and time-consuming. I have been lucky enough to be able to pump as much as the baby needs each day so far, but I have said from the beginning that as soon as that is not the case, I will not stress myself out about it and and will not make myself suffer / struggle. It's okay. You did the best you could, and you're STILL doing the best for R. You're a great mom!!

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    1. Thanks! It was pretty stressful for a while but my competitive nature kicked in and I kept thinking I could get enough when really I was just killing myself. I feel SO much less stressed out now about it and I don't miss pumping one bit.

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  2. Your experience pretty much sounds identical to mine except Charlie flat out refused formula even in the smallest amounts. I wasted bottles of precious breastmilk by adding just 1 oz of formula to them hoping he wouldn't notice and he refused the entire bottle. By this point he was eating solid foods, so I just tried to make up for the small amounts of breastmilk he was getting with purees, but for about two months I was constantly stressed out that he wasn't getting the proper nutrition that he needed. Thank God he took to cows milk just fine, but yeah, moral of the story: breastfeeding is awesome, but pumping can suck it.

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    1. I am not looking forward to doing it all again with future kids (the pumping part, that is)! I am just really glad R took to formula so well. Maybe the kind we got she just really liked? I don't know. We splurged on the Similac that is specifically for supplementing, so it is supposed to taste the most like bm. Who knows. It's probably all a marketing technique but I'm just glad she didn't even seem to notice.

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    2. I also had a similar experience, working and pumping wasn't going good for too long. So I introduced formula from myorganicformula.com and my little one took the formula really well. Maybe it's really because of the taste. Have you tried a different one too?
      All the best,
      Mariella

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  3. Breastfeeding is SUCH a commitment. Shockingly so. But you did a great job pumping as long as you did! And she's still nursing at home, which is a victory itself.

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  4. Thank you for sharing your experience! I really appreciate how you-and other women-are speaking up about doing what's best for yourselves and your babies, even if that means introducing formula. I think there's a real pressure in some literature and circles to breastfeed or pump no matter what, even at the expense of one's own sanity, and that's just not cool. Yes, breastmilk is awesome and good for babies, but in the grand scheme of things, I doubt people will be able to walk up to your child when she's a teenager and be able to tell if she was exclusively breastfeed or had some formula.

    Reading this is also really great for me to get perspective, because I'm 3 weeks into breastfeeding my newborn. It's been really good, and I've always envisioned myself as being a mom who will-hopefully-breastfeed exclusively for several months. So it's nice to read your story and realize that if my "ideal" doesn't happen, life will continue to go on and it will all be fine :)

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    1. It took me a while to come to terms with the fact that we would need to do formula, but it is 100% not the end of the world at all, and I am so much less stressed now that I'm done pumping. Congratulations on your new baby and breastfeeding! Those first few months are not easy, and I got a few blocked ducts, which was painful. And you are so right, no one will know in ten years whether she was breastfed a year or two or whether she took some formula.

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    2. I'm so glad that you're less stressed! And thanks! It's been a joy, but definitely has had its challenges (currently, we're dealing with latch issues), but I'm sure over time it will get better :)

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  5. Hallelujah to being done pumping!! I stopped earlier than I originally wanted to also, but because I kept getting mastitis and Peyton decided she didn't want to nurse anymore. It was really hard to move on from that stage in her life. Virtual high five though for making it as long as we did!!

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  6. Breastfeeding and working outside the home is TOUGH! I know a lot of moms who didn't make it as long. With my first one, we had no problems. For that, I'm so grateful. I'm going back to work in a week and I've been freezing milk since she was about 5 weeks. I wake up early and pump an extra "session" so I would be ready. I just hope it helps us. My goal is a year. Two months down, and eight to go!

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    1. I started freezing milk around that time too, and I am so glad I did! We were able to use up all that milk almost exclusively during the days and lasted for a while. Good for you! Every little bit helps :) You are doing great.

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  7. I imagine the only thing worse than working when you'd rather be hanging out with your baby is pumping while at work instead of feeding your baby the easy way, with your boob. I've always had a really easy time with my milk and increasing it with cookies and teas as needed, but dang, if you told me I'd have to pump at work I probably wouldn't have lasted as long as you. I feel like it doesn't matter how much milk you have, it's always an ordeal with the pump. High fives for doing your best and deciding when enough is enough! You're keeping a human alive. Gold star!

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    1. I tried cookies and tea (a LOT of cookies), and I tried Fenugreek and oatmeal and basically everything, and I honestly don't know if I saw a difference at all, but I continued to believe the cookies were helping ;)

      High five and gold star to you as well!

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  8. It still baffles me that God wired our bodies to be able to FEED children! Like, what?!! How amazing the human body is. Go you for making the tough decision though, especially when it wasn't an easy one. Every woman's body is different, but that's what makes everyone's journey so unique and beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. It baffles me too. Those chunky thighs take on a whole new meaning! :)

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  9. Thank you for sharing this! I never comment on blogs, but this is exactly what we are in the middle of right now. I went back to work 2 weeks ago and have had so much stress about pumping enough. My goal has been to make it to 6 months and my little guy is 4 months. We may have to supplement earlier and I'm totally beating myself up about it and have definitely shed a few tears. Thanks for being honest about your experience. It makes me feel better about whatever decision we end up making.

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    1. I really, really struggled with getting formula. I get telling Jordan for WEEKS, "I need to get formula," and he was like, Okay do it. And I just kept putting it off because I didn't want to accept that I really couldn't make it. But she is fine, and I'm fine and everyone is fine now. I'm glad this was encouraging for you :) You have done so great to make it this far and have already given your baby a solid foundation no matter how much longer you go!

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  10. My bff works and pumps and she is my hero. That is no small feat. You are amazing.

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    1. It's so hard! I feel very thankful to have made it as long as I did.

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  11. all the high fives to you! i think you nailed it in this sentence 'She is doing very well, and consequently so am I.' because that is really all that matters, right?

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  12. High five to you, friend! You breast fed for such a long time! I know this is so hard on so many women emotionally so I'm glad you have been able to come to terms with it not happening the way you wanted to. Like you said, she's doing well and that's what's important!

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  13. Yes. Yes yes yes yes yes. I just love this so much. I am right there with you. Or where you were. Or however you want to put it. A just turned 8 months and we're still pumping at work...but I am starting to dreaddddd it every day, and a lot of days I find an excuse to only pump twice and skip the third pump. Ugh. It really is such a personal commitment, but it almost brings me to tears to think about quitting. But I know eventually the stress and emotional wear just won't be worth it!

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  14. Most importantly, hats off to YOU awesome Mama for striving so hard to fight for those few ounces of milk and for being able to breast feed as long as you have! I had very similar emotions about BF and pumping and formula. The struggle and emotions were so intense yet I could not bring myself to give up. Michael thought I was pure insane. :)

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