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.