On Breastfeeding (Again) and What I'll Do Differently with Baby #2

4.24.2017

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.

21 comments:

  1. Love this post and your thoughts on it. A had reflux and after trying numerous things, the last resort was switching to formula and once I saw how much better she was doing on it, I felt much better. It was still so hard and I felt so guilty but it's really just about feeding the babies!

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  2. This is so great. I have the exact same issues with pumping. Put a baby on my boobs and they're like have all the milk! Put a pump on and they're like that's not a baby!! No milk for you! I made myself insane with Amelia and I will not be doing the same with William. So far I have enough milk, but I'm traveling without him two times before he's one, and frankly we won't have enough freezer stash for that. But it will be fine if we supplement. Thank you for sharing this, because if I stop pumping at work, it makes me feel better that I'll still be able to nurse a little with him.

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    1. The pump is stupid. I will still attempt it again, but if it starts looking like I'll have the same problem I will quit and I will not look back. Ain't nobody got time for that guilt.

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  3. I love this post so much! I was given so much grief from a lot of people for making the decision to formula feed my daughter from day one. What you said at the end is the best. Not everyone is going to have the same journey or do the same things. At the end of the day as Moms we have to do what we feel is best for us and for our kiddos.

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    1. Yes, no one else should say anything about what you feel is best for you and your family and your baby (unless obviously it involves some kind of dangerous situation). One of my best friends formula fed from day one also!

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    2. I formula fed from day one also, and we still bonded and everything went well. I'm going to try breastfeeding with baby #2, but I'm not opposed to using formula again if I want/need to! We have to do what works for our families!

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  4. I love how open and honest you are about your feelings with this. There is so much formula shaming out there these days and I am sick of it. I am with you on the fed is best motto and that is what I practice. I had such an emotional hard time with giving up on breastfeeding early on because it wasn't working out for us. Zoe is a happy and healthy baby and I have no regrets. Thanks for sharing your story!

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  5. Thank you for sharing your story. I'll no doubt have some kind of breastfeeding issue/decision someday in the near future and will remember it and come back for your reassuring words.

    By the way, did you find a breastfeeding class to be worth it? We are at stage where we need classes, but are hesitant to sign up because there are so many and we aren't sure which ones we truly need. I want to try breastfeeding, but I don't know if I should read a book, take a class, listen to the nurses, or all of the above...

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    1. I am suuuuuch a bad one to ask about classes. We didn't take one single class for anything! I honestly got too overwhelmed but it all and just couldn't do it. We didn't take a L&D class or breastfeeding or anything. I think it depends on what kind of learner you are and what your personality is like. Some people want to know ALL THE THINGS in advance and some people (me) get overwhelmed with that much information so early before you can actually use it. I am a hands-on learner so I don't know if a breastfeeding class would have really helped me. But maybe it would have, who knows.

      What I HIGHLY recommend to everyone I can is to go see a Lactation Consultant within your first week back home. I didn't necessarily even feel like I was having major problems and I almost cancelled my appointment because I felt dumb going for "no reason," but it was extremely helpful for me to have someone right there to watch me nurse, show me holds, talk to me about what to look for, etc. They also weighed R before and after feeding so they could see exactly to the gram how much milk she was getting from me. Super helpful and one of the very best things I did in those first few weeks.

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  6. I have a long breastfeeding relationship. Since L2 is now 1 (I don't know how that happened), I figured out I've been breastfeeding 3 of the past 5.5 years. My son nursed until he was 25 months (and I had to leave town for a few days to get him to wean.) It's different the second time around. I'm not able to nurse at lunchtime because I live so much further away from work, and my supply has definitely taken a hit. My freezer stash is still somewhat strong, but I also know she's not needing as much from me. Breastfeeding can be such a mind-game.

    I definitely believe fed is best. I know so many of my working mom friends who didn't attempt to pump at work, or who didn't make it the full year and beyond. It's fine. Their babies are all thriving, just as R is. :)

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  7. I know a lot of women with trauma and regret about their breastfeeding journeys and it always makes me wonder why we are so hard on ourselves about it? I obviously don't get it yet, and I might not ever, but we put so much pressure on ourselves! It's similar when our "birth plans" don't go the way we want, which I've also noticed is fairly common (through reading blogs, talking to friends, and doing therapy with moms). Is it mostly society and the shaming we do towards women who don't breastfeed that result in this? I also love the "fed is best" movement because not everything will work for everyone.

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    1. Well I can't speak for anyone other than myself, obviously, but I didn't really experience any shaming about formula/breastfeeding from anyone I knew in real life or anyone who follows me online. I remember reading a post from a working mom maybe six months or so before I had R, and she was talking about how she wasn't pumping enough and it was stressful, but it didn't resonate with me until I was going through it and then I was like now I understand. I think it was me putting pressure on myself and not really society. I'm a super competitive person and I want to always give 110% and I felt like I was a failure for not being able to pump and if I just "tried harder" I could make it work, especially since all of my working mom friends in real life were pumping and nursing without any issues.

      We do put too much pressure on ourselves, but I will say that it's pretty overwhelming to all of the sudden have this person who needs you for everything and you're trying to do the best you can and every little decision feels like a Big Decision that could possibly send your baby you love so much off on a disaster course. And if you do feel that breastmilk is the best option then of course you're going to want to give your baby that, so realizing that you physically can't provide that as a mother can be very emotional. Of course the older she gets the more perspective I have, but post-partum hormones are no joke and I'm sure that has a lot to do with it all.

      I personally don't feel like I have trauma or regret so much as I just wish I'd given up pumping at work a month or two sooner once it started to be clear that I wasn't going to get enough for her. I was glad to be rid of that thing!

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  8. Seriously, the whole low supply thing was borderline traumatic for me, so I feel you. Charlie refused even the tiniest bit of formula which was so incredibly stressful so I was so relieved when he was able to drink cow's milk. I've started thinking about when I will return to work and Lord willing, it will be long after Crosby is weaned, because pumping is the worst!

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  9. I don't know how you pumped that long. I would've been a basket case! I HATED the pump. Now that we're on the other side of the milk stage, isn't it crazy how all-consuming it is? And how our decisions feel like they will either bring world peace or destroy all mankind? I'm never putting myself under that kind of pressure again. It destroyed me.

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  10. I actually experienced the exact same thing going back to work - my supply dropped so quickly, and I only worked two days a week. I think my body has a hard time keeping up past a certain point, and then exclusively pumping some days wasn't helping. It's hard! I'm surprised that more working moms don't have a problem with supply, because I definitely did.

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  11. I love the Fed is Best movement! I am so for that! I have a sister who breastfed her kiddos for 2+ years and a sister who couldn't breastfeed more than a couple of weeks. Seeing both of their experiences as a college student/young adult really influenced my opinions on all of that. I'm hoping to breastfeed Baby Girl when she arrives, but I hope I'll go easy on myself if we end up needing to supplement with (or switch completely to) formula.

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  12. I love the idea of setting smaller goals for yourself when it comes to breastfeeding. My "goal" was a year so when I basically dried up at 10 months when I had to start pumping I was SHATTERED. Any why? Because Camden honestly seemed more happy and I had waaay less stress! But because I had put that number on myself I felt like a total failure. Anyhoo, all that to say...Feel you, girl. Feel you.

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  13. I had a similar experience! I struggled so much with pumping. I pumped 3x a day at work for so long. For almost 7 months I stayed up late every single night to get another pumping session in after Eli went to bed. And even then I would only get 1-2oz. But in my mind I had to have enough to feed him the next day. I remember hysterically crying and freaking out at my husband when I found out he accidentally left the fridge door open overnight and I thought my bottles for that day were ruined (side note, I still fed them to Eli and he was fine). We ended up exclusively nursing for a little over 12 months, but looking back I put entirely too much pressure on myself and cried way too many tears. I was sleep deprived from staying up late to pump, grumpy all of the time and just hated it at times.

    I think next time around I will feel much more freedom to supplement and even switch to formula should I need to. You'll have so much more wisdom this time around as a mom. I think you'll just be able to give yourself more grace. And honestly when our kids are 5, we're not even going to care how we fed them when they were babies and neither are they! You're a rockstar mom!

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  14. Just go with the (milk) flow was my motto! I had the same experience with pumping, was pumping three times at work and barely getting one bottle. Baby girl didn't seem to mind either way. Sometimes I miss it, then I remember - teeth...

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  15. my mom said that she breastfed me for six months and didn't enjoy it at all. when she had my younger sister, the doctor asked at Sarah's 2 week appointment how breastfeeding was going. mom said she burst into tears. the doctor immediately said, "it's okay to stop. if you're miserable, your child will know. you don't need to put either of you in that position." wise man, it sounds like!

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  16. Now that I've done it and talked to people about it, I'm amazed at how many people struggle with breastfeeding. I had a lot of difficulty (my milk supply never was enough so we were supplementing from day 1 and by 3 months my baby was no longer interested in the boob) and almost everyone I've talked to has had some story of struggling. Whether it was nipple blisters, latching issues, milk supply, pain, and so on. I literally had no idea breastfeeding was going to be a challenge because people just don't talk about it!

    And it's so emotionally loaded! I was lucky and no one in my life was there judging me or telling me I was doing it wrong, but I still cried so many times because I felt like I was failing my baby or from sheer exhaustion and frustration.

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