Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Keeping it real: Bottles up

This post has nothing to do with running, healthy eating or weight loss. We will return to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.

I had rehearsed my answer for days. Over and over again in my head I said the word "no" but all the preparation in the world could not take away the shame I felt when it came "show" time.

At Miles' 6-month well-child appointment, I had to tell the doctor that I was no longer breast feeding.

I tried to place no expectations on myself or Miles when I made the decision to breast feed. I would tell those close to me that if it worked, it worked. If it didn't, it didn't.

Early on, it was clear that though breast feeding might have been "working," Miles and I weren't working well together. He was nursing every hour to 90 minutes during the day, with maybe 2 hours between feedings at night. It was nothing like the every 2 to 3 hours I had read about when I was pregnant. I was exhausted and discouraged, feeling like I could do nothing more than sit on the couch with my top off.

I reached out to the La Leche League and lactation nurses at the hospital where I delivered for help, almost wishing that they would tell me that it would be OK to stop. Instead, I was told everything was OK because Miles was gaining weight. He just might need to eat more because he started out so small.

Days and then weeks passed, and we were still eating at least every 90 minutes. I tried to stay strong, continually assured by lactation nurses, and prayed that there would be a time when we just magically clicked. At Miles' six-week appointment, we still hadn't gotten there. Our pediatrician, whom I adore, turned out to be the person who offered me some help. She told me to start supplementing with formula. I should try offer him a bottle of 2 ounces after he had nursed, three times a day.

I might have said I had no expectations for breast feeding when I was pregnant but I secretly hoped that I'd be a superwoman, nursing him to a year and managing to have a freezer full of milk. I felt like a failure, that my body should be able to provide for my son. I cried making that first bottle, with Miles screaming in my arms, but I had to do it. The well being of Miles and myself was not worth my pride.

Miles got about 6 ounces of formula a day when I was on leave from then on. When I went back to work, I was able to pump enough to keep him in breast milk at daycare but Mark gave him 4 ounces in the afternoon and we "topped" him off with 2 more before bed. About a month or so ago, I was no longer able to keep up and our daycare provider started a half breast milk-half formula regimen.

On the weekends, I tried to "power nurse" as the lactation consultants suggested but it did nothing to boost my supply. It didn't help that Miles became increasingly difficult to nurse. I'm not sure whether it was a growing awareness and desire to observe or just a preference for the bottle but he was just not having it. I had such trouble in Florida that I spent a chunk of the trip in the guest room, by myself. The family thought I was "different" but I was just fighting for a way to get Miles to eat.

But you can only fight so much and so hard.

After a lot of discussion with Mark, soul searching, tears and reaching the 24-week mark, I decided that it was best for my family - the entire family - to wean Miles. I started skipping feedings, pumping less at work and then I stopped entirely on Saturday.

I currently look like I had a botched boob job but Miles seems no worse for the wear, gladly taking a bottle when it's offered. (Now, solids - that's another story.)

I wanted to share this because very few people will tell a mom that it's OK to stop breast feeding - or to not breast feed at all. I was made to feel like I just had to tough it out, that my feelings and well being didn't matter and that I had to do it. Period. But I do matter. And if I realize that, I will be a better mom.


  1. Thanks for sharing, I'm sure those mom's out there that are running into trouble will appreciate it. When someone tells me they're bottle feeding, I know not to judge because you have NO clue what situation they're in.

    Don't feel bad either, you're doing the best for your baby and that's all that counts.

  2. breastfeeding is one of the hardest things i've ever done!! not only is it physically taxing, but emotionally overwhelming as well. i think you have done an incredible job for miles and i hope you are proud that. in the end, it doesn't matter how you feed your baby - he is growing and healthy and happy. he's lucky to have you as his mama.

    it's so important to have support as a mom - i'm glad you reached out. and FWIW i think you made the right decision. you know what's best for you and your child. and that's what matters most.

  3. I hate the pressure we put on ourselves as mothers over this nursing vs. bottle feeding thing. I hate that you have any feeling other than "doing what's best for OUR family" over that decision.

    Do what makes you all the happiest. You are a good mom. You are doing a good job!

    (and isn't it such a mixed bag? I SO wanted to get my body back, and I so wanted to be DONE with being the cow, but then when I was DONE, I mourned its passing. so weird.)

  4. and I almost forgot!! Miles is GORGEOUS!

  5. Thank you for this. I don't have kids, but I know that when I do I will have to work. As a teacher, I do not see any way that I keep breast-feeding up for a whole year. I hardly get a bathroom break in the day, let alone time to pump. I hear about all of these stay at home moms that breatfeed for a year and it makes me already feel like I'm going to be a bad mom knowing I probably won't be able to do it. Hearing another side is refreshing!

    It sounds like you made the best decision for you.

  6. I went through the same thing last year with my little one. I ended up moving to formula at 6 months because she was so little (although she is still in the 5th percentile at 15 months, so I'm assuming she is just small now). It was probably one of the hardest decisions I've made since having her, because I too wanted to be super woman, and all of my friends have no problem BF'ing for a year. I felt selfish and like I was doing it for my own reason's and not for her. I actually gained 20 pounds (after I had already lost the baby weight) and I decided that it wasn't good for me or her. I had a lot of support in my decision, but it still felt hard. Even now I miss the bonding that forms when breast feeding, but I know I made the right choice.
    You have to take care of yourself and find what works for your baby and YOU. Only you know what works best for your family and nobody should be critical of your decision!

  7. Thank you for saying something! My daughter is 5 months old, and since the day she was born has been a crazy eater. I too went to a lactation consultant for help when she wasn't gaining weight and was screaming because she was hungry all the time (she screamed herself hoarse when she was about 3 weeks makes me almost cry to think about it now). Luckily the lactation consultant suggested that I supplement with formula and try to increase my supply to try to wean off the formula. I would have gone crazy if she would not have told me to do that.

    I was never able to increase my supply, and she gets one bottle of milk a day that I pump at work the day before. Everything else is formula. I feel like people judge me for being a bad mom when I make her a bottle in public, but they would probably judge me if I let her scream herself hoarse in public too...

    Sorry this is so long. I love reading your posts - you inspire me to get moving when my head is full of excuses about how tired I am!

  8. Yesterday we talked about what was in mommy's sipppy cup (diet coke) and now today we're talking about what Miles' is drinking - nice segue. :)

    I support your decision (probably not worth much, but know I'm supportive). When and where are we going for Martinis???? I don't think 9:45 a.m. (after Body Pump) is too early to have one - ha!!!

    Chin up friend - you're a GREAT mom and a GREAT wife and a GREAT person!!!! HUGS!!! You're doing great - keep doing what you're doing!

  9. Love his little face!

    Knowing firsthand how hard breastfeeding is (and how confidence-killing low supply is) I think it's AWESOME you got 6 months in!

  10. I have very quickly learned that you can't compare yourself to other moms - it's the ultimate competition. There will always be someone skinnier with better hair, a better milk supply, a more mellow baby a baby who is speaking in full sentences at 9 months, and one who's walking at 6 months. Six months is a long time to stick it out. You should be very proud of that! BTW, Miles is ADORABLE!!!

  11. Love that you wrote this. With our first son, I was home for the majority of his first 5 mos until I got a long term subbing position. I pumped like crazy while I was there in an effort to keep up my supply so that we could resume normal BFeeding when I was done subbing. It was all for naught - I couldn't keep up with his growing appetite/needs when I was finished, and ended up weaning him just prior to the 6 month mark. Our 2nd son is now 5 mos old, and I am having even more trouble keeping up with his needs. Both boys were supplemented with formula bottles - our 2nd more than our 1st - and I told myself going into this that I wasn't going to beat myself up for having to give up BFing at any certain time. What's most important is that first week, right? Here I am, barely able to pump one of his breast milk bottles a day, and yet I am beating myself up! I'm going to try to get over it, and focus on the things I *can* do for him. Like go change his diaper...

  12. This is such an insightful and honest post. There's so much pressure in the world to do every.single.thing "right" for your baby - breastfeed, cloth diaper, homemade food, swaddling, "let them cry it out" (or not), etc... It's like you go through a grueling 9-month (really 10-month) test, and when you think you've got it all together, turns out there are even more challenges ahead.

    I have to commend you for your decision to wean Miles and go with formula. There may be tons of formula naysayers out there, but, in the end, you have to do what works for you, your baby, your family, and your life.

    My husband said something to me last night while we were trying to install the car seat that I think may help here, too: "I just keep thinking of all the effed-up people in the world who have had kids, and those kids turned out just fine. You and I aren't really too crazy, so I think our kid will alright" That's man logic for you!

  13. Breastfeeding is hard. No one tells you how difficult or exhausting it is. Or how heartwrenching it can be when it's not working. You did everything you could and you should not for one second feel bad or like a failure.
    You're doing fantastic!

  14. I love how honest your post is. I am going into breastfeeding hoping that it works but if it doesn't then I can't do anything to change that. My sister tried with both her sons but before long, she was giving them formula. I talked to my mom about it the other day and she says that breastfeeding is so hard and sometimes it just doesn't work out. I'm so glad you shared your story :)

  15. Good for you for being brave enough to do what was right for your family! Six months is a really great start for Miles. Breast feeding is hard, I have 3 year old twins and only made it 2 months. I felt so guilty " giving up" on BF, but in the end it made me a better Mom because I was happier! Miles is gorgeous, I think you are doing a great job!

  16. I sympathize with you. My first baby was easy compared to my younger. From 4 months on, it was a CONSTANT struggle to nurse. My supply was so poor. I felt so inadequate as a mother. Looking back, I wonder if it was because I was trying so hard to lose the baby weight, and my body was clinging to every ounce. I drank water like crazy, and even used an herbal supplement that really helped but was super expensive (Mother's Milk Plus). My body was just not making it. 6 months is way longer than most, so good job! Your blog is convicting me to get my bottom off this chair and keep it moving! Thanks. :)

  17. I just found your blog through Yahoo! and was reading through when I saw this post. I have an almost 5 month old daughter and am starting to think about weaning. her, but it is very difficult being a full-time working mom. Thank you for sharing your story. It helps to read and hear how other mother's handled it.

  18. I have been a Postpartum Doula, Infant Care Specialist for over 10 years. I hear your pain in your message and agree. Although breastfeeding is 100% the best milk you can supply to your baby, when it is affecting the "whole" family, then one has to decide what is best. I applaud you on making a decision that was heart wrenching, but one that you felt was best for all. Keep up the blogs. Love the baby picture. Your baby looks perfectly happy.