DISCLAIMER: I’m not asking for advice, I just wanted to share my experience with you via this blog. Every family makes their own choices, and we are doing what works for us.
Curly and I are at the beginning of the end of our breastfeeding relationship. I’ll be honest with you, he’s never been easy to breastfeed. He’s not easy to bottlefeed either, but at least when he turns his head away from the bottle to look around he isn’t trying to take a sensitive part of my anatomy with him. Over the past few weeks as I pumped at work and he got bottles of breastmilk from Strawberry during the day, it has become more and more challenging. But I was grateful that at least I seemed to be keeping up with his needs. A typical pattern for us was nursing first thing in the morning, right after I got home from work, and then at bedtime. He was taking about 3 bottles a day, usually between 4 and 5 ounces each. And then, I got a plugged duct that turned into mastitis.
Mastitis is NO FUN. In addition to the hard, hot lump in my breast, I had angry red lines on the skin and a fever which gave me alternating sweats and chills. I kept nursing and pumping throughout. On Thursday, I got an antibiotic for the infection and a probiotic to try and ward off any digestive problems or thrush. My pumping output dropped, but we still had enough to cover his bottle feeds on Friday. 24 hours later, I felt much better and we headed out of town for the weekend with only a small 4 ounce bottle of expressed breast milk to cover any emergencies. Our 2 morning nursing sessions were fine, as was our session in the airport/plane. After that it went downhill fast. Curly kept getting angrier and angrier at the breast. Popping off, screaming, flailing. We gave him the 4 ounces from the bottle. I tried to hand express more when he was finished and for the first time since his birth, I got nothing. He was clearly still hungry so we broke out the emergency packet of formula powder and mixed him 2 ounces. He finally calmed down and went to sleep.
I was stunned, upset, and dismayed. My baby was hungry, and either I couldn’t feed him or he was rejecting me. And we only had enough powder to mix another 2 ounces. All the lovely frozen breastmilk at home was inaccessible. My pump was inaccessible. I reluctantly trudged out to a drug store and bought more formula powder, nursery water, and additional drop-ins. It has been the same since then. First thing in the morning he is ok at the breast. Every other time is screaming and flailing. He is consistently taking 6 ounces from a bottle, either of breastmilk or formula. I am pumping whenever he refuses to nurse and when I am away from him. My output cannot keep up with his demands. I’m no longer leaking, I no longer feel full before a pumping session or a nursing session. And on top of that, Curly is miserable when I try to breastfeed him, I am miserable pumping, and he happily sucks down the formula.
Formula is not poison. I wanted to make it to 6 months of exclusive breast milk, but unless something changes drastically, it seems as though I’ll be lucky if he’s getting any breast milk at all by 6 months. The current plan is nursing first thing in the morning, pumping at work, and offering the breast at bedtime but having a bottle ready, if needed. He is getting as much pumped milk as I can make plus enough from the freezer to make up for all but 1 feeding a day. Perhaps once I finish the antibiotic my supply with increase again. Perhaps not. I’m not going to force the issue when he is perfectly happy to get a bottle.
It is true that I had a bit of a breakdown about all of this, but after the catharsis of a 3am sob fest on Strawberry’s shoulder I’m working through it. It’s all tied up in body issues among other things. But breastfeeding has been the number 1 source of anxiety in these first few months of parenthood, and I’m honestly looking forward to letting that go. I did my best. I have not failed. My breasts have fulfilled their destiny. Curly is the only baby I will ever nurse. And I am proud to have done it and will continue until I can’t.
So sorry its been so hard. Breastfeeding is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Nobody tells you its as hard as it is. All that matters is that your baby is happy. I’ve read that your supply should increase once the antibiotics are done. If it does, then great you can continue on to your 6 month goal, if not, as you said, let it go. There is no point in suffering if he is perfectly happy to take a bottle. Remember, Happy Mama = Happy Baby. I too hate pumping, and the breastfeeding of the big guy has barely started working out. I tried so hard to get them both exclusively breastfed that I missed just enjoying feeding them. Now, I do what I can and what works for us. I will do it as long as I can, but like you, will take it as a job well done, when I am no longer able to. I just hope they happily take the formula like your Miles.
You rock! You’re an amaIng mom and have given miles a great gift. Like you I can’t wait to drop the pump!
ugh, that’s so tough. and to happen while you are away from home is even worse. breastfeeding is tough and you’ve done a great job. hope you feel better soon.
You are a rockstar Mommy. Miles is sooo fortunate to have had breast milk for this long.
I completely get that breastfeeding has been a source of anxiety, I’m right there with you. You’re amazing for sticking it out and have done/are doing an incredible job. Miles is very lucky!
I tip my hat to you for sticking it out this long! I am still struggling to make it through returning to work while keeping up with baby’s growing demands at six weeks. I only hope I can make it as long as you have. You are doing an awesome job!
You’re an extremely strong woman and mom, and your son is healthy and happy. No one could ask for more! I hope you’re feeling better.
I gave up after 10 days – it was just making me miserable. I completely get where you are coming from and I think it’s awesome that you made it this long!!
Your formula-fed baby will be happy, healthy, and perfect.
As usual, I have great admiration for your eloquence and honesty in dealing with what must be a really difficult issue. With no parenting experience, I have nothing to add on the substantive front. I just wanted to say that I think you and S are doing a wonderful job and that your son is a very lucky boy.
There’s a really great article in The Atlantic from a few months back called The Case Against Breastfeeding. The author actually did breastfeed her children, but the article is about the societal pressures for moderns moms. She studied the medical literature that you don’t normally hear about, and it says that formula is just as good as breast milk. It’s an interesting read.
You have done everything you can and that is for sure all you can do. I just hope you haven’t pushed yourself too far. When Riley started acting like this is was that my supply had significantly dropped for no apparent reason. It is really common around this time. And it was a nightmare. I am really so glad you were able to find something that works and go with it. We supplemented too for a while (with donated milk, because we had access to it, but it certainly would’ve been formula if we didn’t have the access at that particular time).
Miles is a very beautiful baby. You both are doing a great job, and it shows. You have no idea what an inspiration you are to me (and so many others, I’m sure). Thank you so much for sharing your journey.
Happy you, happy baby. That’s all that matters!
I am sorry to hear how much pain you’ve been in! I hope that things will get easier as you go forward with this new clarity.
argh! i wrote a whole big response and it got eaten.
whatever is best for you and your family is what’s best. an unhappy mommy isn’t good for anyone. i stopped before i was ready to because of the pulling off, biting, flailing around, constant pumping, etc.
if you are interested, in most countries this medication is prescribed for increasing milk supply. it doubled mine and i gave the leftovers to my friend and it doubled hers. i wish someone told me about it with my first.
good luck with whatever you decide.
When babies are ready they are ready. At one point Danny just didn’t want to breastfeed anymore. He wanted to look around and see the world and Su’s breast was just getting in the way I guess. She honestly thought she’d breastfeed longer, but had to take her cues from him. And then she came to LOVE that she was not the only one who could calm him when he’d cry in the night. Just my two cents. That boy is a doll you guys. A living doll! -Monica
4.5 months of exclusive breastmilk is awesome and more than most babies get. I really don’t understand the whole “breast milk is gold” fervor. Maybe I will if I have a child but to me it seems a little silly. A generation ago, hardly ANY women breastfeed and we all turned out just fine, didn’t we?
So very proud of you. Whatever is best for YOU is best for Curly.
Nutella I love this post. You are doing what is right for your family.
Congrats! You’ve done a great job!
I just wanted to add as many others have, although I am late to comment, that I think breastfeeding challenging and I think you should feel proud to have feed him this long and feel no guilt about switching to formula. I am not sure what would happen if I was working now.
I’ve been off the grid for a week but I wanted to say that you have been a real champ trying to figure this out and it sounds like it has been really difficult. I’m sorry it had been so hard but you are amazing and Curly will be be perfect whether he is a breast or bottle baby. Keep up the good work mama!
You should be proud. You’ve done an amazing thing. I’m sorry you had to go through all that pain, though.